Los Angeles bakers produce some brilliant Middle Eastern flatbreads, but Anaheim’s Little Arabia still stands out due to its variety and density, with three deluxe flatbread bakeries occupying a six-block radius. One of the leading artisans is Lebanon native Abdallah Soueidan, who produces some positively royal flatbreads at Al-Amir Bakery. It’s no wonder that he chose the name Al-Amir, which means “prince” in Arabic.
Dave Lieberman (OC Weekly) and I had already eaten at Forn Al Hara and Kareem’s, so we weren’t able to work our way through the entire overhead menu, but it was still clear that Al-Amir Bakery is operating at a high level. Lieberman’s also a trusted Orange County food expert who vouched for some of the other offerings, so I feel confident in recommending Al-Amir.
Soueidan has lived in California for 32 years, after a brief stay in El Paso, where he owned a clothing business. After he arrived in Southern California, he worked as a waiter and chef. He eventually noticed the lack of bakeries and influx of Middle Eastern people who visited Anaheim to shop, so Soueidan decided to open his own bakery. He operated Al-Amir for eight years in nearby Brookhurst Plaza, but the original location was ravaged by fire. He moved down the street to a former beauty salon, which now features black-and-white photos of Beirut on the walls.
“Everything I do here I do myself, and everything is made fresh daily,” said Soueidan, who now has two ovens at his disposal instead of one. His increased efficiency has led to higher production, with the ability to bake up to 80 flatbreads in 15 minutes. Even with increased volume, Soueidan hasn’t sacrificed quality. If something isn’t fresh, he throws it away, and even though it’s more expensive, he utilizes olive oil and vegetable oil, instead of just vegetable oil. He also grinds his own meat in-house to control quality.
Al-Amir produces nine different Lebanese flatbreads, including Za’atar; Lahmbajeen (ground beef, tomato and onion); even Pizza ($5.50) with bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and olives.
Al-Amir’s Za’atar and Cheese ($2.25) was exceptional, a crisp disk sprinkled with Za’atar (thyme, olive oil, sesame seed, sumac and oregano) and topped with bubbly Bulgarian Ackawi cheese and a proprietary blend of three different white cheeses that complement the spice blend. Even with all the cheese, the flatbread is surprisingly light on grease.
Kafta ($2.99) featured fresh ground top round beef seasoned with a seven-spice blend, a touch of black pepper, onions and parsley, which add an herbaceous quality.
Soujouk ($3.99) was spicier and smokier than the Kafta, with the beef sausage incorporating sumac and seven spices. Pickles and tomatoes appeared with the flatbread and helped to cut into the richness.
If you need more spice, Al-Amir has a number of shakers on the table, including chile flakes, paprika and sumac. They also have Farmer John napkins, even though you’d never find pork in an Arabic bakery.