By Allison Economou
While you might not expect it, some of the most Instagram-worthy food in all of Southern California is just outside the boundaries of anteater territory. While UTC offers the consistency and convenience most college students want, sometimes UTC doesn’t live up to the desire for fun, funky, and fashionable foods. Tie-dye, glitter, and over-the-top servings are some of the antics businesses use to lure exuberant customers into their stores with flashy cameras. Businesses hope to stand out? To see for myself if Insta-worthy food lives up to the hype its online presence is generating, I traveled to ten different locations featured by Food Insider and tried what is flocking to thousands of people from around the world.
1.Snow Monster (Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich)
Snow Monster is located in UTC and is in the back yard of every UCI student, making it a quick and easy stopover between classes or a nice place to relax after an evening class. Although this place is best known for Boba, which is served in containers that resemble light bulbs, Food Insider identifies the macaron ice cream sandwiches as the store’s most Instagram-worthy item.
What sets these sandwiches apart from others is the specially designed ice cream scoop, which scoops perfectly large ice cream scoops that fit between two hard-shell macarons. Though strange flavors like fruity pebbles and toffee crunch add to the feel of the store’s novelty, the bland and indistinguishably flavored ice cream leaves you wondering if you’ve got anything left off the bottom of the trash can. It may be conveniently located, but there’s a reason there is a line out the door for Sharetea and not here.
2. Sweet Comforts (waffle pops)
This humble waffle pop shop is tucked away in the Trade Food Hall, one of Orange County’s many shopping malls. This is where the importance of eye candy comes alive when customers are served freshly made Belgian waffles on popsicles. With six regular flavors as well as seasonal and homemade options, the store has something for everyone. Perfect for brunch, lunch, or dessert, customers can leave between 12:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. most days. Are you thinking about which pop your Instagram followers will like the most? No need. Order one at a time with friends and configure your treats to shape the perfect waffle rainbow.
3. Hello Kitty Grand Cafe (cookies, cakes, donuts)
The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe is arguably the most Instagram food spot across Orange County. Located in the Irvine Spectrum Mall, the cafe offers a variety of goodies including cakes, cookies, teas, and donuts that will please Hello Kitty fanatics and dessert lovers alike. Caroline Aghajanian from Food Insider Expectations A visit to the café is not just about the food, it’s about the experience as a whole. That can mean dressing up, snapping photos in front of the cafe’s pink walls, or booking a reservation in their coveted arched room. The arch room is only available upon reservation and is perfect for those who want to live out their Hello Kitty fantasies for more than a few hours while enjoying traditional afternoon tea in a beautifully decorated room. The café even caters to its adult guests by serving cocktails and other alcoholic beverages in the evenings. Dress up and relive your childhood dreams but think about what you want beforehand because the amount of options will overwhelm you.
4th loop (churros)
Another nondescript mall, Bolsa Plaza, has a shop that serves traditional churros in an unconventional way. The interior of the store resembles many of the heavily instagrammed dessert locations in Southern California. The small space and minimal seating area that most dessert bars have doesn’t entice viewers to walk in and explore what the store has to offer, which makes Instagram not only useful but also necessary for gathering fans and returning customers. A slogan on the wall reads “Life is sweet,” reminding visitors to the store that indulging in American favorites is a necessary and natural part of life. Loop’s innovation comes from the way the churros are served. Instead of being delivered to customers as vertical sticks, the churros are shaped into loops that can be dipped in a bowl of soft ice cream, frozen and topped with sprinkles or coated with nuts. While the taste of the churro itself isn’t particularly unusual, the novelty of the delivery is enough to make the trip, picture, and experience worthwhile.
Although the experiences at each of these stores vary based on personal tastes and preferences, the stores that become most popular are the ones that seem to do slightly differently from their competitors. The reason Sweet Combforts, The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe, and Loop are all worth checking out is because they offer a product that cannot be found anywhere else. Snow Monster, on the other hand, doesn’t just disappoint the taste buds; It benefits from an already existing trend that combines ice cream with unusual macaron flavors but doesn’t offer anything unique. Join me as I continue to discover places that are taking the Instagram word by storm in Part Two of Munchie Madness.