Places Worth Visiting in Old Town Temecula

The foggy morning made it more difficult to convince ourselves it was safe to be driving so early in the morning but the thought of a vacation weekend away from home was enough to spur us onward. We were heading to Temecula for just about a day and a half (well, two days and one night pretty much), and despite it not being too far in terms of distance and time from good ol' Orange County, it was still a destination with a culture and landscape uncommon to our beach-flavored area. The main deciding factor for this travel was in the form of two tickets to tour the Primal Pastures farm, a small business built on the foundation of raising better meat for a better future. Quickly after we made those plans, other stops made their way onto our itinerary including a stay at the lovely Temecula Creek Inn and dinner at the Cork | Fire Kitchen (previously known as the Farm House Kitchen). The one area, however, that everyone said we just had to explore was Old Town Temecula and well, we're glad we did. It was just about a full day's trip going up and down the street, dropping by into pretty much every store. We took pictures and noted what we thought were the neatest food-oriented small businesses in Old Town that you all ought to visit!

Temecula Olive Oil Company Store
Aside from the positively adorable wooden storefront outside and the carefully organized interior, there were puns inside to fawn over! Granted, they were mainly just playing on how "olive" could replace "all of" but still - plaster the walls with some word play and you will my attention. The first part of the store where most people come in features their attached register area and various products made from using olive oil. Soaps, lotions, shampoos, and so forth dominated a main wall while another showcased utensils, cookware, and other useful gadgets carved from olive tree wood. Thinking of neat gifts? You should be able to find something here.

However, the food lovers reading this want to know about the olive oil itself right? Once you walk through a small doorway from the main room, you'll come into a narrower room that is longer and filled from ceiling to floor with shelving of all of their products. Marinated olives, spices, salts, olive oils, vinegars, spice blends, pastas, and more are arranged in tantalizing fashion with tempting "sampler" jars in front of certain flavors - we did partake of some and had to restrain ourselves from purchasing everything. On the other side is a full-length olive oil tasting bar where helpful and cheery employees pour tasters of their lines of oils and vinegars. What I especially liked about this place was that they grow every part of their product. For example, the honey flavor's source of honey is their own beehive. From what we saw in a guide in our hotel after we returned, tours of their vineyard/farm are available for those visiting Temecula. Next time we'll have to go!

Chile Hedz
I was curious when we nearly passed by the door to this place to see just how crazy about spice it was. I did not expect the level of paraphernalia inside. A corrugated metal wall was the backdrop for a ceiling to floor shelving unit holding more hot sauces than I've ever seen in one place. The rest of the business inside hearkened to brick and California highway motifs while the hanging faux peppers made me think of the Southwest. If you are or know a chili lover, you'll want to stop in here. In addition to sauces, they have other products that use heat as their selling points such as pepper jam, hot pepper chips, pepper barbecue sauce, and more.

Temecula Lavender Company
It was the tiniest place and easy to miss if you weren't looking for it because it sat between other stores but I was drawn in by the scent and my own love for lavender. The store was dark and earthen, stocked everywhere in the same fashion as an old grandmother might lovingly place her own collections. Since lavender is such a calming scent to work with, there were understandably plenty of aromatherapy and bath essentials products. Dried stalks of the flower were abundant too, adding to the burlap feel of the store. If you know a lavender fiend, you might want to stop in here. Not only were there oils, lotions, soaps, and more, there were also spice jars of lavender pepper, cookies made with the fragrant flower, and other niche food products.

Temecula Valley Cheese Company
A cheese shop? Hold my wallet please so I don't go buying a cow's weight in delicious dairy. When you come into this cheese shop, you'll first see dried products like pastas and canned goods but make a beeline for the counter where they have rotating cheeses. A board lists what is in for the day and some flavor profiles. Apparently they also make sandwiches for those wishing to sit outside on their small patio and enjoy the day. I also spotted an olive bar for sampling and purchasing as well as an olive oil area. This seems like a great place to stop for a quick bite or even to fill your cheese coffers at home.

This store was fairly new when we visited and tucked away from the road where a lot of other artisan shops were, it seemed to be in a good location for browsers. Much smaller than the more popular Temecula Olive Oil Company store, Olivedipity is more scant in decor inside but has a variety of oils and vinegars not found at the other spot. I would venture to say that you should come here for more exotic and unique flavors. There is also a tasting bar here so you can get your fill of uncommon tastes such as Prickly Pear and Hibiscus.

Old Town Sweet Shop
Got a sweet tooth? Adults and children alike would like the sweet shop because it has both current and old-fashioned candies. There is a long aisle of bulk candy bins inside that you could spend a long time drooling over (before eventually buying a bag, of course) and a fudge counter with the large chunks prominently displayed behind glass. I wandered for quite some time between displays of familiar and unfamiliar confectionery goods and candy. There was even a tin box area! Around the side, they are connected to an ice cream shop as well with its own psychedelic colors and flavors. Browse for nostalgia or enter to purchase your weight in candy.

Old Town Root Beer Company
Sodas, sodas everywhere! The walls were lined with glass bottles from all over the country, filled to their caps with classic sodas. There were easily some more recognizable kinds but we were more interested in the lesser known varieties. The Old Town Root Beer Company not only carries what seemed like thousands of different bottled sodas but also has its own root beer. Naturally, we purchased one of those and it was pretty darn good. We really liked their bottle cap counter display which was full of purchased soda bottle tops. The sodas here aren't too highly priced either, and we made out with a six-pack of various root beers and sarsaparillas based on recommendation. She knew her stuff!

Temecula Old Town Antique Faire
The first picture in the above series was of a dog we saw that was guarding a boutique clothing store. It had on an absurdly large but appropriate knit bow and definitely was the guard of the entrance. It had to sniff and permit my entrance before I could look at the hanging clothes! Anyhow, there were plenty of boutique clothing stores for the shoppers out there but what we found really interesting was the Antique Faire building which was composed of various "lot" sections with their own wares. If you like to hunt for treasures or just want to take a look at neat collector items, you can easily spend a good half hour or longer in here!

While Temecula has its fill of winery tasting rooms, we only made it out to one. We actually were not too fond of the wines here but wanted to share the pictures so you can get a sense of what one looked like. On the plus side, the marinara here was delicious! As for the rest of the trip, once we had finally finished exploring all that Old Town Temecula had to offer to those walking around (there are certainly other activities such as dining in restaurants or taking wine room tours), we had to head to our hotel. In addition to the places noted above, we also saw a neighborhood grocery store with bulk dried goods, jewelry stores, and art galleries. The one thing I wish we hadn't missed was their weekend farmers' market but alas, the timing was off. Maybe next time. We'll be back Temecula!

Photography by Duc Duong.