Fresh Choice Is a Food Hall for the Masses

Hipster food halls are all the rage now, but give me the courts of Middle Eastern markets any day, the dazzling options of Persian, Lebanese, Chinese, Greek, even Mexican existing alongside one another, all offering huge portions at working-class prices. The local pioneer, of course, was Wholesome Choice in Irvine, a place so successful it spanned nearly a dozen imitators across the county, none more obvious than Fresh Choice in Garden Grove, on the outskirts of Little Arabia.

Let's start with the name: Couldn't they have at least called it Pure Option or something? The produce and products are pan-ethnic, if leaning a bit Middle Eastern, just as at Wholesome Choice; the bakery offers fresh, amazing sangak, just as at Wholesome Choice. There's a deli and olive case, nuts by the pound, and halal meats . . . just as at Wholesome Choice. But where Fresh Choice beats its competitor is the clientele—even more multiculti than Irvinites because a recent study showed Garden Grove is the most diverse city in OC. And the food stalls at Fresh Choice just might be better than the ones at Wholesome Choice.

The offerings span across continents, from the fiery niharis of Shahnawaz to sumptuous polos at Hakem to the not-bad Mexican stall called Casa Chipotle. Falafels at Falafelo are moist and big; the esteemed Al Amir Bakery has an outpost here, offering its delicious sphihas. But the best cooks here are at Kunafa King, specializing in the namesake dessert, one of the best sweets around. Think mildly salty cheese, a layer of fried noodles, a pistachio spread on top of that, then everything doused in rosewater, and you'll exile Zingers back to bankruptcy.

Fresh Choice has been a hit with Garden Grove and Anaheim customers, and the Palestinian family that founded it is reportedly considering opening others. Good for them! Just remember: No need to follow in the footsteps of others when you're already a creating a path worth emulation—and trust me, others will. . . .

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