Where To Eat At Grand Central Market guide image


Where To Eat At Grand Central Market

Figuring out what to eat at Grand Central Market can be overwhelming, but this guide will help you narrow things down.

We get it. The thought of Grand Central Market can be a drag. The tourists, the lines, the hovering of said tourists while you eat your taco so they can grab your table when you’re done. It’s not exactly what you envisioned for your Saturday afternoon.

The thing is, Grand Central Market overcomes all of these things. Why? The food. From excellent banchan to Filipino rice bowls and pies you’ll want to tell your friends about, some of the best food in all of Los Angeles is happening at GCM right now, and it’s time for you to (re)experience it. So take a breath, come hungry, and consult our guide to make the very most out of your visit.


Sari Sari Store LA

This Filipino stall towards the back of the market is from the Republique people, and it’s the kind of place that gets you excited for lunch. Sure, it’s 10:30am and you should be working on that finance report that’s due tomorrow, but instead you’re thinking about whether you should get the ribs or chicken today. All the food at Sari Sari Store is fantastic, so you can’t really go wrong—unless for some reason you don’t get a slice of the buko pie. You’ll need this coconut custard dessert to combat your inevitable 3pm slump.

Shiku in Grand Central Market is a Korean spot from the couple behind the now-closed Baroo that serves a good mix of recognizable comfort dishes, like kimchi pork belly and doenjang-marinated chicken, and creative banchan, like spicy kimchi corn or japchae made with seaweed. The best way to try a little of everything is to order their dosirak (rice boxes) that come with sides of that day's banchan, but don't overlook the Korean fried chicken or crispy mandu—you might need that extra snack when you get called in for jury duty downtown.

Smashburger aficionados might already know about For the Win. This casual mini-chain already has three other locations across LA, specializing in stacked smashburgers. For a gooey cheeseburger with crispy, lacy edges, their stall at GCM should be at the top of your priority list. The meat is beefy and tastes freshly ground, with a melted cheese-to-potato bun ratio that’s perfectly balanced. We usually order the double stack, which is surprisingly light, with jalapeños and bacon, plus their slightly spicy fry sauce. They always taste best straight off the grill, so grab a stool at their L-shaped bar counter and eat your order as soon as possible.

Considering all the unique options at GCM, a sandwich counter might not seem that exciting. But this little deli stall tucked in a back corner is among the best lunches here. What sets Ghost Sando apart from your average sandwich shop are their housemade, toasted dutch crunch rolls. Every single sandwich comes on one of these crackly, chewy loaves with golden-brown slightly sweet crust. It instantly improves everything it touches, from spicy Italian cold cuts like the “Uncle Nikki” to hot pastrami-filled behemoths like the “Pastrami Mami.” Sandwiches run $10-$16, but they’re all massive enough to stretch for two meals.

Seafood mini-chain Broad Street Oyster has a massive corner stall right near the S. Broadway entrance to the market. If you’ve eaten at any of their other locations, you’ll recognize the $25 lobster rolls, which are served warm with hot drawn butter or cold with a bit of mayo, both on a lightly toasted bun with a lemon wedge. The warm ones are the star here, but you can also order a whole seafood tower or a caviar feast if you’re looking to splurge on a group meal. A long wooden bar runs along the side of the stall, which means that even on busy days, you should have no problem finding a seat.

Anyone who thinks a good deli has to have been around for several decades will be proven wrong at Wexler’s. This stall near the center of the market is home to some of the best pastrami in Los Angeles, smoked in-house and sliced to order. We usually go for the MacArthur Park sandwich (an ode to Langer’s, of course) with coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing piled on top. But for as close to perfection as that sandwich is, the bagel and lox might be even better. And don't forget a black and white cookie.

With locations all over LA and even Vegas, Eggslut is a very recognizable name in LA food, and this is the original. Yes, the lines are still there, and people will be taking selfies with that yolk-covered burger. We can’t tell you that these breakfast sandwiches are worth the long wait, but if you walk past and there’s somehow no line, seize the opportunity and order the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. It will hit the spot.

