Sunday, October 29, 2006

Original Mike's - Santa Ana



You wouldn't know it from looking at him, but Mike Harrah owns most of downtown Santa Ana. Featured with his mug as the cover photo for a lengthy article in a recent issue of OC Metro, this man with a grizzly beard is credited by the magazine for revitalizing Santa Ana's business district. He isn't, contrary to what I first believed, a long-lost member of ZZ Top.

But along with being a real-estate developer, millionaire, and an all-around contradictory (and controversial) figure, I learned that Harrah is also a restauranteur. A few years ago, he took a derelict car dealership on First and Main and transformed it into a sprawling eatery, bar, and nightclub.

Redubbed Original Mike's and swathed with a fresh coat of paint, the building nevertheless remains exactly as it stood in 1919, the year it was built. Red brick masonry adorns one side of the structure, while on the other, windows previously boarded-up now face traffic with broad panes of glass.



I stepped inside, and was immediately transported to another time and place -- to a saloon from a bygone era and an Orange County with which I was unfamiliar. Every inch of the place seemed to ooze history, and my eyes feasted on the sumptuous surroundings long before my mouth feasted on the food.

Above us, belt-driven ceiling fans paddled the air. In the main dining room, an open kitchen gleamed with white tiles and chrome. At the bar, saddles functioned as stools. On the walls, trophy swordfish and vintage photos covered all corners. In the original showroom of the old dealership, a restored Packard sparkled, now surrounded by high tables and chairs.



While our party waited for our food, our eyes kept drifting to take in more of the gorgeous space. Our attention returned only when lunch arrived.

The Griddle Burger ($9.95) I ordered was big enough to share, which I did. Between the toasted bun, a thick patty of formidable girth was griddled to a crusty char, topped with a shiny blanket of melted cheddar. It came with the works -- chopped lettuce, sliced tomato, pickles, mayo, mustard, and red onion slivers -- and ate like all good burgers should; supremely filling and beefy.



The side of onion rings which came with the burger was of the breaded variety. I thought they were a bit too thick and heavy, but others at my table found it crunchy and addictive. The Fiesta Coleslaw -- the second side item to be included with the burger -- refreshed with julienned cabbage still garden-stiff and crisp.

You wouldn't know it from looking at it, but you're still in OC when you eat at Original Mike's.

Original Mike's
(714) 550-7764
100 South Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701-5220

18 Comments:

At 12:14 AM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

Good gods! He could use that beard to strain soup!

Onion rings are my ultimate fryer quality test. If either the oil, the temperature, or the cook's skill are off, you can taste the different.

- Chubbypanda

 
At 9:18 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

As long as he's not doing the cooking. I don't wanna find any nasty hairs in my burger.

The food does look good, though. I usually prefer Asian cuisines, but sometimes a good 'ol burger really hits the spot.

 
At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Seth Chadwick said...

Oh, sure. Have a great burger at Original Mike's while I get stuck with TK Burger.

Have you no shame, elmo?

(Excellent review, btw.)

 
At 11:26 PM, Blogger henrychan said...

Elmo, it sounds like the decor/ambiance was more the attraction, than the food.

that's a crazy beard!

henry

 
At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The food falls way short at Original Mike's, which is too bad because it's an awesome venue. It's close to my office so I've given it several tries and it never goes far beyond a pricier version of Denny's-quality fare.

 
At 11:51 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Hey Elmo!
I better stop reading your blog - it brings upon the worst food cravings. Onion rings at midnight? Not the best for my ever slowing metabolism! :)

 
At 1:25 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Chubbypanda,

Others in my group were really enjoying the fries, which they said were very crisp. But then I didn't try it. I like Fatburger's onion rings the best. Can't beat it....so far.

Juliet,

A good ol' burger sure does hit the spot. I just came back (two hours ago) from a week long trip on the Big Island (Hawaii), and the first thing I had when I got back in Irvine? In-N-Out Burger. Fries. A Lemonade. Man, nothing beats it for making me feel like I'm home again.

Seth,

Man, I really owe you a decent meal in OC. C'mon! Come visit again!

Henry and Anon,

You got to the very essence of my impression. I was much more enamored of the decor/ambiance. I'm a sucker for places like this. It makes up for any shortcomings in the food (although I thought the burger was quite good on that visit).

Kathy,

Tell me about it. Sometimes I think this hobby of mine is badly timed...just when I can afford to eat out a lot, my metabolism slows.

 
At 8:18 PM, Blogger Eddie Lin said...

