Anaheim's Little Arabia

Dylan + Jeni

The nickname locals started using for the predominantly Middle Eastern business district in Anaheim, California, years ago hardly fits the place today. Little Arabia, an immigrant neighborhood since the 1980s, isn't so little anymore. In fact, it's one of the most expansive and vibrant ethnic enclaves I've seen anywhere. I can spend hours in the restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores on the main strip in Brookhurst Street and beyond, all representing scores of Near East cuisines. A favorite spot of mine is Mamounia, a Moroccan oasis with silk pillows and oriental rugs; they make an incomparable lamb stew that's fragrant with saffron and ginger. At the Olive Tree, I can satisfy my craving for mansaf, the Jordanian delicacy of lamb shoulder braised in a yogurt sauce, and also molokhia, Egypt's national dish of slow-cooked greens. Forn Al Hara, a Lebanese bakery, makes chewy flatbreads smothered with tangy labneh and sumac-rich za'atar, as well as fabulous pastries such as maamoul, semolina cookies with a date filling. Not long ago I visited Nara Bistro for iftar, the evening meal that ends each day of fasting during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. The doors opened at sundown to reveal an elaborate buffet including maklouba, a layered dish of beef, rice, and eggplant, and aish al saraya, a heavenly Lebanese bread pudding. Then there are the markets, wonderlands of Middle Eastern ingredients. My first stop when I'm shopping for a meal is usually Altayebat, a stalwart that's been selling imported dry goods, halal meats, and specialty foods such as fresh pistachios since the early '80s. And I love strolling through the capacious aisles of the neighborhood Super King, a big-box local food chain that, here, has a decidedly Middle Eastern bent. I find myself marveling at the incredible variety of rose-flavored drinks, say, or the different kinds of Egyptian rice. The place is mere miles from the kitschy Americana of Disneyland, yet it couldn't feel farther away.

_Mamounia
1829 West Katella Avenue
714/552-2813

Olive Tree
512 South Brookhurst Street, Suite 3
714/535-2878

Forn Al Hara
512 South Brookhurst Street
714/758-3777

Nara Bistro
1220 South Brookhurst Street
714/991-6800

Altayebat
1217 South Brookhurst Street
714/520-4723

Super King
10500 South Magnolia Avenue
714/527-5809_