Photo by James BunoanShameless self-promotion: in two weeks, this rag will publish its annual fantabulous summer food guide, 7,000 words on more than 100 of the finest county grubberies. I can't reveal the theme of our issue just yet, though—while the Weekly might be the journalistic equivalent of an exhibitionist, we're bigger prudes than Cotton Mather when it comes to revealing secrets.
I can say that we considered devoting the issue exclusively to Anaheim restaurants, mainly because Anaheim is my hometown and it would make my job infinitely easier. But more important, Anaheim is by far the county's dining nexus—a grand mix of esteemed and hole-in-the-wall establishments, restaurants offering tastier entrées than the dreck concocted over at either Beach—Laguna or Newport—not to mention more affordable, with more varieties of ethnic cuisine than a potluck dinner for the Model UN club.
But if you believe the Los Angeles Times and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle—and you should never believe that pair when it comes to, well, anything—Anaheim is a dining desert. Longtime Anaheim reporter Kimi Yoshino—a hack who knows as much about the city as Michael Eisner knows about tact—breathlessly reported in the June 25 Timesthat city officials were trying to court “upscale steakhouses, trendy franchises and signature martini joints” because of a perceived lack of eating options in the city. “We need to be a lot more diligent to ensure that there are more dining options and shopping options,” Pringle is quoted as saying in the piece. Yoshino agreed, solemnly adding, “Even local residents struggle to name half a dozen nice dinner houses.”
Really, Kimi? Then why does your article list three—Mr. Stox, the Anaheim White House and Napa Rose? Truth is, Yoshino's article was an unintended classic, an example for cub scribes of journalism at its laziest and most ignorant. She doesn't know Anaheim, and neither does that carpetbagger Pringle, who grew up in Garden Grove and didn't even live in Anaheim until announcing his candidacy for mayor in 2002. I, on the other hand, am this sordid burg—my family has roots here going back nearly a century. I can go on for 7,000 words on this subject but will spare you that rant (next year, though . . .). Here's an extremely truncated version of my ode to Anaheim eating:
THREE OTHER “NICE DINNER HOUSES” YOSHINO DOESN'T MENTION
Foscari: Great Italian palace in the Anaheim hills—and no, Anaheim Hills is not its own city, no matter how much residents there insist otherwise. 5645 E. La Palma Ave., (714) 779-1777.Rosine's Mediterranean Rotisserie: Also tucked away in Anaheim's bourgeois buttes. Even when slowly turning on a rotisserie, Rosine's succulent chicken exhibits more courage than Pringle. 721 S. Weir Canyon Rd., (714) 283-5141.Luigi's D'Italia: Intimate for the lovers, cozy for families, delicious for all. And Luigi's has been advertising in the St. Boniface Catholic Church bulletin since forever. 801 S. State College Blvd., (714) 490-0990.
THREE MASS FOOD PHENOMENA UNIQUE TO ANAHEIM
Little Arabia: How Brookhurst Street between La Palma and Katella avenues became a haven for delicious Middle Eastern restaurants, affordable halal butcheries and aromatic hookah lounges is a mystery. And it's one Yoshino—who wrote about the area in a March 1 article —didn't bother to mention while bitch-slapping my hood. Thai Corner: The La Palma Avenue and Euclid Street intersection is framed by two perpendicular strip malls anchoring the epicenter of Orange County's Thai community. Though all a bit run-down, each of the three grocery stores and three restaurants exhibits more elegance than Yoshino's trademark ass-kissing of council members. Armenian Row: An offshoot of Little Arabia on Ball Road, where the famous Armenian chains Zankou Chicken and Sarkis Pastry offer a bit of Mount Ararat to the famished.
MORE FOOD PHENOMENA UNIQUE TO ANAHEIM
Merhaba Restaurant: The county's only Ethiopian restaurant. 2801 W. Ball Rd., (714) 826-8859.Dunarea Restaurant:The county's only Romanian restaurant and one of two in Southern California. 821 N. Euclid St., Ste. C, (714) 772-7233.Club Avio:The county's only Dutch restaurant. 1557 W. Katella Ave., (714) 774-2840.Costa Rica Restaurant: The county's only Costa Rican restaurant—hell, the only Costa Rican restaurant in California, if not the United States. 2500 W. Lincoln Ave., Ste. 5, (714) 527-2010.Café Casse Croûte:The county's only Canadian restaurant. 656 S. Brookhurst St., (714) 774-8013.Ararat Armenian Cuisine: The county's only Armenian restaurant. 1827 W. Katella Ave., Ste. A, (714) 778-5667.
