It’s time to talk food!
Orange County has always had great food but over the last year I have noticed most cities heavily marketing essentially watering holes for travelers and locals alike. Tourists coming to the area are becoming more adventurous, looking for those popular local hot spots. One of my favorite cities to recommend is Anaheim which is central beacon for most and is filled with something for everyone. As soon as I mention this most guests look at me and immediately begin to question, “Isn’t that where Disneyland is? I thought that was just for kids.” Well I’m here to say that there is more to Anaheim than the looming Disneyland Resort.
Let me first start with the newly built Anaheim Packing House located in the Packing District on the edge of downtown Anaheim:
Built in 1919, the once Sunkist orange packing house is one of the few surviving from the agricultural era for which Orange County received its name. The newly renovated building houses a food hall containing casual food options for everyone and even a “Speakeasy” (1920’s influenced hidden bar) behind a bookcase. Looking around you will notice the inside decor is reminiscent of an outdoor patio; look for the plants and swings (yes swings) surrounding the center of the lower level. Take your time looking around because there are lots of surprises along the way! I found the Packing House to be great for friends and families, casual date outings and even the business traveler.
When I was there last week with my mom we proceeded to splurge on a tasting frenzy; needless to say I was in a major food coma afterwards so my warning is to be careful, all of the food is beyond delicious. First stop was Black Sheep Grill Cheese Bar for an Original Grilled Cheese…it is what it says an original grilled cheese and my taste buds were happy but it seemed to lack the extra flavor to give it personality. Let me add that there are other unique options on Black Sheep’s menu which are probably more worth trying.
Next up was Orange Tei for a traditional Japanese style ramen bowl–and no you are not getting top ramen, believe me it’s a lot tastier. Orange Tei creates the perfect combination of noodle and broth in a huge bowl fit for a king. If you’re still hungry sides of shrimp are available, although I’m not much of a seafood eater myself my mom thoroughly enjoyed the tempura. This location is always busy which is expected from the popular food stand. Already being my second time visiting Orange Tei, I will continue to come back for that Pork Bowl. Tip: Go downstairs for some sake after your meal!
For dessert we went to Popbar which currently holds the record for the longest line. When you get up to the counter pick a gelato or sorbet popsicle from an assortment of flavors, have them dip it in a unlimited number of chocolate and finally add nuts and/or sprinkles. After careful consideration I opted for a peach sorbet dipped in milk chocolate, drizzled with white chocolate and doused with chocolate sprinkles. Incredibly fattening but worth it I assure you…after all what’s a cheat day for?
After spending all afternoon at the Packing House, I successfully converted my mother and will be back again soon! Preferably on a weekday early afternoon for lunch when crowds are smaller and parking is easier.
As promised, I am covering two food hot spots in Anaheim. Now let’s move onto an outdoor shopping and food center much closer to Disneyland…Downtown Disney:
Being a local myself, I have seen these same restaurants year after year but one in particular that I never got around visiting until last Monday is Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. Coincidentally this restaurant happened to be hosting the concierge association’s general meeting for this month so I was able to sample a few popular items…absolute bliss…
Cocktail – Hurricane
Cruzan rum and Fresh Fruit juice served in a hurricane glass
Salad – French Quarter Salad
Mixed greens with a Steen’s cider vinaigrette, candied pecans and cherry tomatoes
Entree – Andouille & Pretzel Crusted Pork Loin
Mashed potatoes, bacon braised turnip greens, creole mustard buerre blanc
Desserts – Beignets
A New Orleans classic! French donuts topped with powdered sugar
*By Executive Chef Darrin Finkel
With Cast Members you can always expect excellent service and atmosphere; they are what makes this particular experience different than the rest in Downtown Disney. The architecture brings its guests to New Orleans perfect for a casual dinner or a romantic proposal (ask for balcony seating–the fireworks add an extra touch). Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen also offers live entertainment every night from 6pm-10pm. Tip: If you’re driving over their just for the evening, Downtown Disney has free parking the first 3 hours and free for the first 5 hours with validation from participating restaurants including the Jazz Kitchen.
I will be honest, Downtown Disney tends to be my default as a biased former cast member for a late night stroll and good time but I promise there is a reason for it! Especially for our guests who don’t have the budget or means to purchase admission to the parks it still offers that Disney flare. If you walk around by the Disneyland hotel or are looking for a character dining experience, visit Goofy’s Kitchen–reservations at least 24-hours in advance are highly recommended.
Heading back towards where the shops and other restaurants are visit ESPN Zone to catch a game, have a beer, or play some games in their big kid sized arcade. Another popular stop is the Rainforest Café which provides a jungle experience complete with animated animals and rainforest sounds, a great stop for the kids. One of my favorite activities to do is to stop by Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel to rest by their fireplace and maybe visit Napa Rose for a glass of wine. Other highlights in the area include live entertainment, shopping, concerts at the House of Blues, Build-a-Bear Workshop for the kids, the largest Disney store in the area, and an AMC Movie Theater.
As I mentioned there is quite a bit to choose from and that’s just TWO of the shopping districts in Anaheim! Well I’m going to wrap this up since I know as a hungry traveler or local you’re probably getting a little hungry from talking about all this food. Here’s to wishing you a good time–happy and safe travels!