Anaheim, California, has long been known as the home of Disneyland. These days, though, the most populous city in Orange County is fast building a reputation as a culinary hotspot thanks to the incredible rejuvenation of the old Packing District, which sits in the heart of the city, a couple of miles north of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Here’s how to explore it.
The action centers on the Anaheim Packing House, one of the last remaining citrus-packing warehouses in the county, which has been beautifully restored and transformed into a gourmand’s palace. Built in Spanish colonial revival style, the building is home to a whole host of brilliant food vendors serving everything from boba teas to fish and chips, covering pretty much every corner of the globe. Crowd favourites include the Mexican gastronomy at Urbana, where the tacos come stuffed with lobster and fillet mignon – everyone raves about their signature red snapper ceviche. There’s always a buzz at Indian street-food specialist ADYA, which has tandoori kebabs and fluffy butter naans. And grilled-cheese lovers will be in raptures at Black Sheep, where the packed sandwiches include the Hot Mess, a concoction of fontina cheese, bacon and jalapeños.
For drinks, the place to head is the Prohibition-inspired speakeasy the Blind Rabbit. You enter from the Packing House – through a hidden door disguised as sake barrels – and feel as though you’ve stepped back in time: the interior is dimly lit and filled with Belle Epoque flourishes. Their list of signature cocktails is full of big, bold whiskey mixes and there’s a standalone menu of different kinds of absinthe. Reservations are required, so be sure to book ahead.
Immediately north of the Packing House is the beautifully landscaped Farmers Park, which hosts a weekly farmer’s market and a monthly maker’s market featuring the best crafters and artists in the city. The park also hosts fitness festivals and there’s a super-welcoming community yoga class that takes place on the grassy knoll. Look out for the outdoor movie screenings. If it’s liquid refreshment you’re after, one minute away from the park you’ll find Sacred Junk Bar, where “conscious cocktails” are served alongside a punchy menu of vegan comfort food.
Head further up the road and you’ll find the Packard Building, a gorgeous 100-year-old property designed in the mission revival style. Formerly a car showroom, it has been lovingly restored and is now home to a branch of Umami Burger (elbow your way through the line to get one of their glorious truffle burgers) and the Monkish Brewery Co., which serves homemade ales in a charming little beer garden.
A couple of minutes’ walk on from the Packard Building is the delightful cluster of independent businesses on Center Street. Being Anaheim, this of course includes a load of brilliant places to eat such as Promenade Pizza, which, among its specialities, serves cauliflower crust pizzas. But it’s not all good eats on Center Street. Be sure to stop at RARE by Goodwill, a creative twist on the old-school thrift shop that is full of keenly priced clothes and a well-curated selection of homeware. And once you’ve worked up a thirst, head to Bizen to sample a selection of top-notch Japanese craft beers.
South of the Packing House is the MAKE building, once a marmalade factory, now a super-hip venue with an interior that pays homage to its industrial past. Locals flock here for Jav’s BBQ, where he serves 16-hour slow-cooked ribs, and the Pali Wine Co., known for low-intervention pinot noirs and chardonnays, made from grapes grown on the sun-soaked Santa Rita Hills in California. The MAKE building is also the place to head for live music: there are acoustic sets in the main space and Pali frequently hosts excellent local jazz bands.
And then last, but very much not least, the Packing District is completed by Leisuretown, a 33,000sqft (3,065sqm) adult playground that is part restaurant, part swim club, and part brewery and tap room. During the day, grab a spot on one of the sun loungers next to the super-chic little pool; at night, sip your tasting flight of draft ales in the romantic beer garden where the trees are decked out in string lights and the atmosphere is always electric.
Find out more and start planning your trip now by visitingvisitcalifornia.com/road-trips