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¡Ask a Comida Critic!: Is Irvine or Anaheim the County's Most Integrated Supermarket City?

From Das Ubergeek himself:

A white guy (not me) and an Asian guy in the El Super on Anaheim and Ball [in Anaheim] arguing about the merits of gorditas vs. tortillas. Total integration of Anaheim, or sure sign of the Reconquista?

Let's use this introductory sentence for my required plug for my coming book on the history of Mexican food in the United States and to also note Americans have been debating the merits of "Mexican" food (chili con carne or tamales? El Torito or Chi-Chi's? Qdoba or Chipotle? Bayless or Kennedy? Hatch or Chimayó?) for over 150 years.

But Dave's question got me thinking about my beloved Anacrime, and the only other county city that can match it for culinary diversity and integration: Irvine.

The two cities are almost mirror reflections of each other, with significant differences. Both are county powerhouses in the city sphere, both are immigrant havens, and both are emblematic of what they represent (Irvine: endless, master-planned upper-middle-class suburbia; Anaheim: working-class strip-mall paradise). But that's where the similarities end. Irvine has big populations of gabachos, Asians of most stripes, Indians, South Africans, Persians and more than a few Turks, with no group making a majority. Anaheim is now majority-Latino, but with significant chunks of Samoans, Filipinos, Arabs, Romanians, Thais, Chamorros, and even Africans (along with some African-Americans). If we had to use broad strokes, I'd say Irvine's heart remains "white," but has Chinese and Persian chambers; Anaheim's is Mexican, pumping the blood of the world.

How does this translate into food? Mostly in our supermarkets. Irvine's great meeting place for multiculti food integration, of course, is Wholesome Choice, and I love to see how they update their offerings almost every year to reflect Irvine's changing demographic (I still remember when the South African section consisted of one shelf instead of the many it now occupies). But Anaheim's hub isn't its many Northgates or El Supers but Super King, the Armenian-run supermarket that attracts an almost-exclusively Arab and Latino clientele and reflects their tastes: buckets of olive oil, insanely cheap habaneros, and great meat cuts. My mother, who's never been to a Little Arabia restaurant in her life, now swears by pita bread, feta, and long-grained rice, all because of Super King.

Compare those places, however, to the country's other large Supermarkets. Freshia in Tustin does draw a multiculti crowd, but I don't see the same diversity at, say, Arirang or 99 Ranch or even El Super. I can count the number of times I've seen gabachos at Northgates over the years, but that Dave saw a gabacho and chinito argue over the merits of gorditas over tortillas, and no one in the Mexican supermarket thought anything of it, shows we should all follow the examples of Anaheim and Irvine.

Oh, and tortillas ALL THE WAY. Corn, of course...

Super King, 10500 Magnolia Ave., Anaheim, (714) 527-5809; www.superkingmarket.com; Wholesome Choice, 18040 Culver Dr. Irvine, (949) 551-4111; www.wholesomechoice.com.

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22 comments
frankieboy1
frankieboy1

been to both Northgate and Zion Market many times and I think it's fun being the only huero in the place...and even more fun when they find out you know exactly what you are looking for!!!

Dan Chmielewski
Dan Chmielewski

Might I recommend Zion Market on Irvine Blvd and the Persian Market behind Buffalo Wild Wings off Culver as THE place to find any sort of spice; you can't beat the Farmer's Market at UCI on Saturday mornings either.

John J.
John J.

Don't forget Jon's International just south of Superking. Huge single beer selection (I hate having to buy a 6 just to sample) and some amazing top shelf liquior sales. Lot's of good meat and veg specials. It even has a clean bathroom in the front of the store - rare for OC.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

LOVE Jon's, but I do believe it's in Stanton/Garden Grove...

tb
tb

Gustavo,

I generally enjoy your work. Scott M too!

But any city (& a "liberal" one, at that) that is so blatently militaristic & outright hostile to the less fortunate (homeless) like Irvine is - deserves no recognition for "diversity" or anything other than what they are - a bunch of NIMBY hypocrites.

Sorry my friend.

T

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

TB: Gracias for the kind words and comment. We're talking about food here, alas, not the politics of Irvine. If we spoke of the latter, then Irvine's a cesspool.

tb
tb

Gustavo,

True enough. But somehow the food in such a sterile, repressive & hypocritical place just doesn't taste very good to me ....

T

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

True, Irvine is integrated... but Anaheim has a Wholesome Choice too.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Wholesome Choice is in Anaheim Hills, which is about as Anaheim as Santa Ana Heights is SanTana.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

I subscribe to an all-inclusive definition of Anaheim, mostly because it pisses people off who'd rather not have Anaheim Hills associated with, you know... poor people. Also because there are good things to eat there (mmm, Rosine's) and they count too.

Besides, isn't Santa Ana Heights about to officially become part of Newport Beach?

Lyndsey Lefebvre
Lyndsey Lefebvre

As an Anaheim Islander, I'd prefer not to be associated with those Anaheim Hills types. Superking forever! I'm an OG gabacha at that store. I've been to the Wholesome Choice, and Superking, despite not having ready made food, provides a far superior ethnic shopping experience. People shop differently at this store, and that is the real sight to see. People buying ingredients and not boxes at Superking, and that is the most awesome thing about it. :)

DanGarion
DanGarion

That is exactly what I was thinking.

Hmmm
Hmmm

Wholesome Choice was nearly shut down by the Health Dept...

plazaborn
plazaborn

I love SuperKing! My sister and I were just there this afternoon--she was stocking up on snacks for her Egyptian husband, and I was admiring the fantastic fruit selection and buying local oranges (Corona) at 5 lbs for 99 cents.

Stabba-Anian13
Stabba-Anian13

Come On Gu-Stav, You know SANTA ANA is Really the Capital City that Brings Diverse Crowds Together... Why Are You Leaving Us Out of The Equation?? You Don't Believe Me, Come By DownTown on Thursday, Friday, Saturday Evenings.. Even Sundays. Dont Get Scared Though. LoL!!

Walid Henry
Walid Henry

Boring.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Glad you enjoyed it!

Dan863158
Dan863158

What's the matter Gustavo?? Did I hit a raw nerve? If you can't answer my question, you don't need to personally attack me with meaningless insults. Please don't waste my time with your juvenile responses to my questions. Again, can you answer this question like an adult? Why do you think it's important for you to be so ethnocentric?

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

TROLL ALERT! TROLL ALERT! And gracias for further proving my point!

Dan863296
Dan863296

Gustavo Arellano

Looking me up on Facebook to waste your time with me? LOSER...did YouPorn freeze up on you?

Conversation History Daniel K. Sweet 5:04pm Apr 27

Don't you ever tire of being so ethnocentric???

View Conversation on Facebook · Reply to this email to message Gustavo Arellano.

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