Adventures Restaurants

Petition Underway To Create America’s Next Official Great Food Neighborhood

Photo from Forn Alhara by Peter Pham.

Some of the country’s greatest food neighborhoods include San Francisco’s Chinatown, New Orleans’ French Quarter, and San Diego’s Little Italy. Regardless of where they are, these areas are steeped in rich food history and have a history of being the local food life force.

Many of these places have official designations that help make them more pronounced and elevate them into a destination. Little Arabia, in Anaheim, California, is currently lobbying to receive that mark and recognition, hoping to get established as that next great food neighborhood everybody should visit.

Photo from Sahara Falafel by Peter Pham

Little Arabia is the center of Arab-American culture in Orange County, and home to a plethora of varying types of restaurants. From bakeries like Victory Sweets to falafel mainstays like Sahara Falafel, you’ll find a little bit of everything in this neighborhood.

These are restaurants that have been around for decades, and the neighborhood itself has been established by locals and tourists from nearby Disneyland alike. However, the city of Anaheim has yet to give Little Arabia that official designation of “neighborhood.”

This really has been an ongoing battle for years, as city council members have pledged to give Little Arabia its due as far back as 2016. However, pressure to make good on those promises has ramped up as the coronavirus pandemic has hit many restaurants in the area hard.

Photo from Victory Sweets by Peter Pham

While business grants and reliefs have helped, many local restaurant owners feel that getting the official designation will help to promote the area, getting more people to come order their food and in turn revitalizing the economy.

As a result, they’ve turned to an online petition that asks the Anaheim City Council to officially adopt a resolution that recognizes the neighborhood.

Photo from Sahara Falafel by Peter Pham

“Now more than ever, it is vital to support our local business community,” the petition reads. “Businesses in Anaheim have felt the impacts of the covid-19 pandemic and government-ordered shutdowns. Promoting this economic district will aid in Anaheim’s economic recovery.”

Those interested in supporting the effort, and helping to make the country’s next great food neighborhood official, can sign the petition at this link.

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Discover Anaheim’s ‘Little Arabia,’ A Middle Eastern Food Paradise

We’re always searching for those hidden culinary gems, the secluded restaurant that’s seldom visited but produces some of the best food you can find.
While these individual restaurants are scattered all over the world, it’s hard to find an entire neighborhood that can be classified as a hidden gem.

Venture into Anaheim’s Little Arabia, and you’ll find just that. Located not too far from Disneyland, this neighborhood is home to some Middle Eastern food legends. They’ve all been on the block for 20 years or more, making this area THE destination for the local Middle Eastern community looking to get a taste of home.

Whether the food is from Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, or any other Middle Eastern country, there’s a plethora of culture, nostalgia, and flavor waiting to be discovered in Little Arabia.

This includes Sahara Falafel, known for having the best fried chickpea balls in Orange County. Served by the plate, pita, or on their own, Sahara has been a falafel destination for over 20 years. In that same time span, the owner, Mahmoud Salem, has still been working his night job at a local Marriott hotel, despite customers trickling in up until 2 a.m. Talk about being on that grind.

One of the other top specialists in Little Arabia is Forn Al Hara, which is heralded for its manaeesh. These flatbreads are light, airy, and doughy, and can be topped with everything from za’atar, a blend of herbs and sesame seeds, to cheese and ground beef. The bakery also makes other traditional goods like fatayer (stuffed spinach hand pies) and baklava. If you’re in the area for breakfast, manaeesh is the way to go.

Perhaps the most notable amongst the storied restaurants of Little Arabia is Zankou Chicken, which has gained national fame for its simple but delicious plates of chicken, pita, and legendary toum, a.k.a. white garlic sauce. First opened in Lebanon by an Armenian family, Zankou has since spread into a sizeable chain with locations throughout Southern California. This spot in Little Arabia, however, still has that timeless charm that keeps people coming back for more.

If your sweet tooth is calling, Little Arabia covers that as well with Victory Sweets, a bakery that specializes in tons of lavish Middle Eastern treats. They’re making all kinds of baklava from scratch – including the phyllo dough – and crank out one of the cheesiest, sweetest knafehs you’ll ever stuff into your mouth. Pro tip: stuffing the knafeh into a sesame bun adds a whole new level to this gooey dessert experience.

Little Arabia may be small, but the flavors, history, tradition, and culture that goes into this district make it a heavyweight in the world of underappreciated dining spots. If you find yourself near the Disneyland area, you’ll be rewarded if you take it upon yourself to venture into this lesser-known Anaheim destination.

You can view all of the restaurants and how they craft their masterpieces in the above episode of Foodbeast’s Chomping Grounds.

Photos by Pete Pham

Created in partnership with Visit Anaheim