The new hot spot for the foodies enthusiasts
Who knew Anaheim would have more than just Disney to offer? I was a bit surprised, too, when someone told me that a big, different and “alternative” food court, located in Anaheim, was the new coolest spot to go. I decided to read more about the place before going, and discovered some very interesting things.
The new hot spot is called Anaheim Packing House – at first I didn’t get the name, but after reading a bit about the whole concept of the place, I got it. Well, it was, indeed, a packing house from the agricultural era. Local farmers would go there and unload trucks full of oranges, and start the process of selection, washing and packing the produce. It is a historical building (it was built in 1919) and an important landmark in Orange County.
Someone noticed this empty and opponent building and saw a big opportunity there. That someone is called Shaheen Sadeghi, the same guy who created the popular anti-malls, The Lab and The Camp, both in Costa Mesa. Knowing that, you already know what to expect, right? Hipster decoration, hipster food, hipster people. Actually, Sadeghi envisioned a place with a feeling of a local public market, where people could enjoy fresh and local food and interact with the community.
I finally had some time to check the place out and see what the buzz was all about. Located in downtown Anaheim, the now remodeled historic building looks gorgeous on the inside and out. It has a lot of nice touches – old fashioned rocking chairs on the porch, cool vintage designs and little things that remind the time when that area was surrounded by farms. I have to admit, though: if you’ve seen The O.C. Mix, The Lab and The Camp, you’ve seen the Packing House. The main concept is a bit different – the PH is supposed to be a huge food hall, similar to the public markets of Europe, while the other alternative malls offer more than just food –, but the atmosphere is about the same. I think they went farther this time regarding decoration – some things are very big and flashy, with the risk of being just too much.
But the fact that the Packing House is a place totally different from the “regular” food courts in Anaheim is attracting more and more people every day. I went there on a Monday afternoon and it was literally packed (ha! That was a good one). Well, I can understand why people like it so much. This pretty much sums up: they’ve got great food. Indian, American, Japanese, Vietnamese, French, Mexican; you choose. Look around first to decide what you’re going to get (good luck with that), and then you can have a sit anywhere in the huge communal dining tables, cool swing chairs, fluffy pillows (good luck trying to get up later) or individual little spaces. The house can be packed, but you’ll always find a place to sit.
The first restaurant I tried was Orange TEI, their Japanese place. They have some sushi rolls options and I couldn’t resist trying one (okay, some). It was fast, tasty and the staff was very friendly. After that I was ready for dessert, and they have a lot of options in that area, too. It was a very hot day – shocking – and I ended up going with a fancy gelato on a stick, from a place called Popbar. Addictive is the first word that comes to mind when I talk about this place. They offer handcrafted gelato, sorbetto and yogurt on a stick –all natural, made fresh daily with real fruit, and without artificial flavorings or preservatives. I tried the pistachio gelato, topped with dark chocolate and hazelnuts, and I’m still dreaming about it.
If you still have some room for more, it’s a good idea to wrap it up with a strong coffee from Cafecito Organico – a familiar place for some, since they’re at The Lab as well. They work with producers that are certified organic and fair trade, as well as some non-certified and local producers. It is a must-go place for me!
Basically, Anaheim Packing House is a nice place to go if you’re looking for food variety and a “hipster” vibe. I find it funny that the new thing now is to be “different” – people are demanding more than just the same old shopping malls and plazas, and smart executives and investors are seeing that. The thing is, they create these places trying to imitate something else – the great public markets of Europe, street fairs of South America –, and in the end, it doesn’t look original or different at all. America has so much culture and history, so why not creating their new thing, American-style? I’m sure it would be even better. Things that grow organically seem to be more attractive than the ones that are built artificially, I’m pretty sure of that.
I think Orange County is learning and taking baby steps towards a big change in the general food and shopping scenario. Anaheim Packing House is one more step leading this way; and although is still not perfect, is at least something. While we can’t enjoy something organically created yet, I’m down for getting another gelato on a stick and yummy sushi rolls.