Most people know San Juan Capistrano for its famous mission but did you know the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in California is located just on the other side of the railroad tracks? Forty adobes were first built on Los Rios Street in 1794 to house the Indians that worked at the mission. Today several of these adobes are still standing including the Rios adobe which is still owned and occupied by the Rios family. Many of these homes have been converted into restaurants and business, making this quaint neighborhood an ideal place to stroll and enjoy. Skip the LA traffic and hop on board the train for a day of exploring Los Rios.
Sitting just across the tracks from the San Juan Capistrano station is the Hummingbird House Café, a casual yet quaint café serving sandwiches, wraps, and Greek food made by the Tsekov family. The little house the café calls home was moved to Los Rios in 1878 from an abandoned boom town called Forster which was located on present day Camp Pendleton. Today, visitors order refreshing wraps, flaky Greek desserts, and the best gyros around from the little counter inside before finding a table on the charming outdoor seating area.
Recently restored, the Montanez Adobe is one of the original structures constructed in 1794to house the mission Indians. During the weekends, free tours are given by volunteer docents who share the history of the neighborhood, the people which once called the adobes home, and the efforts that the historical society has gone threw to protect the neighborhood. The inside of the adobe has been furnished to look as it may have during the 1800s with a cowhide blanket, washboard for laundry, spinning wheel for making yarn, and slate for school.
Quaint and romantic, Ramos House Café features contemporary American cuisine with a Southern influence. The house was originally built in 1881 and occupied by the Ramos family who were said to hide vaqueros in a hideout underneath the main bedroom which now serves as the restaurant’s wine cellar. During the week, Ramos House Café is open for breakfast and lunch only and during the weekends a special brunch is served. The morning offerings are consistently ranked the best in Orange County with specialties such as scotch quail eggs, crab hash, and duck cakes with baby spinach and warm mustard dressing.
One of most recent additions to the historic Los Rios neighborhood is Los Rios Park. Taking inspiration from the pioneer spirit of the neighborhood, the playground feature dark wood with iron accents, a water pump for the kids to play with, real saddles to climb on, and historic photographs set into a garden wall. A large artificial boulder display is an extremely popular place for kids to hone their climbing skills while grape vine trellises shade picnic tables seem to be the spot that the parents tend to gravitate towards.
If your kids love animals, they will love Zoomars. Besides the usual goats and sheep to feed, Zoomars also has alpacas, cows, a couple of zebra-striped donkeys, and even an emu eager to nibble on veggies. A large pen is filled with adorable bunnies and guinea pigs which will happily sit in your lap and chomp away on carrots. Beyond petting animals, visitors to Zoomars can also enjoy a pony ride, miniature train ride, or some time on the playground.
Sharlene Earnshaw is the Editor in Chief of Trekaroo.