The section of Euclid Avenue in Anaheim from the 91 freeway to Interstate 5 just might be the most diverse section of Orange County—and in a county that's been majority-minority for more than a decade, that's saying something. I grew up nearby and have seen it transform from a working-class white enclave into the working-class multiculti wonderland it is today. Here stands corporate largess in a Wal-Mart and Miller Toyota, a Coptic Christian funeral home and the awesome San Giovanni halal pizzeria, a Romanian restaurant, Korean for-profit colleges, and the iconic La Palma Chicken Pie Shop. And, of course, the Mexicans are everywhere.
The focal point of this short stretch is a shopping plaza on Euclid and Crescent Avenue dominated by Filipinos. There's a 99 Ranch Market obsessed with calamansi juice and frozen lumpia, three Filipino restaurants, and the Jollibee/Red Ribbon/Chowking triumvirate that draws lines through the night. But longtime Anaheimers know this area is also a great place for Chinese food—not just orange chicken, but also dim sum, Shanghai-style cooking and the gluttonous shrine that is the aptly titled Nice Food Restaurant. The latter concentrates mostly on Taiwanese specialties, with a couple of mainland-China favorites thrown in with the orange chicken and other Chinese-American favorites to placate the assimilated kids of immigrants. Here are ethereal wontons sluiced in scallions and chile oil, as well as heaps of pickled vegetables, stinky tofu and noodles in nearly every iteration. The biggest stars are the soups, all funky pots of steaming umami. Beef noodle soup finds chunks of the meat atop meters of al dente noodles; chow ma finds pork, shrimp and vegetables stir-fried, then tossed into a soup more sour than savory—and more spicy than anything. Then there's the rustic thump of the lamb noodle soup, chunks of gamy meat bobbing in a reddish broth. Did I forget to mention the noodles are handmade?
Nice Food Restaurant, 627 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 772-2235.
And in case you don't know what to order? The menu might be the most helpful in ethnic OC, a manual of possibilities illustrated with photos for nearly every dish to ensure no one feels left out and "cooked to your order," a note says, "by classic chef." I once knew a gabacha who also grew up nearby whose family fled the hell outta the neighborhood the moment immigrants moved in. Good riddance: Our brave new OC doesn't need people like that, but it definitely needs more mapo tofu, which at Nice Food tastes like heaven itself.