Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hopes and Fears

After living in Santa Ana for over three years, it seems as if things are finally happening in the empty lots just West of the Santiago Lofts.

When I first told my friends and family I was moving to Santa Ana, they thought I was crazy. But to me, it made perfect sense because I believe in this city–what it is, what it was, and what it could be.

As of Monday night, the Related/Griffin team is now one step closer in becoming the master developer for these nearby lots. And after three years of watching other cities evolve while Santa Ana moved at a snail's pace, I am filled with hope with the thought of what could come to our city.

But at the same time, my hopes are equally met with trepidation and fears.

Allow me to share some of my hopes and fears:

I'm hopeful that what we build, retains the quality residents already living here while attracting new ones who are invested in this city, looking to build stronger communities.

I'm fearful that like everything else in Santa Ana, it will take too long to develop and we'll have once again missed our window of opportunity.

I'm hopeful that within these ~7 acres being developed, creative open spaces and green spaces; such as parks (ground and rooftop) gardens (community/rooftop) are implemented.

I'm fearful that the children of our neighborhoods are to continue playing in empty parking lots–such as those that do everyday at Garfield Elementary.

I'm hopeful the grand vision for the Station District is for a creative, urban renewal that activates our streets and would rival the revivals that took place in destinations such as University Heights (Park Blvd/Adams Ave) in San Diego and Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice.

I'm fearful that the design cues will be taken from stale city of Irvine.

I'm hopeful that when finally implemented, the streetcar is a new avenue that brings commerce to Santa Ana.

I'm fearful the streetcar will just be another way to fabulous Garden Grove.

I'm hopeful that whatever ground floor retail & restaurants planned for these lots "fit"–having something for everyone.

I'm fearful that the driving force that thought it would be okay to:

  • Allowed Ware set up shop in Logan

  • Build stucco monstrosities in the middle of French Park

  • Not develop amenities in conjunction with the Santiago Lofts at the train depot parking lot

  • Have an El Pollo Loco as the only walkable restaurant to the world famous Bowers Museum (not including Tangata which is located adjacent to the museum)
is still behind the wheel of our city.

I'm hopeful in that Santa Ana will some day become a true destination city; where new circulation is brought to our streets–where places like Downtown, The Fiesta Marketplace, 4th Street, and the Station District (including the train depot) are ventured to by people all over Southern California.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I'm no expert in Argentinian food nor would I even know what authentic Argentinian food tastes like, but I sure know a delicious value when I sink my teeth into one.

Just like Mil Jugos (located one block uptown), Chimichurri is the embodiment of every delicious dream I had hoped my local Santa Ana would be when making the move to this city over three years ago.

In short, I moved to Santa Ana for fantastic hole-in-the-wall restaurants like this one.

The name Chimichurri comes from the green Argentinian meat sauce which is usually made from chopped parsley, minced garlic, vegetable oil or olive oil, white or red vinegar, and red pepper flakes, though there isn’t a definitive recipe from my research.

The decor of the restaurant is warm and festive, as is the man of the house who heads this family-run business. Diego, a soft-spoken Argentinian gentleman will graciously welcome you into his restaurant as if you were stepping foot into his own home–warmly referring to new customers as "friends" while addressing returning ones by their first name.

The menu is simple, yet ample with both Argentinian and Mexican items available for dine-in or to-go orders.

I decided to try the Choripanes sandwich; an Argentinian sausage snuggled nicely between two slices of Italian sandwich bread topped with cheese, lettuce and tomato.

At $4.50, this well-priced sandwich could easily fetch a steeper price if the City viewed Santa Ana's downtown as more than just a place to pay your parking tickets (or accrue new ones) and appear for jury duty.

Mrs. Dayhoe, the rebel that she is, ordered from the Mexican side of the menu choosing a $6 Torta Cubana consisting of ham, white cheese, breaded steak & marinated steak.

Flavor-wise, this sandwich was on a much milder level than the Choripanes, but was still very hearty.

The empanadas are golden, flakey and rich, as flavors are taken to a whole-nutha-level when topped with the house Chimichurri sauce. The pollo empanadas were quite tasty, but the carne ones were the pièce de résistance when topped with the house sauce.

And at a buck-fifty a pop, these empanadas are a terrific value, as you’ll soon find out how deceptively filling they truly are.

Chimichurri is located at 306 W. 4th street (Santa Ana’s someday Restaurant Row) and is open from 9AM-7PM Monday through Saturday.

*Update: Check out a real food critic's review of this place*