Ethnic Alcoves: Lil‘ Gaza
Little Gaza, an ethnic enclave centered around Brookhurst Street in Anaheim that is home to thousands of Palestinian-Americans, has quite a few restaurants to offer, and one of the best things about it is that one doesn’t have to be too adventurous to try the food; most Middle Eastern places like to serve kabobs, and who doesn’t like a kabob?
Here are some of the best places to grab a kabob, and some other dishes, in Little Gaza, in ascending order:
Sahara Falafel is an inexpensive place to grab a quick lunch in the heart of Little Gaza. However, while Sahara Falafel serves good falafel and decent ground beef kabobs, its shawarma usually comes a bit burnt and tough on the outside. Even the kabob isn’t as good as it could be. Maybe this is just me, but there’s something off about a kabob when all one can really taste are the little vegetables in the mix. While that may be an indicator of freshness, it’s also a little annoying, especially when the flavor of the meat is overpowered, and that’s almost always the case with Sahara Falafel.
Address: 590 S. Brookhurst Street, Anaheim, CA 92804
Victory Bakery and Restaurant
Try its Victory soup! Try its Victory chocolate! Unfortunately, the owner wasn’t there, so I couldn’t ask him whether he’s a big 1984 fan.
In any event, Victory has a pretty decent selection of Arab food and a lunch buffet. It’s made to resemble a large café and is actually quite nice and clean inside. But while the atmosphere and service were good, the food could have been better. Lamb, beef and chicken shish kabobs on skewers were well-flavored, but tough and difficult to pull off the skewers. For $15, more rice and hummus could have been given. The restaurant compensates with good shawarma at least. It really is better as a bakery than a restaurant. The bakery portion has an immense selection of both Western and Middle Eastern confectionaries. The baked goods are reasonably priced and, with some Arab coffee, are a good way to end a meal.
Address: 630 S. Brookhurst Street, Anaheim, CA 92804
This Turkish restaurant is somewhat detached from Little Gaza, but it’s not far and is worth mentioning. Turkish kabobs have more flavor than their Arab and Persian counterparts, though they are basically made the same way. Doner G is a relatively new restaurant, but has become quite popular. It’s kept clean, and the service is both quick and friendly. The atmosphere is also quite impressive for an eatery, with Turkish music and large pictures of just a few of Turkey’s beautiful landscapes and historical sites on display. Interestingly, these were all taken by the owner himself and printed on canvas (the owner is also a good person to talk to if one is interested in hearing some Ottoman and Turkish history). All of the food here is good, but the specialty, as the name suggests, is döner. In the United States, we aren’t too familiar with döner, but the stuff is immensely popular in Europe, especially in Germany. Döner is essentially shawarma, strips of marinated meat stuck on a rotating spit, cooked by a heat source on the side(s), and shaved off onto a plate. In fact, it’s the original shawarma. But unlike Arab shawarma, döner has a higher fat content, adding to its flavor. One can get the relatively plain döner, or try Iskander kebab, which is supposed to be thinner, and is also flavored with tomato and yogurt.
If döner doesn’t sound too enticing, the Adana, a mildly spicy ground lamb kebab, is probably the next best thing. To finish off, try its baklava, which is flown in from Turkey. The only real problem with Doner G is that they don’t have Turkish coffee. If they ever do start serving it, it would complete a surprisingly good experience.
Address: 2139 E. Ball Road, Anaheim, CA
Hatam Restaurant looks like a hole in the wall from the outside; inside, it’s well-decorated with Iranian art, clean and quite professionally run (though some complain the service is rushed). But none of that even matters. The restaurant could be gutted of its art, half as clean and the service could be nothing but monosyllable grunts, and Hatam would still probably hold this top position.
The most important thing to know is that its beef koobideh (ground beef kabob) is the best kabob in Little Gaza. This is a scientifically verifiable fact, but, alas, there isn’t the space in this paper for all the accompanying charts and graphs. In any case, it’s highly unlikely anyone searching for a place that serves a genuine and addicting kabob could come dissatisfied from Hatam after trying its beef koobideh plate. For $11, one gets two well-portioned kabobs on a bed of more rice than a normal person could consume.
What makes the kabobs so special? Quite frankly, I don’t know, and I never tried asking. I presume the chefs would want to guard their secret, if it is a secret. In any case, the things that normally go into koobideh include finely chopped onions, flour, salt, pepper and often egg yolk. And at Hatam, one can taste that they’re basted with butter as well.
Now, the rest of its food is good also, but nothing quite compares to the awesomeness (and cost effectiveness) of the koobideh, so the rest of the menu is difficult to recommend. Look at its Web site if you’re interested.
Address: 1112 North Brookhurst Street, #6 Anaheim, CA 92801