On the Saturday that I was able to visit the Grand Central Market, its open air arcade was packed with people in search of a unique culinary experience: boy, did they come to the right place.
Tucked into the heart of downtown LA, this diverse haven of delicious cuisine has been serving locals since 1917. The 30,000 square feet of the historic landmark currently boasts 38 vendors, selling pressed juice, oysters, falafel, and everything in between.
Neon signs shine high above the crowd, each competing for the attention of potential customers, but four vendors in particular caught my attention: Olio GCM Wood Fired Pizza, Ramen Hood, La Tostadería, and McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream.
I am a big fan of a good Margherita pizza, and Olio’s Margherita Plus definitely did not disappoint. Served fresh from the oven, the pizza was the perfect temperature; the cheese still light and creamy, and the crust comfortably warm to the touch. All of the ingredients of the pizza worked in perfect balance; first I tasted the delicious tomato sauce, its flavor fresh and distinct. The creamy, rich burrata complimented the sauce excellently, working to combat the sharp flavor of the tomato. A hint of basil perfectly concluded each bite, and the diversion from the classic Margherita recipe was well worth it in the case of the addition of the basil infused olive oil, as it integrated the aromatic herb into the pizza even where a basil leaf may have been lacking. The neapolitan-style crust was outstanding as well; crispy on the outside with a moist and chewy interior, and it served as a perfect template for the other flavors present in the dish.
Ramen Hood is a ramen and pho shop with a surprising twist; all of the dishes are 100% vegan. Though these dishes are void of any animal products, they certainly do not lack deliciousness. The creativity in the substitutions of each ingredient is astounding. I was particularly impressed with the “egg”, made from soy milk and nutritional yeast. Though the flavors of the ramen do not directly replicate their meat counterparts, they come impressively close, and even add a light, complex flavor that I found superior to some of the other ramen bowls that I have eaten.
La Tostadería is one of the many vendors in Grand Central Market that showcases the prominent Mexican culinary presence in Southern California. Though I was slightly disappointed due to the mediocre quality of the fish in the black cod tacos in relation to the price of the dish, they were still yummy and the seasoning was quite good.
When I discovered that McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams was one of the vendors at Grand Central Market, I became extremely excited about my trip there, as I have been a fan of theirs ever since I first tasted their Summer Fruit Cobbler Ice Cream. Based in Santa Barbara, Calif., McConnell’s unceasingly delicious flavors never disappoint, and always have me coming back to their brand to taste something new. Though they have been making ice cream for almost 70 years, their dairy treats maintain a delectable freshness that is mirrored by the local, sustainable, organic, raw ingredients that make up the ice cream. At Grand Central Market, the organic image of the brand is exemplified by the mouth-watering waffle cones that are made mere feet from where you order your ice cream. The two flavors that I chose to order were the Eureka Lemon & Marionberries and Sea Salt Cream & Cookies. Both were exceptionally flavorful, with the lemon of the Eureka Lemon & Marionberries being the perfect amount of tart and fresh; perfectly contrasted by the sweetness of the marionberries. The scoop of Sea Salt Cream & Cookies seemed to take the opposite approach to its flavor, its velvety cream interrupted only by the rich chewiness of bits of McConnell’s housemade chocolate chunk cookies, and complemented by a bit of local sea salt.
I had an awesome culinary experience at Grand Central Market, and would highly recommend a trip there for anyone who wants to step out of their comfort zone in a scrumptious way!