Kevin and I would forgo fancy smanch furniture, new clothes, expensive accessories, movies, music….well, pretty much anything to tango with the world. Quintessential traveling defines itself best by the essence of discovery, wide-eyed curiosity, and flavors that make you wonder where you have been all your life. I mean, you REALLY begin to feel like you are living. The beauty of this dance is that sometimes you don’t have to go far to find it.
Kevin and I gave ourselves the challenge to see if we could discover the best little ethnic food restaurants in and around our hometown. Leaving behind just the idea of simply “eating”, we wanted to experience the heck out of each venue, like we were occupying space in that country. So we pulled out our 5 senses, and with the help of our keen intuition (err, I mean google), we randomly stumbled across each place in a different way!
Kevin and I were gifted with season passes to D-land (thanks Mama Cook), and every time we exited Ball Rd en-route to the happiest place on earth, we drove past this janky strip mall and a huge sign that read Jagerhaus, Authentic German Cooking. We were intrigued, for depite it’s delapidated appearance, the place looked legit. From the minute we walked in, something about the wood paneling, the vintage chairs, and the walls adorned with shelves upon shelves of beer steins and family crests, we knew it was safe to pretend we were yodeling with the best of them in Germany. We were greeted by the owner herself, a Mrs. Sandra Shweiger, a plump German grandma head to toe in purple, and a smile as wide as the Rhine. Eyes twinkling, she confessed multiple times that she was “nosy”, but in this day and age, we’d take nosy over a cold or indifferent waiter any day! “Bratwurst, cabbage rolls, shnitzel, sauerbraten, you will not go wrong with any of them” she mused excitedly!
And she was right, Kevin and I left completely satisfied and surprised how much we enjoyed this place. Amidst Polka in the background, abundant mustard and Hofbrau House Beer, and Sandra’s stories of life in Germany, magic wafted in the air. Walking away, we both bid Grandma Shweiger Auf Wiedersehen, and agreed that we’d be back again:)
Kenyan Cafe and Cuisine, Anaheim Ca
Two years ago, I was embarking on spending a month in Kenya with the organization I work for called Empowering Lives International. Admist packing and preparations, I was hopelessly trying to study and learn as much Swahili as I could. Kevin and I were dating at the time, and his current way to impress me included learning Swahili in tandem. So to test out our newly acquired skills, we found this hole-in-the-wall place and said, “twende” (let’s go!). Walls painted like the Masai Mara game reserve, we dined next to zebras
and giraffe’s, and after a few minutes had quite a few Swahili teachers. Julius, the Kenyan owner sat down at the table with us, and gave us some new phrases. Two Kenyan ladies overheard us practicing while we waited for food, and laughing, offered to give us a hand. Even the cook from the back came out and taught us a song in Swahili. And what would a Kenyan restaurant be without a tv blasting Kenyan gospel music in the background? Kenya isn’t know for having the most rich and delicious dishes, but as Kenyan food goes, this place was great. I wouldn’t go here necessarily for the food (however it’s fun to try dishes i’ve never heard of), but the familial ambiance and relationships we made at this place rocked! We’ve actually been back a few times to hang out with Julius!
Supatra’s Thai Bistro
After spending a chunk of my life teaching English in Thailand, I had sworn off Thai food for a good year and a half. It’s not that I didn’t like Thai food, it’s just the opposite. I loved it so much I ate it incessantly in Thailand, and overconsumption of anything can have negative effects! Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised when Kev took me to Supatra’s for Valentines day last year, and I gobbeled down everything we ordered. This place is amazing, and the ambiance great. The curries and any dish with their peanut sauce is to die for! Plus, the waiters and waitresses humored me as I practiced my Thai, and soon a whole group of them were gathering around asking questions about where I lived and what I did. They even gave us a rose on departure, in which Kevin “the bachelor” gave me his rose at our impromptu “rose ceremony” in the parking lot. Yum-O! If you love good, authentic Thai, you will LOVE this place:)
Tana Ethiopian Restaurant
Tana is right next to the Kenyan Cafe, making it like a whole strip mall filled with African restaurants:) I had eaten Ethiopian once with childlike instincts….anything different tasted icky. But thankfully as I grew, my taste buds grew up too, so I was ready to venture onward and upwards to Tana! And I can’t say enough about this place. The food was fabulous, and the culture seemed to seep from the tables and walls and kitchen. Tunes of Amharic bantering in the background, our waiter shared stories of Ethiopia, and it’s flavored cuisine. Typical of Ethiopian food, all of our dishes were served on one huge platter made out of Injera (which is a spongy breadish pancake). I haven’t the slightest idea what we ordered, but it was all insanely delish, like fireworks in the mouth. Just ask the waiter what he recommends and get that!
I tell people that if my husband hadn’t been engaged to me while he was in Indonesia, he would have never come home! He’s obsessed! Loved the people, loved the food, loved the language. He spent 7 months in Indonesia, coaching a University basketball game, and loving people well.
Bottom line: eating hole-in-the-wall ethnic is about much more than the food. Much like life, it’s all about the relationships. Bar none, at every single one of these eateries, we not only met, but walked away feeling like we knew the owners and families. We LOVE that! I want my life to be like that. To let people in, to make them feel welcome and loved. Food has a way of bringing people together, and love has a way of bringing people back! And even though we didn’t leave the county, we feel like we entered numerous worlds through the medium of food and relationships!
Happy weekend, and happy eating. Let me know if you have any don’t-miss places to add to the list! Buon Appetito!