Little Arabia: Home Away From Home
Signs for restaurants, clothing stores, bakeries and businesses from legal services to insurance providers appear in Arabic on Brookhurst Street, between Cresent Avenue and Katella Avenue in West Anaheim, letting you know you have arrived in the ethnic enclave of Little Arabia District.
Thousands of miles from their families and the culture they knew as a child, or perhaps even more recently, Little Arabia District is a home away from home for many locals and tourists looking for authentic flavor and culture of the Middle East.
The Altayebat Market is incredibly busy, even during the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset), or perhaps because of it. The intricately designed copper coffee cups, incredible selection of gallon-sized olive oils and full rack of spices and herbs makes one want to stop someone, anyone, and ask the story behind these treasures. And can I come over for dinner?
If you don’t feel like cooking or have never found the right cookbook, never fear. The dining choices in Little Arabia District are truly off the charts for Middle Eastern cuisine. We started at Sahara Falafel and ordered the vegetarian plate and mint tea. My friend assured me they had the best falafel ever and he was right; but the hummus and tahini sauce were equally delicious and the pita bread was perfect. Even though we shared a plate, we ate past the point of fullness and I still had to visit Papa Hassan’s Grill.
Many will remember Mustafa from when Papa Hassan’s Grill was located next to Chapman University. The hospitality at Papa Hassan’s was as warm and inviting as ever. Known for their Beiruti burger with stuffed French fries, they also offer sandwiches, plates, salads, an incredible list of burgers, rotisserie chicken and paninis. The smells were divine and yet I opted for baklava and lemonade. It was buttery, crispy, crunchy heaven and the sweetest, most mouth-watering lemonade I have ever had – an excellent choice.
For those missing mom’s Middle Eastern cooking, there’s no better place in Little Arabia than Kareem's Restaurant. Locals recommend the hummus with grilled steak, fattoush salad, chicken skewers, and baba ghanouj. If you are craving lamb, try the special of the day at Olive Tree Restaurant. Visit Al Wadee Bakery and Restaurant for their chicken sarwarma sandwich or bamya (okra with tomato and lamb sauce). La Mirage Pastry offers rows upon rows of flakey baklava in all shapes and sizes, cookies, cakes (whole and by the slice), knafeh and chocolates.
Now that you are properly hungry, you need a Middle Eastern festival to enjoy this rich cuisine and culture. On August 2 and 3, Center Street Promenade in downtown Anaheim will be the center of a two-day celebration known as the Eid Festival. This free event offers entertainment for the whole family with rides, games, music and food vendors from Little Arabia.
It’s like a vacation halfway around the world, without waiting for your luggage at baggage claim. Visit Little Arabia District – you’ll be glad you did.