Sometimes, staycations can be more memorable than expensive and exotic vacations to faraway places! If you have a wanderlust for ethnic experiences, many cities and even small towns have neighborhoods resplendent with the art, food, and music of other countries without having to get on a cumbersome and overpriced flight. As my family and I were missing the bakeries and food experiences we encountered during our travels to Palestine and Jordan, we rented a couple of cars and drove down to southern California, in search of a district known as “Little Arabia.”
Just minutes away from Disneyland, this 2.5 mile corridor called Brookhurst is lined with about 40 Arab family-run bakeries, falafel shops, restaurants, shisha cafes, halal butcher shops, and ethnic supermarkets. While these businesses have been established for decades, the city of Anaheim never gave the area an official designation. After a community movement petitioned the Anaheim city council to acknowledge this area with the Little Arabia title, council members rejected it, and avoided the discussion altogether. However, after the community took a first ever poll done on the question of official Little Arabia designation, 58% overwhelmingly voted yes. The survey’s findings were very encouraging to the cause, further cementing this enclave as a worthy destination.
This could not have happened at a better time, as small businesses in Anaheim have severely felt the impact of the government-ordered shutdowns. This designation is not only helpful for economic recovery, revitalization, and cultural diversity, but it will put the neighborhood on the tourist map.
Whether or not the area gets an official designation, the gems in this area are a must visit for any foodie and traveler in the area. Check out my new video where we go on an epic food crawl of this neighborhood, sampling as many treats as we can could in one day!
LITTLE ARABIA TOP PICKS:
Al Amir Bakery: The smell of za’atar is in the air, as the Lebanese and Palestinian bakers churn out fresh flatbreads in their wood fire oven. Tear off a piece of fresh and fluffly flatbread and spread with any of their tantalizing dips like ful mudamas (fava dip), hummus, or labneh cheese drizzled with fruity Lebanese olive oil. Flatbreads are topped with either cheese and egg, feta cheese, ground beef and tomato, or fresh za’atar.
- 518 S Brookhurst St Ste 3, Anaheim, CA 92804-2447
Knafeh Cafe– The most famous knafeh originated in the town of Nablus, Palestine, and it just so happens the baker at this cafe is from that very town! For those uninitiated, knafeh is a dessert made with buttery filo dough on top of melted sweet cheese, drizzled with sweet syrup and chopped pistachios. This cafe not only churns out some of the best knafeh in California, but they also serve fresh baklava, hareesa, or semolina honey cake, and ma’moul, or shortbread cookies filled with sumptuous dates.
- 866 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim, CA 92804-4303
The House of Mandi is one of the newest eateries in town, offering the strip’s first Yemeni restaurant. A must try is Hadhramaut, a Yemeni traditional dish of fall off the bone roasted lamb, fattoush, and signature vegetable stews.
- 518 S Brookhurst St, Unit 1, Anaheim, CA 92804
Aleppo’s Kitchen Cafe provides a quick stop storefront for kibbeh at least 6 different ways both baked and fried, Syrian Muhammara, or red pepper and walnut dip, as well as a variety of kofta, or chargrilled minced meat
- 513 1/2 S Brookhurst St Anaheim, CA 92804
Zait and Zaatar is renowned for their sumptuous shawarma plates and wraps as well as felafel for that vegan in your life
- 510 N Brookhurst St Ste 106, Anaheim,
Sahara Falafel is for that falafel purist in your life with all the condiments and pickles you desire!
- 590 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim, CA