From out-reaches-of-the-SGV Glendora comes The Donut Man, a legendary donut shop that’s been around since the ’70s. Their stall at GCM, located at the front left corner (when you enter from Broadway), is basically a giant display case of fresh donuts. Whatever you decide to order, make sure to throw in a strawberry-stuffed one. It's the donut that made the place famous, filled with huge, bright strawberries in a sticky red glaze. If for some reason they ran out for the day, console yourself with a tiger tail instead.

Inspired by boba shops in the San Gabriel Valley, Moon Rabbit specializes in teas and small snacks, like bánh mì filled with grilled pork and Japanese-style chicken katsu sandwiches. But the main event is their teas, which range from bright-orange Thai tea to jasmine greens and boba-filled rose black tea.

Everyone loves a free sample. Villa Moreliana understands this. That’s why this taco stall offers juicy carnitas chunks to anyone passing by. Villa Moreliana slow-cooks its carnitas just like they do in Michoacan, the Mexican state where the fatty, flavor-packed pork dish is basically a religion. Get the simple tacos here, which are nothing but a heaping pile of chopped meat that spills from the tortilla. Add your own onions, cilantro, and salsa from their tiny condiment bar.

Seafood-centric Mexican spot La Tostaderia has only been at Grand Central Market for a couple of years, but it has already achieved staple status. Go for the fish ceviche tostada: a tangy mix of white fish, tomato, onion, and cucumber that’s smothered in lime and topped with avocado. Be sure to make liberal use of the Tapatío they hand over with your order.

Is there such a thing as pie heaven? As Fat & Flour assures us, yes. Glance at their dessert case filled with golden-brown salted caramel hand pies and slices of key lime to become an all-in believer. Pastry chef Nicole Rucker specializes in pies that rotate with the seasons, like rosewater lemon meringue or Stone Fruit Party, a wonderful medley of white peaches, nectarines, and cherries that are better than any birthday bash we’ve attended. Slices can be picked up the day-of, but whole pies must be ordered in advance online.

There are a few taco places at Grand Central Market, but we forever have a soft spot for Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. There’s a line for a reason, and it’s the carnitas. Sure, you could order the birria (goat) or the carne asada, but if you don’t opt for the carnitas you’ve made a mistake. You’ll only need a single order—just ask for more tortillas to go with your one taco and you’ll have enough protein for at least three. Top them with green salsa and order a Mexican Coke, you’re doing Grand Central Market right.

Sarita’s has been here for more than 20 years for a reason. And that would be the truly excellent pupusas. This pupusa shop had a cameo in a La La Land song montage, so you’ll reliably find people taking photos at the bar stools, but you shouldn’t let that deter you. They serve a bunch of different types of these cheese-stuffed beauties with crunchy housemade curtido and they’re all great.

The questionably named Knead Noods is our go-to stall for a casual yet exceptional bowl of pasta at GCM. Our favorite is the fantastically garlicky aglio olio, with high-quality olive oil covering every square inch of the al dente lasagnette noodles. The spaghetti and meatballs are good, too—the rich, flavorful meatballs are the main event, though we appreciate the bits of short rib in the red sauce, too. Whatever you do, don’t skip the garlic bread. You’ll need it to soak up whatever sauce is left on your plate.

One of the OG Grand Central Market vendors, China Cafe has been serving Chinese-American classics that have barely changed since 1959. Expect things like chow mein, kung pao chicken, and off-menu egg rolls. We like to elbow our way into a seat at the bar, order a huge bowl of wonton soup, and load it with chili oil.

We like that this fried chicken stall has a row of barstools at the counter, so you can sit and eat your sandwich without having to fight a group of people in suits for a table elsewhere in GCM. But easy seating isn’t the only reason to eat here—the fried chicken is also very solid. You can get three or five pieces, but we like the sandwich, which comes with pickles, smoked paprika aioli, and lettuce.

You’ve probably seen McConnell’s tubs in a grocery store, which means you definitely put them in your shopping cart, therefore you know why the line at this ice cream spot is always so long. You could go for a scoop (boysenberry rose milk jam, anyone?), but why settle for just that— there are sundaes, floats, and build-your-own ice cream sandwiches available here. It’s easily the best way to finish at the market before heading out.

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photo credit: Benji Dell

Where To Eat At Grand Central Market guide image