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From Ruins to Restaurant

“When Big Mike Harrah, the largest tenant improvement contractor in Orange County, California, spotted what was left of the United Auto Building in Santa Ana, California, he wasn’t repulsed, he was enthused.” Don Weberg of Garage Style Magazine profiles Mike Harrah’s transformation of the first car dealership in Orange County to Original Mike’s Restaurant.  Located at First and Main in the heart of downtown Santa Ana, Original Mike’s is part restaurant, part auto museum and part history.  Given the “Best Restaurant and Bar” award by Dining Out magazine in 2006 and 2007, Original Mike’s offers a variety of dishes from large, juicy burgers to fish plates and steaks prepared exactly as prescribed by the customer. Tables and booths are intermingled between vehicles ranging from historic Harley Davidson motorcycles, to Santa Ana’s first fire engine (built in 1919) to the only Murphy-Bodied 1929 Packard Touring Sedan ever built, ordered originally by the President of Mexico.  The building’s historic character was kept intact by Mike’s construction crews who preserved the leaded glass windows, wood beam ceilings and octagonal tile floor.  Myriads of photos of both Santa Ana and the building, circa 1890- 1933 grace the walls. Original Mike’s slogan is, “good cookin,’ good eatin,’ and good livin’” and it’s clear the restaurant lives up to it.

Read More in the Spring 2009 Garage Style Magazine