Anne Marie Panoringan
Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for eight years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly “On the Line” column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.
There is no shortage of food halls in Orange County. Ideal for groups that can’t make up their mind, these spaces dedicated to showcasing a variety of eateries are representative of the dining landscape. Plus, with summer essentially in full swing, all of them have you covered (shaded?) with extensive patios and ample seating.
As less popular concepts depart, vacancies are swiftly gobbled up by chefs and investors hungry to promote their brands. If you haven’t stopped by your local collective of good eats lately, now’s a swell time to taste something new.
Insider tip: Check each hall’s social media or website for an entertainment calendar; SteelCraft and Packing House often hire performers on the weekends when it’s busiest, while Mess Hall creatively flexes with instructional painting parties and an upcoming pet adoption event in August.
4th Street Market, Santa Ana
Change is afoot in this DTSA fixture, starting with the transition of upscale ShariNori from hidden kitchen to storefront tenant. Originally modeled to function within the market’s East End Kitchen space, the sushi specialist operated by Chef Han (a.k.a. Brian Kim) operated for almost two years before a space inside 4th Street freed up. It is now known as ShariNori on the Go. Requests are meticulously prepared as they are received, resulting in an elegant presentation rivaling comparable Japanese spots. ShariNori’s refined menu is geared more toward seasoned sashimi and nigiri fans, however first-timers should look into the signature roll which features salmon, spicy tuna, yellowtail, avocado, crab, cilantro and black garlic sauce enveloped in daikon radish.
Originally known as The Golden Hot Fried Chicken, The Golden Eatery is an evolved menu by Oscar Gonzalez that now includes smash burgers. “As a chef I always like to look ahead, and I’ve had this concept in mind for a long time. I look forward to The Golden Eatery being a place where people can come and catch up with friends and enjoy good food,” Gonzalez said. The crisp-edged meat indulgences join an already robust menu of fried chicken sandwiches, wings (he recommends the sticky n’ spicy bourbon glazed ones) and even a breakfast burrito stuffed with meaty tenders. Bonus: Gonzalez’s mama joins him in the kitchen on Mondays and Tuesdays, preparing meals with care.
The grand reopenings of both ShariNori on the Go and The Golden Eatery will take place on Saturday, June 25, beginning at noon. The first 25 diners at each spot will receive a free special roll plus a six-piece order of wings. From 2 p.m. to closing, customers ordering in-person from either storefront will receive 10% off their purchase.
Editor’s Note: When I visited in May I learned another tenant would soon be playing musical chairs within 4th Street’s walls. La Vegana Mexicana is shifting to an improved space outfitted with additional kitchen equipment, allowing LVM to expand its menu with even tastier offerings. Be on the lookout for its metamorphosis later this year.
Rodeo 39, Stanton
As previously reported, the move of Shootz Hawaiian within Rodeo made room for Buenos Migos. It also allowed the popular restaurant to add fishbowl (i.e. the Shootz spirited vessel of choice) cocktails to its menu.
On Valentine’s Day, Coffee Dose emerged as Rodeo’s new coffee specialist with CBD-infused caffeination and cheeky advertising to boot. Please be advised that menu selections vary between CD’s four locations, but all offer hearty breakfast bites to pair with your beverage – the burrito doesn’t disappoint.
Coming soon to the public market is D’Vine, a local Mediterranean concept that’s already eight branches strong. When I interviewed Chef Walid Alarja back in 2016, his advice to home cooks was to be prepared, organized and possess a passion to cook. The kitchen is well known for its creamy garlic sauce, chicken shawarma and sweet baklava.
SteelCraft, Garden Grove
The same owners that operate Barrio at this spacious shipping container food hall launched Tea Otter, a tea-focused drink window. Patrons can either enjoy these animal-themed, family-friendly sippers as a complement to their meal or as a treat at the end. I appreciate the range of classic flavors, unique blends and customizable options– the Otterly Peachy combines brewed oolong with yellow peach and crunchy aloe vera bites.
Mess Hall Market, Tustin
The collective of cuisines housed within Flight’s office campus added Japanese to its roster. Sushiya is not only focused on putting out authentic sushi, but slurpable ramen and fresh poke bowls as well. Customers can explore new tastes without spending as much in a more formal setting.
Trade Marketplace, Irvine
A trio of newcomers came on board at this concrete dining commons starting with London Chippy. Sustainable cod and dill-infused tartar sauce prepared in-house are the stars in its popular fish and chips. Samosas and po’boy sandwiches are also available.
Savory rice balls known as onigiri are the specialty at Ricebunn. Studded with veggies, meat or seafood, this portable meal requires zero utensils to appreciate. If eating with your hands is too unsanitary, Ricebunn offers plated versions. It even carries macaron ice cream sandwiches when the heat becomes sweltering.
Educating diners on rice yogurt desserts is what Yomie Yogurt prides itself on. Festive flavors include strawberry, dragon fruit, jujube (red dates) and salted egg. This 24-hour fermented yogurt smoothie chain also incorporates energy grain ingredients such as red bean and oats.
Union Market, Mission Viejo
Sana’s Curry Bowl is a family-owned and operated brand within Kaleidoscope’s upstairs food hall focusing on Indian cuisine. Flavorful vegetarian options and entrees finished in a tandoor oven left me feeling full. Its catering division serves meals to local businesses and private parties.
The OC Mix, Costa Mesa
Frozen dipped bananas from Sweet Lucia’s are the newest sweet escape at The OC Mix this summer. Adorn one with sauces and toppings until it satisfies your taste buds. If chocolate covered fruit isn’t your jam (apples and strawberries are options), switch to an ice cream sandwich or cheesecake on a stick.
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The Packing House, Anaheim
The most recent storefront to grace this bi-level hall is Los Angeles-based The Pie Hole in a free-standing space upstairs. Serving up savory and sweet one slice at a time, The Pie Hole also offers whole pies for purchase. The decadent Earl Grey Tea Pie involves white chocolate mousse, dark chocolate ganache plus a layer of pistachios; it’s no wonder why this is a best-seller.
Future tenants include Zabon Ramen Bar and El Chamango. Torrance-based Zabon keeps diners carb happy with rice bowls topped with chashu and fried chicken in addition to its roster of ramen that puts out shoyu, tonkotsu miso and a vegan miso broth. I saw training in progress when visiting Packing House this week. As of this writing, the soft opening is scheduled for this weekend and a grand opening is slated for July 1.
El Chamango is all about the salty snacks and sweets chock-full of mango goodness. An established local brand originating out of City of Industry, its DayGlo-hued menu appeases the young and young-at-heart. Having an additional dessert option should alleviate some of the waits customers endure elsewhere in the Packing House.
Anne Marie Panoringan is the food columnist for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at [email protected].
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