LA's Historic Public Market
Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles is the largest and oldest public market in Los Angeles, operating continuously since 1917. It's on the first floor of the 6-story Homer Laughlin Building located on Hill and 2nd Street at the foot of Bunker Hill, open to the street at Hill Street on the west side and Broadway to the east.
Grand Central Market
317 S Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Market Hours: Sun-Wed 8 am - 6 pm, Thurs-Sat 8 am - 9 pm, Vendor hours vary. Thursday night is Game Night.
Parking: Entrance at 308 S. Hill St.
Metro: Red or Purple Lines to Pershing Square
Grand Central Market doesn't have the architectural interest of Faneuil Hall in Boston or San Francisco's Ferry Building, or the number of actual market vendors of Cleveland's West Side Market, but the gritty downtown food court began an upwardly mobile transformation in 2013 that is ongoing. Most of the long-empty booths have been filled, and some long-time vendors have been replaced with spin-off concepts and gourmet treats from some of LA's trendiest chefs and some out-of-town imports. The clientele has also evolved from mostly working-class Latino and Asian immigrants who have long lived downtown, to the influx of hipsters flocking to the re-imagined city center.
The somewhat bare hillside across Hill Street was packed with Victorian homes when the market was built, with the Angels Flight funicular railway climbing from directly across the street to the top of the hill. Angels Flight is still there - though its status is in limbo and it hasn't operated for years - Bunker Hill is now topped with high-rise office towers, museums and the LA Music Center, all accessible via a very long staircase up the hill.
The vendors at the market have always evolved with the neighborhood, but the shift since 2013 has probably been the biggest turnover in one wave. All of the original produce vendors have gone, with one new one, District Market, brought on board in January 2016, skewing more organic. Belcampo Meats is a high-end butcher shop that also has a diner counter serving meals made from their meats. There's also a spice stand, a candy stand and an incongruous jewelry vendor and repair shop that's been there since 1983. Otherwise, it's all prepared food stalls, some with their own diner counters, others purely take-away that you can eat in various seating areas.
I invariably see the longest lines at Tacos Tumbras a Tomas, which serves a variety of Mexican beef, pork, chicken and goat dishes. Eggslut also has terminally long waits day and night for their famed egg sandwiches. Later in the day, McConnell's Fine Ice Cream can also take much longer to acquire than to eat.
Roast to Go opened at Grand Central Market in 1952, selling tacos, burritos and combination plates including carnitas, carne asada, chicken, beef cheek, buche, fish, lengua, chicharron and el pastor. They've spun off to other Grand Central businesses including Tacos Tumbras a Tomas and Ana Maria's.
Villa Morelianas, which opened in 2008, before the "revitalization," serves every bit of the pig from the snout to the tail including ears, hearts, and brains, plus a few beef options. They rope in new fans with free carnitas samplers. They don't have the longest lines, though, because they have two lines on opposite sides of the stand. If one side is long, check out the other side. It's worth it.
The stalwart China Café with their neon Chop Suey Chow Mein sign draws a crowd around their curved counter for their wonton soup from breakfast to close. It can be chaos when it's crowded because there's no designated place to line up, and they take orders somewhat randomly from the people standing behind the customers seated at the counter. If you get stressed by disorganization, this isn't the place for you, but the regulars seem to manage just fine.
Jose Chiquito sounds like just another taco stand, but they actually have a very eclectic menu from French toast and breakfast burritos all day to gyros, pastrami, burgers, and salads. They're also one of the best bargains at the Market, trying to stay close to their pre-gentrification pricing, despite getting a makeover with new stools at a very narrow counter.
The Oyster Gourmet bucked the trend of straightforward rectangular stalls with a free-standing circular kiosk which is supposed to suggest a clamshell opening but looks more like a half-peeled orange with strips of peel forming a quirky roof.
Other new wave vendors include Sticky Rice, serving Thai comfort food; DTLA Cheese + Kitchen, selling cheese and serving cheese dishes; Ramen Hood, a vegan noodle restaurant; and Knead & Co Pasta Bar + Market, to name a few.