THREE ANAHEIM RESTAURANT
La Palma Chicken Pie Shop: Where hipsters go to eat like their grandparents—sometimes with said coffin dodgers. The neon hen towering over the restaurant is a robbery waiting to happen for a Googie fanatic. 928 N. Euclid St., (714) 533-2021.Original Pancake House: Also featuring an iconic mascot beloved by all Anaheim residents—a smiling chef flipping some flapjacks. And those flapjacks? As swell as what your tummy will do after breakfast here. 1418 E. Lincoln Ave., (714) 535-9815.Carl's Jr.: Hate Carl's Jr. founder Carl Karcher (contributor to myriad Neanderthal causes over the past several decades) all you want, but don't deny the power of his cheeseburger—bite-sized, with powerful pickles, pungent mustard and nicely burnt meat. After Disneyland, Carl's Jr. is Anaheim's greatest gift toward the decimation of humanity. Various locations; www.burgers.com/home/.
PER YOSHINO: “AN IMPROVED INVENTORY OF RESTAURANTS WOULD ALSO ADDRESS ANOTHER ANAHEIM SHORTCOMING IN CRITICS' EYES: A SHORTAGE OF LATE-NIGHT FARE”
Yoshino obviously doesn't have a nightlife. Here are three evening haunts: Jax Donut House: Fryers of the best cinnamon rolls outside Bavaria. Across from City Hall and open 24 hours. 110 W. Lincoln Ave., (714) 999-0632.Taquerías Guadalajara: Also open 24 horas. Up the street from Anaheim City Hall, you'll find great carne asada tacos. Favorite of police officers and petty thieves alike. 520 N. Anaheim Blvd., (714) 758-1370.Chris N Pitts BBQ:Who says carnivores slumber at the end of the day? At this Naugahyde-sporting fixture, the night time is the right time for the most important ribs since Adam's. 601 N. Euclid Ave., (714) 635-2601.
THREE RESTAURANTS INTEGRAL TO ANAHEIM HISTORY
Loreley Restaurant: One of the last remaining German eateries in a town founded by immigrants from the Deustchland—actually, they were from San Francisco, but who's counting? Good boar! 1340 S. Sanderson Ave., (714) 563-4166.Ibero America Market:Besides hosting a magnificent Emigdio Vasquez mural of Chicano history outside its wall, Ibero America Market—which primarily hawks produce from South America and the Caribbean—was the location for Orange County's worst race riot, the Little People's Park melee of 1978. 327 S. Lemon St., (714) 635-5500.Norm's Restaurant: The displacement of Norm's in 1995 from its longtime Lincoln Avenue location to its current Euclid Avenue perch angered many longtime Anaheimers, who finally realized that rampant development had turned our beautiful city into a plague of strip malls. Many of the 5,000 people who signed a petition that year vainly seeking a pardon for Norm's continue to harass Pringle and other development-mad Anaheim officials. 1125 N. Euclid, (714) 776-3663.
RESTAURANTS ALL ANAHEIMERS
KNOW BUT NEVER PATRONIZE
The Anaheim White House:Sure, it's a beautiful building, a White House doppelganger where wonderful Italian dinners come courtesy of Bruno Serato, 2004's Southern California Restaurateur of the Year. But my friend, a lifelong Anaheimer like me, put it best when I asked if he's ever dined at the White House: “You mean that's not the mayor's house?” 887 S. Anaheim Blvd., (714) 772-1381.JC Fandango: Amid the swirl of salsa and merengue on weekends and rock en español the rest of the week at this Latin-music cathedral, dancers forget that JC Fandango makes an excellent paella. 1086 N. State College Blvd., (714) 758-1057.Any restaurant in downtown Anaheim:Pringle crows like Foghorn Leghorn about how his laissez-faire vision is improving downtown Anaheim. The reality: restaurants here are more abandoned than the Staples Center come Clippers time. The recently opened Filling Station (195 W. Center St., 714-535-2800) remains little-visited, Pho Republic(30 S. Anaheim Blvd., 714-999-1200) can't compete against a far-superior Vietnamese joint down Lincoln, and Bella Mari's (20 S. Anaheim Blvd. 714-991-9700) couldn't attract a crowd if it gave away its horrendous spaghetti. More shameless self-promotion: even more restaurants can be found in Orange County's best damn dining guide at ocweekly.com/food. If you still think Anaheim is the epicurean equivalent of Disney's California Adventure, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.