Food halls are so happening that Orange County has one, plus several more in the works. Our first, the Anaheim Packing House, is in the city’s flourishing, but slowly emerging Packing District. Somehow, when Anaheim leveled much of its vintage downtown in the 1990s, the defunct citrus packinghouse was untouched, leaving a fortuitous entry point years later for developer Shaheen Sadeghi. Mastermind of Costa Mesa’s The Lab and The Camp, Sadeghi proves his trend-reading prowess once again by luring artisan-aware foodies to this model for O.C.’s next wave in food courts.
Sticklers, put aside your visions of L.A.’s Grand Central Market or San Francisco’s celebrated Ferry Plaza Marketplace. This buzzy emporium with a creative vibe isn’t cutting-edge or upscale, but more of a collection of cafes with counter service. Visitors exit with full bellies and slimmer wallets, not bulging bags of goods to prepare at home. Open since May 31, the Packing House is only as good as its best vendors. After making allowances for newbie jitters and opening glitches, here are, so far, the best eats in the house.
Wheat and Sons Butcher/Rotisserie
One of the few shops that sells premium goods for buying and cooking at home, its artisan butcher also serves a blackboard menu of mouthwatering wonders prepared to eat onsite. House-cured meats lift up the best charcuterie board in the building, and, at $12, it may be the best bargain as well. A pretty salad of burrata and ribbons of heirloom carrots is unexpected, and seriously delish. Chicken potpie by the slice is better than almost any whole potpie sold in local restaurants: buttery crust and meaty, moist chicken do the job. Despite all the hoopla over The Kroft’s porchetta next door, this version is juicier, more consistent, and painstakingly built. Wurst lovers, don’t miss the bratwurst on pretzel bread. Need to stock up on slab bacon, duck eggs, or rabbit? This is your new find. I’m already dreaming of holiday orders.
This busy counter attracts fans of rich, fattening, hangover-type fare, though I’m not sure why the porchetta sandwich gets all the oohs; mine didn’t even rate a C-plus. I’m not suggesting the folks in line are hung over, maybe just intoxicated with all manner of poutine, the Canadian comfort classic that starts with fries and cheese curds. The glistening fries are served in a brown box loaded with toppings that range from braised short rib, chicken potpie, fried chicken, or classic with gravy. For the poutine-averse, there’s a commendable fried chicken sandwich with jalapeño coleslaw. 714-635-5900, thekroft.com
Cleverly hidden behind a wall of sake barrels, this dark and cozy speakeasy with ace cocktails is a place worth finding. Decor and seating are vintage rescue, and the savvy bar staff is welcoming. Signature drinks include seasonal concoctions made with infused spirits; the bacon-steeped Old Fashioned is a top-seller. Fare from the compact menu is better than it has to be—check out the duck confit mac ’n’ cheese or the tempura “corn dogs” with Vietnamese sausage. email@example.com
Plagued by an outlier location, this made-to-order dessert crepe shop deserves to be busier, though this could change when nearby Kettlebar opens, generating more foot traffic. Paper-wrapped and folded into Parisian street-style treats, these crispy-edged crepes are hot off the iron, then filled with fresh fruits, whipped cream, and classic extras such as gelato and Nutella. Sharing isn’t easy, but these gorgeous handfuls are certainly big enough for two. crepecoop.com
Chef-owner Shachi Mehra, previously of Crystal Cove’s Tamarind of London, goes her own way here, focusing on Indian street eats with a refined edge. Her savory pavs (sliders, if you will), stuffed naans, and snacky appetizers have been more satisfying than heftier entrees. Two winners include watermelon chaat, a light salad of melon, mint, fennel, and red onion; and pani puri, crispy cups of herby chickpeas youanoint with tamarind water for a full-mouth explosion of flavors. 714-533-2392, adyaoc.com
Lemon Drop Juicery and Farm Shoppe
More a kiosk than counter, this oddly sited shop from raw-food maven Jenny Ross of 118 Degrees is all about just-pressed juices, smoothies, and signature lemonades. A selection of so-good-for-you salads gets lost amid the squeezing and whirring. Most folks simply drink their salad from the many creative blends. Will it be pineapple, spinach, kale and, ginger? 657-208-3434, facebook.com/lemondropjuice
Solid Southern fare is rare in these parts, but Georgia’s claims this gustatory territory with dishes cooked from 75-years-young operator Gretchen Shoemaker’s family recipes dating to her grandmother. Big-sellers include a fine pulled-pork po’ boy and laudable fried chicken. Fried catfish and red beans and rice are sleeper choices for you purists. Cheerful service sweetens the vibe of the 26-seat cafe, and when Shoemaker is in the house, she’ll greet you like family. 714-906-1900, georgias-restaurant.com
The Packing House is still unpacking, so expect more openings soon. New players will include Kettlebar, Urbana Seafood & Chelas, and a second branch of Costa Mesa’s Ecco Restaurant.
ANAHEIM PACKING HOUSE
HOURS Open daily at 10:30 a.m.; bars open until midnight. Free parking in main lot and nearby lots on Claudina and Santa Ana streets. Free street parking.
FYI Live entertainment on weekends; Certified Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at adjacent Farmers Park.