Full list of Grand Central Market Vendors:
- Ana Maria - Mexican Food - no seating
- Bar Moruno - Spanish themed meat skewers + bar (opening soon)
- Belcampo Meat Co. - gourmet butcher and kitchen - counter seating
- Bento Ya Japanese Cuisine- bento boxes and other Japanese food - no seating
- Berlin Currywurst - German sausages - counter seating
- Bombo - seafood-based California cuisine and fresh fish market - counter seating
- Chiles Secos - Latin groceries, dried chiles, imported moles, beans, nuts, grains and canned goods
- China Café - Chinese food - counter seating
- Clark Street Bread - Organic handcrafted breads - 10 to 3 only
- Courage & Craft - Artisanal liquors and supplies for making exotic cocktails
- District Market - Fresh produce, whole and pre-cut and packaged
- DTLA Cheese + Kitchen - Domestic and imported cheeses, cheese plates, griddle sandwiches and seasonal salads
- Eggslut - Chef Alvin Cailan's made to order gourmet egg sandwiches - counter seating
- G&B Coffee - Fancy coffees and teas from around the world, coffee tastings, free 5-minute parking in the drop off zone in front of the stall - a few counter seats
- Golden Road Brewing - Craft Beer - opened March 2016
- Grand Central Discount Store - basic convenience store downstairs
- Grand Central Jewelry - jewelry and watch repair, key copies
- Horse Thief BBQ - Texas smoked BBQ with modern sides on an outside corner of Grand Central Market on Hill Street - outdoor patio
- Jose Chiquito - Sandwiches, burgers, wraps, salads and breakfast all day - counter seating
- Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Kitchen - fresh handmade pasta from Chef Bruce Kalman of Union (Pasadena)
- La Huerta - candy, dried fruit and nuts
- La Tostadería - Mexican ceviche tostadas, traditional and modern and other seafood dishes - counter setting
- Las Morelianas - slow-cooked carnitas and every other part of the pig - counter seating
- Madcapra - a falafel shop from Brooklyn chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson - counter seating
- McConnel's Fine Ice Cream - a scoop shop for the Santa Barbara-based family-owned ice cream brand
- Olio GCM Wood Fired Pizzeria - hand-stretched personal 10" pizzas and "focaccia salads" - adjacent table seating
- The Oyster Gourmet - oysters and other seafood presented by Christophe Happillon in the middle of his own clamshell kiosk - counter seating
- Press Brothers Juicery - USDA-certified organic, raw juices pressed fresh daily
- Ramen Hood - A vegan ramen and pho shop by Chef Ilan Hall of The Gorbals - counter seating
- Roast to Go - Taco, burritos and combination plates since 1953
- Sarita's Pupuseria - Salvadorian pupusas and other specialties made to order
- Sticky Rice and Sticky Rice II - back to back booths, one with a service counter and the other with a diner counter serving Thai comfort food
- Tacos Tumbras a Tomas - tacos, burritos and tortas
- Torres Produce - fresh fruits and vegetables
- Valeria's - Latin dry goods including chiles, beans, spices, nuts and canned goods
- Valerie at GCM - bakery and coffee show with savory and sweet pastries, sandwiches, and salads for breakfast, lunch, and brunch
- Wexler's Deli - Chef Mica Wexler's "new-traditional" Jewish deli with meats cured and smoked in-house
This information was accurate at the time of publication, but vendors change frequently. Check www.grandcentralmarket.com for the most current information.
Belcampo Meat Company at Grand Central Market
Jered Standing, Head Butcher and Manager, is stocking the meat case at Belcampo Meat Company in Grand Central Market with grass-fed, humanely raised beef, pork, goat and lamb. Unlike most American butchers, Standing cuts animals along the seam lines, so cuts may not exactly match what you're used to. He also butchers and sells the whole animal before starting another one, so if you need a goat head, beef heart, lamb neck? He's got you covered - but only the number of each item as is available from the animal he's just butchered. Only two hanger steaks come from one steer, so there won't be more until that animal is sold and it's time to start on the next one. So grab them on the day you see them.
Belcampo serves up some of their meat in meals to eat at the attached counter or to go.
The Hipster Crowd at G&B Coffee at Grand Central Market
If I had cast this photo, I couldn't have put together a better crowd to demonstrate the new clientele of the Grand Central Market. Some of the older vendors bemoan the change. The Mexican and Asian families who used to frequent the market would show up in family groups and spend a lot more money than the singles and couples, even at the old prices. Price increases, due to rent increases keep many of the long-time customers away.
G&B Coffee is known for their coffee milkshake and hop-infused carbonated ice tea in addition to coffees and teas from around the world. Check out their coffees of the world tastings or "cuppings" on Wednesdays.
Sticky Rice at Grand Central Market
Sticky Rice is a popular spot for Thai comfort Food. They actually have two booths back to back, one with a diner counter around the kitchen, the other with take-out. The counter is usually full, but there is a table seating area next door. It gets good reviews, but given the abundance of great Thai food in LA, I found it unspectacular.
Sarita's Pupuseria at Grand Central Market
Saritas Pupuseria was a classic at Grand Central Market before the transition and had a strong enough following to survive the rent increase. This Salvadorian staple is popular with everyone except local Salvadorians, who find $4 for a pupusa to be highway robbery, compared to pre-rent-increase prices and anywhere else in LA where this street food is sold.
The Oyster Gourmet at Grand Central Market
The Oyster Gourmet, the dream child of Christophe Happillon, serves oysters, clams and raw fish in the middle of his own clamshell kiosk just inside the Hill Street side of Grand Central Market.