When visiting Los Angeles, you’ve probably heard of the Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach. The entire city, though, encompasses over 500 square miles. 500 square miles of sun, celebrities, designer gowns and thrift stores, and of course, delicious food. Where better to sample all parts of Los Angeles than at the iconic Grand Central Market in Downtown LA.
A Little History
A century ago, the landscape of Los Angeles looked very different. Before the influx of movie studios, the Victorians loomed atop Bunker Hill. Residents would ride the Angels Flight down the hill and buy their groceries at the Grand Central Market. It opened in 1917, and has been running almost continuously since then. The market has undergone significant changes within the last century, its wares reflecting the changing tides of the citizens.
Within the last 5 years, the market has been renovated considerably. Today, 39 vendor stalls occupy over 30,000 square feet of retail space. From traditional groceries and meats to prepared gourmet delicacies, Grand Central Market has something for everyone.
Vendors to Visit
Perhaps one of the best known of the recent vendors is Eggslut (which now has its own storefront in nearby Glendale). These purveyors of fine breakfast foods really epitomize food porn. Take, for instance, the eponymous dish: the Eggslut. A coddled egg nestles on a bed of creamy pureed potatoes, and you dip toasted baguette into the unctuous mixture.
If you do not care for eggs, grab a famous pastrami sandwich from Wexler’s Deli and complete your meal with a scoop of McConnell’s ice cream.
If you are there for breakfast, you can get a cappuccino from G&B, complete with foam design, and a pastry or something off the toast menu at Clark Street Bakery. The breakfast burritos at Tacos Tombras y Tomas justifiably mean waiting in line. Valerie Confections serves French-style patisserie, as well as savory pastries and French toast. Try a chocolate petit four or slice of cake, for later, of course.
If you prefer Asian food, you can try Sticky Rice or Ramen Hood. If you are feeling like old school comfort food, grab a gourmet sandwich at PBJ.LA, where they house-make all their nut butters, milks, and jams from organic ingredients. Try the Red Eye, a mix of espresso peanut butter and dark chocolate raspberry jam. Pick up extra napkins.
If you are in the mood for grocery shopping, several vendors offer meats, cheeses, spices, candies, and beverages. DTLA Cheese has a mouth-watering display for those of us who are addicted. Belcampo Meat District has an array of house-made sausages and cuts of chicken, beef and lamb. They also make the best French fries in the market, and an excellent quinoa-based veggie burger.
This being Los Angeles, you can find plenty of gluten-free and organic items and salads. Kombucha is available at the District Market, and several vendors offer beer and wine. If you like beer, don’t miss the Golden Road Brewery outpost, next to G&B Coffee and Horse Thief BBQ. Their iconic 329 Lager and Wolf Pup IPA are stellar, and they always have great seasonal beers. Though the menu may seem traditional pub fare, their foods are made with organic ingredients, and several are vegan.
Parking is available at the market and other nearby lots in downtown Los Angeles. These other lots can be pricey, though, up to $20 an hour. You can also easily ride the Metro train to nearby Pershing Square station, which is on the red and purple lines.
Food varies widely in cost. A burger, fries, and beer at Belcampo will run around $23, but a specialty sausage and bottle of water from Berlin Currywurst costs between $9-10. Shop around, most places here do take credit cards, but may require a minimum purchase.
Not every place is open for breakfast, but they do the briskest trade at lunchtime. For fewer crowds (and more pleasant service), aim to get there around 11 or after 2. Several spots are open for dinner, or have happy hour specials as well.
Things to See Around Grand Central Market
After you’ve eaten your fill, you can sign up for a bike tour of downtown Los Angeles with Handlebar Bike Tours. They meet at the Broadway entrance to Grand Central Market, and the 8-mile tour takes you around all of the popular downtown LA sites, including the Disney Concert Hall and Olvera Street. It costs about $40 per person.
Directly across Hill Street is the entrance to Angels Flight, a 117-year-old funicular connecting downtown Los Angeles to Bunker Hill. It featured in the movie La La Land, and several others, but only recently re-opened to the public. It only costs $1 for the short ride up (or down) the hill.
Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing a renaissance, and nowhere is that better reflected than in the famous Grand Central Market.
Thank you Maggie at From Toddler to Traveler for this awesome guest post on Grand Central Market.