For a second I thought I was reading Architectural Digest. Great descriptions on the venue, but, ahem, really short, almost non-descript opinion of the food. I guess I'll avoid Original Mike's. Excellent work!

 
At 6:35 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Eddie,

You sure know how to read between the lines. LOL! But seriously, I really do like how the place looks!

 
At 8:43 PM, Blogger rick james said...

elmo,

if you like Neil Diamond or oldies, you gotta see Phil Shane perform there... totally worth the price when he performs...

and surprisingly, the ahi is the best dish i've tried there... its really good...

 
At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to all well sorry to hear that the food was so bad, and it is really over priced. however, do not stay after dark. that place turns into a real mess. from security being involved of beating up people to recent shootings. its crazy i have been following this place since it opened and the first and olnly time there almost 3 yrs ago, they beat, and maced everyone as everyone was leaving the establishment. and several shootings that the security was involved in.
well i hope you enjoy the food for thought befor you visit!
chow

 
At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ohhh i almost forgot! Mike, you are such the Icon for Santa Ana that you allow your employees to hurt the people that pay you for entertainment!? ohhh and just got more info that this happened again! WOW when will you take a stand and fight FOR the people not WITH them!??

 
At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well.....Thank goodness for my iPhone I was invited by some friends to go there this evening I'm so glad we didn't we're not into pepper spay an beat downs for entertainment!! Thanks but I'll pass.......

 
At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this place but see that they were just cited for rodent infestation. Ew.

 
At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Taylor said...

Its an excellent place for lunch, great food, great service and great specials, we have lunch there 3 times a week..Awesome place

 
At 2:34 PM, Blogger Janet said...

Ok now your all making me want onion rings and since I am not much of a french fry person how about some melted cheese and chili on those onion rings and lets see how messy they can get.

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger sevilla714 said...

First of all its filled with gang members over the entire weekend. I went there to eat during the week and I had to be patted down and pass a metal detector wand test by a big fat bald guy who looked like he needed to be checked for weapons himself. I was thinking "am i going into a restaurant or prison?"

Once we got in its an ok looking place but our waitor got my order wrong. No big deal except for the fact that they brought me the correct order within a couple minutes. What do they got heat lamps back there?! Anyways the food was ok nothing to brag about. Second time I went there was for a night out with a few friends on a friday.

BIG MISTAKE!! Again we had to be patted down, I thought "what kind of people come here?" Well I found out soon enough. The place was crawling with the local gang members. There is no dress code so it was pretty obvious. They played 80's music and hip hop. I saw two fights break out at the same time! I had to get out of there so we went outside to chill on the patio. Then we saw our third fight which was between a short stocky female security guard picking a fight with the female they were kicking out for fighting in the club! The sad part was the other securitys were letting their security friend beat up the girl. Then this guy came walking out and saw the fight between the girl and the female security and stepped in to break them up and the fat bald security guard grabbed him and chokes him with his arms, and him, a white security guard and another security guard proceed to beat the crap out of him. After slamming him to the ground, the fat security guard gets up and starts another fight with another random guy that was walking out for no reason and beats him up too.
We saw the cops come and haul away they two guys that got beat up!! Seems like the fat secutiy guard and the rest of them should have been the ones being hauled away. Never going there again.

A few days later my friend shows me an old OC Register clip online about a shooting that happened at Original Mikes. I dont know how they still have their doors open?? Well to make a long story longer, its filled with local gangsters, security gangs up and menaces their clientele, security themselves look like gangmembers like if they hired a local gang to look over the place. Scary if you ask me. Wouldn't recomend it to anyone, unless you're good a dodging bullets.

 
At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Original Mike's has really gone to shit. I've never had lunch or dinner there, but I do remember it being my favorite place to be on a Friday, or Saturday night... having a few drinks and dancing the night away. ... salsa, merengue, cumbias, etc. The last time I went there was a couple of months ago. I was speechless, and not in a good way. They "re" decorated, my opinion, they shouldn't have. Music sucked and the crowd was "low class" gangsters, trashy ppl. I'm in the service, went with a couple of co-workers. We had no room. Bartender ignored us. Finally we ordered some drinks, we had to wait at least 20 minutes... FOR COKE!!! And of course, a fight had to break out. 2 male and 2 female. Stupid and immature ppl. We left. I demanded my $ back. I've been to way better clubs and have paid way less. Too over priced, $20 to get in?!! So not worth it. I'll be looking for a much better, safer, enjoyable place to spend my money and free weekends.

 

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