Westfield’s Food Alley Expansion Brings a Taste of Home to the Asian Community
Story and Photos by Madeline Park, Video by Tim Buendia
Giving off vibes of a night market, the Food Alley was added to Westfield Mall Santa Anita in 2016. This alley — which includes a range from small bakeries to upscale restaurants — has not only helped the mall appeal to a whole new audience, but has also redefined the idea of mall food itself. Instead of maintaining the traditional “burgers and fries” approach (although they do provide those options as well), Westfield has taken it a step further by trying to cultivate what they call “an experience.” By including a wider array of restaurants and diversified cultural eats, Westfield has become more than just a shopping center.
One of the most notable changes in the mall has been the addition of several Asian restaurants and stores. With around 45 percent of Arcadia’s population being Asian, it is no surprise that Westfield is trying to appeal to the city’s largest demographic. This has mainly been through the Food Alley. Located right next to Nordstrom, the alley consists of eight different restaurants and foods, including The Backhouse’s yakitori, Side Chick’s Hainan chicken and EMC’s fresh seafood.
The largest addition by far has been that of Din Tai Fung, a Chinese-inspired Taiwanese dumpling restaurant. With now over ten locations in the U.S., Din Tai Fung is becoming increasingly known for its authentic delicious food and upscale atmosphere. Most notable are their xiao long bao (Chinese soup dumplings) as well as their shao mai (pork dumplings).
Another upscale Chinese restaurant located near the Food Alley is Dongpo Restaurant, which was named after the Chinese poet Su Tungpo. This classy restaurant is famous for its spicy Sichuan-style food, as well as their star dish: the Peking (Beijing) duck. In order to prepare the duck it is put through a 24-hour cooking process, as well as a cutting process that is put on as a show to display the famous Beijing knife skills.
Dessert places are another Food Alley favorite, with American desserts often heralded by Asians as being “too sweet.” Hitting that “just right” mark are Uncle Tetsu and Matcha Matcha. For Uncle Tetsu, Westfield Mall is their very first location in the U.S. Despite this fact, it has quickly gained quite a following for its fluffy Japanese cheesecake. Just as popular is hipster cafe Matcha Matcha, which satisfies every green tea craving one can have.
Yet, the Food Alley doesn’t just stop there. It also contains trendy bars and drink shops such as Monkey Bar and Wing Hop Fung. Within the light yellow walls of Monkey Bar is an Asian-American style gastropub that sells refreshing drinks as well as their specialties – a tasty five cheese mac n’ cheese and crispy pork skin with sweet chili sauce. Its chef, Chef Eugene Santiago, is namely what makes Monkey Bar so unique, with his background and experience in creating interesting Asian-American dishes. Right next to Monkey Bar is Wing Hop Fung, which sells wines and spirits, herbal teas and even home appliances. Selling over 1000 types of teas, Wing Hop Fung provides everything Asian-drink related one could ask for.
Through all of its additions and changes, Westfield is adapting to the changing demographics of the community. It’s bringing in the authentic Asian experience, presented in a way that is modern and palatable for younger generations – all the while reminding them of home.
Westfield Santa Anita is redefining mall food and is also curating unique experiences for their community. They’ve recently launched a series of food related events, one of them being a food crawl. This food crawl has taken place on Wednesday, August 30th, with food tour guide, Michael Lin, and experience curators, Yellow Traces, along with multiple food hubs – Din Tai Fung, Monkey Bar, Wing Hop Fung, Meizhou Dongpo Restaurant, Confection LA, and Popbar – participating in food presentations, samplings, and more. You can contact Michael Lin at his instagram handle at @foodtourguide. Michael Lin has been leading food tours for 7+ years.
Together with other food enthusiasts, Videographer Tim Buendia embarked on one of the best culinary experiences, calling it one of the most delicious journeys in Southern California. “Visiting 6 restaurants in as many hours was an absolute delight while surprise after surprise landed on my plate.”
For more information about Westfield Santa Anita and future events, visit www.westfield.com/santaanita.