History of Orange County

Packing House packs history

The Packing House in Anaheim, now a trendy food hall.

The Packing House in Anaheim, now a trendy food hall.

Second in a series on historically significant places in Orange County.

 By Jim Tortolano

Few cities in Orange County did as thorough as job of destroying their downtowns as Anaheim did in the Seventies. But now few cities are doing as complete and classy a job of bringing its original central business district as Anaheim.

Long-time residents can remember when the downtown clustered along Lincoln Avenue and Anaheim Boulevard was a major north county shopping destination, with department stores (SQR the best-known), movie theaters, banks, shops and more.

As the area aged, Anaheim city fathers took a bulldozer to the area, and it lay fallow for decades. But they didn’t knock everything down, and there’s the germ of the area’s renaissance.

The hottest eating destination in Orange County is now The Packing House, a converted citrus packing building on Anaheim Boulevard, north of Santa Ana Street. Just opened in late May, the gorgeously restored structure is now a “food hall” with two dozen eateries in a rainbow of variety.

An airy blend of the modern and the classic, the Packing House offers everything from pho soup to nuts, literally. There are mini-restaurants featuring organic, food, gourmet sandwiches, ice cream, beer, popsicles and candy and nuts in bulk. That’s just a partial list.

The House is at the center of The Packing District, which now includes a former Packard car dealership (now called the Packard Building) and Farmers’ Park. Those are located north of the Packing House and south of West Broadway.

The Packard building dates back to 1925 as a car showroom. It’s now home to Anaheim Brewery and Umami Burger. The park south of Packard features locations for outdoor picnics and gatherings.

But the Packing House is clearly the gem in the district’s crown. The two-story building is 100 years old, harkening back to the days when Orange County really was “Orange” County. Long a Sunkist plant, the 42,000-square foot structure places downtown Anaheim at the forefront of modern dining.

Orange crate label from OC's agricultural past.

Orange crate label from OC’s agricultural past.

The building features communal dining as well as clusters of seating throughout. It draws a mixed crowd of young hipsters and older nostalgia buffs. Displays recount the glory days of the citrus industry when nearly every area city had one or more packing houses.

A word of warning. It’s gorgeous, but the prices are not fast-food cheap. An excellent roast beef sandwich, for example, carried a $12 price tag, and that’s without any sides or table service.

Located a few blocks south of the Anaheim City Hall complex, the Packing House is at 440 S. Anaheim Blvd.

Sources: Anaheim Packing District, Los Angeles Times.

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