In modern-day downtown SanTana—where Mexican immigrants keep getting pushed out in favor of multiculti hipsters; where trends swirl like so many lattes at the Gypsy Den (which just debuted a cocktail menu to keep up with the new kids); where your choice of taco shop, bar, concert venue and even barber can unleash a torrent of second-guessing from both sides of the gentrification aisle or serve as stubborn resistance—Tootsie Ice Cream has emerged as the great equalizer. Because whether you're wab or white, Floral Park elite or a son of Standard Avenue, undocumented or chinito, everyone waits in line for a turn to speak the universal language of ice cream.
The shop—really just a window from which you order and grab said order; there are no seats or an actual room to enter, and the menu is also outside—is perfect for the area. Santa Ana is the county's capital for ice cream, whether it's Hans' Homemade near South Coast Plaza, the various paleteros that enliven city blocks with their high-pitched bells from carts or the umpteenth tinny broadcast of "Music Box Dancer" from a truck, or the michoacanos who dominate the city's Mexican neverías. Among the blocks of old buildings, Tootsie's unashamedly pink marquee and bubbly name can be spotted from almost all of the restaurants and bars off Broadway. Knowing everyone loves dogs, it offers a water bowl and even frozen yogurt to the little guys and gals. Oh, the owners know of the fraught environment they entered—and they're firmly proclaiming the glories of the middle road. "We wanted to keep some of old-school Santa Ana, with that East Coast vibe, but still show that the place is growing," said Tootsie co-owner Kay Ayanzi in an interview with the excellent magazine Santanero. "We're changing, but we wanted to keep the foundation where it is."
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As for the ice cream itself? Good—it does what ice cream is supposed to do, serving safe flavors everyone can relate to in familiar formats (waffle or sugar cone, cup or sandwich) and even shaved ice. The one exception is the marvel that is saffron-pistachio ice cream, an electric thing that combines the zip of the Persian flavor with the ice cream's chill to create the best brain freeze of the summer. It reflects everything Ayanzi promises—and isn't it such an awesome reflection of modern-day Orange County that in this squabbling town, the saffron ice cream sells out again and again and again?