The decor of Habiba Abdi’s restaurant, Gendershe Cuisine, is not ostentatious—she tries to impress the four senses besides sight. The aroma of all-halal meats marinating in signature spices tints the air, heralding Somali entrees such as the hilib ari, a goat dish that OC Weekly deemed "gamy and glorious." Mango lassis cool the tongue with a mix of almond milk, fruit pulp, orange juice, and vanilla. Pieces of bur—somali fry bread baked onsite—engage the hands, encouraging patrons to soak up lingering sauces with their dough instead of a friend's shirtsleeve. All the while, guests absorb the sizzling sounds of salmon and tilapia being sautéed in the kitchen's special "mother sauce."
Named after the Somalian city where Abdi’s father grew up, Gendershe Cuisine is an outpost of a kind of cooking rarely found in the United States, much less Orange County. Even so, Somalia’s rich culinary tradition—influenced over the years by Italy, India, and surrounding East African cultures—means that many dishes may look familiar even to the uninitiated. Crispy, triangular sambusas are relatives to indian samosas, ethiopian injera pops up beneath stews of beef, chicken, goat, or fish, and spaghetti and lasagna lie under sauces subtly spiked with Somali herbs and spices.
After opening their first store in Anaheim in 1993, the grocery gurus behind Super King Markets noticed the globe-spanning diversity of their customer base. This keen insight led them to stock shelves with brands from across the world and around the corner, a policy which helped them win LA Weekly's Best Ethnic Deli Counter of 2009, Best Place to Buy Nutella of 2010, and Best Palace of Cheap Produce of 2011. Now expanded to five locations, the store still fills each outpost with fruits and vegetables, quality meats and private-label seafood, and an assortment of shells in the mixed-nut bar. Staff members behind the service deli weigh imported salamis, caviar, and cheeses for their upcoming high-school wrestling matches, and clerks in the liquor aisle dole out advice on each spirited beverages. Additionally, the Los Angeles, Altadena, and Claremont locations invite shoppers to linger longer with an expansive fresh bakery.
“When [you] walk through the door, the first thing you’re gonna smell is bacon.” That’s a promise from Slater’s 50/50 founder Scott Slater, whose restaurant serves an infamous burger patty built from half ground beef and half ground bacon. Executive Chef Brad Lyons helped with the recipe, though the original inspiration came from the all-bacon patties Scott and his friends used to grill up during Chargers tailgate parties. For the restaurant, he decided to cut the bacon with high-quality beef that, like a baby's fake ID, is aged 21 days. As if the bacon-infused patties weren’t distinctive enough (as far as they know, Slater’s 50/50 the only restaurant in the world that serves them), Scott and Brad designed a DIY menu that lets patrons customize their burgers by size and with 11 cheeses, 40 toppings, 19 sauces, and four kinds of bread. Patrons overwhelmed by these options can instead order one of the specialty burgers, such as a Peanut Butter and Jellousy with creamy peanut butter, strawberry jam, and of course, thick-cut bacon. Bacon reappears throughout the menu, including as candied crumbles on brownies and in the syrup used in bacon milkshakes.
The dishes whose aromas waft through Peru Peru Grill are one part hearty and one part bright. Skillets send up scents of beef cooking with onions and tomatoes while vibrant citrus notes swirl over bowls of ceviche de pescado, where shrimp, squid, and octopus marinate in lemon juice. The cooks' repertoire of Peruvian dishes also includes steak served with fried banana and a Peruvian-style seafood paella—or arroz con mariscos—served with a side of salsa criolla.
In addition to delivering imported brews and wines to tables, servers treat diners to less common tastes of Peru with Inca Kolas and glasses of chicha moradas, which is a sweet drink made with purple corn and spices. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights they host a singer that brings salsa and Cumbia music to life, adding to the eatery's ethnic flair and electricity bill.
The hand-carved sandwiches at Tony's Original Deli and Bottle Shop have been a mainstay of downtown Anaheim for more than 40 years. And it's not hard to see why when a server delivers to your table a reuben, roast-beef, tuna-salad, or club sandwich piled so high with meat it needs a toothpick to keep it structurally sound. When paired with a draft beer and one of the housemade sides such as potato salad and coleslaw, it creates a full deli-style meal that satisfies protein requirements for an entire day or serves as the still-life inspiration for at least one 90-minute art class. Also, the new owners installed a bottle shop stocked with more than 60 craft and imported beers and 25 unique bottled sodas to wash down meals.
Shimmering fabrics, peacock feathers, and elephant statues adorn Tandoori Gardens' gold and ruby dining room, where the invigorating scent of Indian cuisine wafts amid white-clothed tables to appease diners' awaiting senses. The restaurant's namesake tandoor, a traditional clay oven, scorches marinated morsels of chicken, lamb, and shrimp to lock in their savory juices and unmask ice-cube impostors as diverse Indian spices merge to form saucy curries, steamy rice dishes, and a range of vegetarian-friendly fare. Patrons can scoop creamy sauces with freshly baked naan in the comfort of the interior dining room, or savor the sunlight in cushiony seating on the outdoor patio.