Beyond the Berm: The Center Street Promenade and Anaheim Farmers Market

Last time we checked out pieces of Anaheim History and Culture by visiting Muzeo, but now we can go just a few steps away to the Center Street Promenade.

I happened to visit on a Thursday in the early afternoon. While you’d think that time frame might be a bit lackluster for embracing the community, it turned out to be the exact opposite. Why? Every week on Thursday from 11AM – 3PM, the Anaheim Farmers Market takes over the Center Street Promenade. The area becomes a hub of vendors not only featuring fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, but also crafts, live entertainment, and food vendors cooking up fresh items right there.

As I said, this event sort of takes over the Center Street Promenade, but don’t worry, there are no vehicles. The whole area is closed off, becoming a pedestrian friendly, walkable environment.

The Farmers Market began back in 1995, and has been growing since. As Anaheim, CtrCity, and the Center Street Promenade itself continue to grow and evolve, the local shops and eateries that dot the Center Street Promenade also open their doors wide, welcoming those that come to the weekly market with open arms. Again, don’t expect to find a McDonald’s or In & Out in this area. Most of these shops are independently owned and have only one or maybe a handful of locations.

While there, we stumbled upon a new eco store, Eco Now, based out of Orange County and Inland Empire, that not only sells Earth-friendly, sustainable goods, but also adds a sense of community by offering refills of common goods in bulk. Example: while there I saw a couple come in with their own containers to refill their laundry detergent by going to the back of the store and pumping a more natural laundry soap out of a 55-gallon drum. On their way out, they were greeted by the cashier by name, charged for their goods, and were sent away with a warm greeting. It honestly made me think of a movie or TV series where they live in a small town and everyone knows everyone. Oddly refreshing in the middle of the sprawling metropolis that is Southern California.

However, for me, the true standout star of the Center Street Promenade was a little bakery and cafe called Okayama Kobo. While there are about 200 of these bakeries in Japan, this Anaheim location (and a brand new spot in Downtown LA) are the only locations you’ll find in the United States. I am chronically addicted to a certain mermaid-based caffeine distributor that I had not visited on this particular Thursday. So when the opportunity arose to pump any kind of caffeine into me, I found myself inside this particular establishment. I’m already ready to book a flight just to go back.

I had ordered a simple mocha. This place is new to me. I can’t go crazy and say this drink with these modifications and all that jazz like I can at the mermaid place. I don’t know their methods, and I don’t know their tricks. But I want to. I said aloud, “How do you make a mocha stand out?” and it was a serious question, because they did. Somehow, this establishment made (what I consider to be anyway) a very generic drink and set it above basically any that I’ve had before. And while the cafe is delicious, it’s the bakery that deserves all the attention.

Made from 100% Hokkaido Flour, imported straight from Hokkaido, Japan, an additive and preservative free dough that is baked fresh daily, the bread here is unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I knew I was in trouble though, when as I was perusing the shelf trying to be modest and pick one or two items, another patron showed up and saw that only three Strawberry Milk Cream croissants were left and asked for each one to go. The item, a light and flaky croissant filled with strawberries and sweet milk cream filling looked amazing as I saw it being handed off.

Photo by Okayama Kobo

Photo by Okayama Kobo

I found myself getting the seemingly standard Salt & Butter Roll, a light, fluffy bread with a buttery flavor and a hint of salt, before I got an additional Cookie Salt and Butter Roll, which is the same but a drizzled layer of essentially a liquid cookie dough that turns into a thin cookie crust. Excuse Me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. As I was leaving, I happened to see a new tray of those Strawberry Milk Cream Croissants come out and of course I had to see what the hype was about. Needless to say, she was right to get every last one she saw.

On the cute and Instagrammable side of things, the Kobokuma and Chocolate Emojis are similar to say, a Boston Cream Pie, filled with a vanilla, or vanilla and chocolate custard. And, unlike a Boston Cream Pie, they don’t feel dense and heavy, but light and airy and there is almost no guilt while eating it, which could prove problematic if this bakery were in my neighborhood.

In fact, for me, the only downfall is that dough that makes everything so great. Since it is additive and preservative free, the breads only have a shelf life of two days. Honestly, I didn’t get to try to extend that all out since everything was consumed day of, or hour of, or minute of in some cases. The downfall being that since I’m located so far from Anaheim, I can’t even order it online, and I can’t send a friend to get it and send it or bring it to me.

While I only strolled the Farmers Market and went into a few select locations, it just reminded me that I need to come back on my next visit to see what else is happening on the Center Street Promenade and explore more of it. Plus, I’ll get more of those Cookie Salt and Butter Rolls. Until then, let’s call up FRAN and head to another land full of history and independent eateries down in the Anaheim Packing District. 

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Tony Betti
Originally from California where he studied a dying artform (hand-drawn animation), Tony has spent most of his adult life in the theme parks of Orlando. When he’s not writing for LP, he’s usually watching and studying something animated or arguing about “the good ole’ days” at the parks.