‘California energy’: New dining options blossom in Old Towne Orange


Bluestone Lane cafés are known for their unique locations as much as their coffee.

“Every café that we find, we really want to play to the existing strengths of that footprint,” said Andy Stone, vice president and head of marketing for Bluestone Lane. “We really capitalize on unique locations around the county.”

A Bluestone Lane can be found in what was once an old church near Central Park in New York City and at a library in Washington, DC

So when an old, corrugated iron-tin building became available on Olive Street in downtown Orange, the Australian-inspired coffee roaster and café brand knew it was the right place for its first Orange County location.

“It was a full interior renovation,” said Stone of the space, which now features exposed beams, natural lighting and photos of Australia’s coastal beaches.

The interior of Bluestone Lane, an Australian coffee shop on Olive Street in the city of Orange.

(Raul Roa)

Bluestone Lane is a premium coffee roaster and sources all of its coffee from New York City. The Draft Flat White with oat milk is among its signature beverages, made with Flagstaff-blend cold brew as well as Long Black, with Maverick blend as an espresso resting on hot water for dilution, similar to an Americano.

The Draft Flat White with oat milk coffee from Bluestone Lane, an Australian coffee shop in Orange.

The Draft Flat White with oat milk coffee from Bluestone Lane, an Australian coffee shop in Orange.

(Raul Roa)

“My brother, Nick, originally started the concept when he was working in New York and really missing home and missing that human connection,” said Stone. “We mix in that Australian approach to hospitality, which is really generating great local connections.”

The food menu leans toward healthy and plant-based but also offers what Stone refers to as “dude food” on the café’s all-day brunch menu. The “Best Mates Bowl,” for example, with roasted brussels sprouts, mushrooms, soft scrambled eggs, shallot, baby kale, farro, pickled onion and sheep’s milk feta with a lemon vinaigrette can be found alongside a burger with cheese, pickles, mayo and arugula on a brioche bun.

The Avocado Smash at Bluestone Lane, an Australian coffee shop in Orange.

The Avocado Smash at Bluestone Lane, an Australian coffee shop in Orange.

(Raul Roa)

Bluestone Lane hosted its grand opening on July 20, and Stone said so far the neighborhood has greeted it with enthusiasm.

“The number of locals we’re welcoming through our doors is nothing short of spectacular,” said Stone. “It feels like the local community wanted a bright and airy café.”

Bluestone Lane is among a small number of food and beverage concepts to join the Old Towne Orange community recently, and the intersection of Olive Street and West Chapman Avenue in particular has seen some new activity.

Fast-casual Wagyu burger shop, Ojai Burger, is celebrating its grand opening on July 23.

A server stands inside the door at a new Ojai Burger in Orange.

A server stands inside the door at a new Ojai Burger in Orange.

(Courtesy of Ojai Burger)

“We do Japanese-influenced burgers and chicken sandwiches,” said Ojai Burger co-founder, Mike Wu. “We use only premium Wagyu beef for our burgers. Our chicken sandwiches are made Karaage style, with rice flour. So very different from traditional chicken sandwiches, a little bit lighter but still got the crisp.”

Wu, Carl Tong, Kasper Hsu and Peter Yang stumbled upon Yume Japanese Burger Café on Yelp while vacationing in Ojai, Calif. The group approached Yume’s founders about partnering to create Ojai Burger and bringing the Yume concept to Orange County.

The Topa Topa Chicken Sandwich at Ojai Burger.

The Topa Topa Chicken Sandwich at Ojai Burger.

(Courtesy of Ojai Burger)

“When we first discovered Yume in Ojai and met [founders] Takeshi and his wife, Chikage, they were just so nice. In Ojai, Calif., the people are so genuine,” said Wu.

Wu and his partners looked for an OC location and walked around Orange Circle, and he said they could see how it has evolved over the past 10 years.

“We also realized the people here are super nice; they are genuine too,” Wu said. “The vibe just clicked with Ojai.”

The menu includes other Japanese American-inspired items like spicy miso fries, ube milkshakes and mochi waffles for dessert.

Shakes at Ojai Burger in the city of Orange.

Shakes at Ojai Burger in the city of Orange.

(Courtesy of Ojai Burger)

The grand-opening celebration planned for July 23 will include live music on the shared patio and a free burger or sandwich to the first 100 guests in line at noon.

“For anybody that loves a good burger, definitely come try us,” Wu said. “It is a different taste but a very familiar experience.”

Teriyaki Wagyu Burger at Ojai Burger in the city of Orange.

Teriyaki Wagyu Burger at Ojai Burger in the city of Orange.

(Courtesy of Ojai Burger)

Ojai Burger and Bluestone Lane join Finney’s Crafthouse, which opened to the public just after the Fourth of July holiday on July 6.

“We were just really excited to get open and introduce our concept to the community,” said Brad Finefrock, co-founder of Finney’s Crafthouse.

The restaurant and bar offer American favorites, like hot wings, tacos, burgers and pizza with a full bar and 30 craft beers on tap. Finefrock founded the concept with his twin brother, and when his daughter was attending Chapman college he was taken with the charm of the Old Towne Orange.

“It just speaks to our brand so well,” Finefrock said.

Finney's Crafthouse opened its seventh location July 6 on West Chapman in Old Town Orange.

Finney’s Crafthouse opened its seventh location July 6 on West Chapman in Old Town Orange.

(Sarah Mosqueda)

The West Chapman location is Finney’s Crafthouse’s seventh and occupies the old Dodge Brothers car dealership, which most recently housed the Country Roads antique shop (it’s still in business down the block).

The sprawling space has been converted into a restaurant and bar with an open air feel, thanks to a beer garden set within the largest outdoor patio in the downtown area. The outdoor section has lounge seating with cornhole games and firepits.

“The community has been incredible,” said Finefrock. “The feedback has been really positive and favorable, and we have seen a lot of regulars coming back. We are really happy that the city has embraced us so well.”

Finefrock said they are happy to be joining an area of ​​the circle that is enjoying a bit of buzz.

“There has always been this great energy, this kind of old town California energy here,” said Finefrock. “Ever since Snooze [an A.M. Eatery] and Bosscat Kitchen & Libations and Urth Caffé opened on West Chapman, it has reinvigorated that part of the circle.”

And it seems the other restaurants are happy to welcome their new neighbors as well.

“This is the first town we opened in where two or three of our competitors sent in flowers,” Finefrock said. “I thought that was such a classy move. The thinking goes, the more competition, the more people it will draw to the circle, the more energy it will bring to the area. Everyone should win under that scenario.”

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