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Please direct all media inquiries to Jim Yeager at breakwhitelight public relations.
By Andrew Knowlton
In our most eclectic and unexpected list to date, you'll find a sprawling downtown market, a Thai food truck, and an adorable "pastry luncheonette." The choices may surprise you, but it's exactly that high-low, anything-goes mix that so perfectly summarizes the way we eat now.
The Hot 10 2014: Grand Central Market, Los Angeles (No. 10)
What in the world is a 97-year-old food court doing on this list? Let me explain. Over the past year, Grand Central Market, much like the rest of downtown L.A., has seen a remarkable renaissance. When I first started going to GCM a decade ago, it was for tacos and a glimpse into a world much different than what you’d find in, say, Malibu. It was authentic, if a bit gritty. Some of the food was good; much of it wasn’t. But now, with new stands joining the fray, it’s great. An egg sandwich is just an egg sandwich, you say? Not at Eggslut, where kids in Supreme skate gear wait an hour for the ultimate version. At Belcampo Meat Co., you can chomp into one of the country’s best burgers (grass-fed beef, no less). Or you can just grab a stool at Sticky Rice and tuck into the made-to-order Thai papaya salad. So many options! Yet it’s not just these new ventures that make GCM the most compelling of all the food halls popping up around the country. Long-standing Latino vendors like Ana Maria, with its cartoonishly overstuffed gorditas, are crucial to the appeal; it’s that rich and varied diversity that makes the market—and Los Angeles as a whole—unique. Click through this slideshow for (more than) a few of our favorite vendors—plus a video documentary on the history of the place.
So G&B does this thing called fizzy hoppy tea. It’ll change your life. A cold-brewed blend of Yunnans gets dry-hopped (think beer) and carbonated.
Horse Thief BBQ
The succulent pulled pork and fork-tender brisket are smoked 15 hours and sold by the quarter pound (so order both). To drink, pick from a dozen craft brews served at the walk-up bar. To sit, you can’t do better than its patio.
Heaven must be this stand’s grilled cheese sandwich, perfectly browned and oozing German Butterkäse and two ages of cheddar. And good luck resisting all those West Coast treats filling the deli case, from Three Jerks filet mignon beef jerky to Three Ring Farm’s Sunset Bay, a soft-ripened goat cheese streaked with paprika.
Gorditas as God intended them: hot off the griddle, bursting at the seams with juicy pork and crispy-cool fixings, and so huge you practically have to unhinge your jaw to take a bite.
Belcampo Meat Co.
The burger is the thing to order at this butcher shop–cum–dinette: dry-aged, pillow-talked beef smothered in caramelized onions, blanketed with cheddar, and sandwiched on a squishy bun. It’s unreal.
Tacos Tumbras a Tomas
Three bucks gets you an obscenely generous portion of chewy carne asada heaped over corn tortillas at this 19-year-old stand. Lime wedges and extra tortillas come on the side, making it enough for lunch and dinner.
Bagels are crusty, chewy, and totally delicious paired with hot-smoked sturgeon and a schmear of cream cheese. At lunch, the O.G. pastrami sandwich is the way to go.
Legions of fanboys come here for the namesake dish: a Frisbee-size pupusa overflowing with cheese and fillings. Our go-to is loroco, a Central American flower.
Live-fire street food gets its due in the form of gai yang: tangy Thai barbecued chicken served with sticky rice and som tam, a green papaya salad mashed tableside with a giant mortar and pestle. This is one counter worth sitting at, if only to watch the artful choreography of the chefs bumping around like pinballs inside the nanoscopic open kitchen.
Hawkers extend samples of carnitas, hacked to smithereens and rolled up in a warm corn tortilla. They’re made Michoacán-style, which is to say 14 nose-to-curlicue-tail pig parts cooked in lard till the meat melts together and develops a nice caramelized chew.
The hour-long wait on weekends says it all: There is no better egg sandwich in L.A. than an Eggslut egg sandwich. For a lighter fix, go with the Slut, a jar-poached “coddled” egg atop potato purée.
This video takes a look at the newly relevant food hall—and the super-cool vendors who make it worth visiting.
Five Must-Buy Souvenirs
1. Fresh mole, A&B Coffee
Imported from Mexico, the superrich moles (from $6 for 1 lb.) include sesame, peanut, and tomatillo.
2. Good Mix, Valerie at GCM
A trail mix so addictive, you’ll eat it before you get home.
3. Golden Valley Delight, DTLA Cheese
A nutty sheep’s-milk cheese ($14 for 8 oz.) delivered by the cheesemaker himself.
4. Stoneware mug, G&B Coffee
Silver Lake ceramist Ben Medansky throws minimalist-cool cups ($40) exclusively for G&B.
5. Purity juice, Press Brothers
After a GCM binge, do your body a favor with this cleansing blend ($6 for 12 oz.).
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