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Sticky Rice stall at Grand Central Market.
Sticky Rice at Grand Central Market.
Cathy Chaplin

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The Most Delicious Things to Eat at Grand Central Market

Eater editors’ favorite dishes at LA’s original food hall

Welcome back to Eater LA’s ongoing series about the best dishes to eat in various neighborhoods across Los Angeles. Today we’re switching it up and heading to Grand Central Market, a historic and dynamic food hall in the heart of Downtown. From old-school Cantonese wontons to a modern take on avocado toast, here now are Eater editors’ favorites at Grand Central Market.

MacArthur Sandwich at Wexler’s Deli

Pastrami sandwich on the a counter at Wexler’s.
MacArthur Sandwich at Wexler’s
Matthew Kang

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery...and the Langer’s-inspired pastrami sandwich has one-upped the original. Wexler’s construction of the classic Jewish deli sandwich is modestly proportioned, less of a gutbuster and more of a solid office lunch. With plush rye, an unmelted slice of Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and a mere lacing of coleslaw, the focus is clearly on the meat — hand-sliced and smoked to a Platonic ideal. Yes, head-to-head, on its best days, Wexler’s pastrami is better than Langer’s, which is why Wexler’s makes one of Grand Central Market’s best dishes. Now, whether you prefer a boisterous deli dining room like Langer’s or the sometimes chaotic Downtown market is completely on you. —Matthew Kang

Salvadoran pupusas at Sarita’s Pupuseria

Salvadoran pupusas at Sarita’s Pupuseria
Salvadoran pupusas at Sarita’s Pupuseria

If you’re from or live in LA, you already know about the magic of pupusas. Personally, I am grateful for this ancient food with roots in El Salvador. While standing at the counter in front of Sarita’s Pupusas, I overheard a patron compare this dish to a grilled cheese sandwich, but that barely touches on the skills and technique required to make this cheesy comfort food. The first step after ordering is to stand back and observe.

It takes a high-level of skill and moist fingers to grab the right amount of masa or corn dough, rotate and flatten it to the right size, fill it with cheese, chicharrón, or fragrant loroco flower, then throw it on the griddle until a browned and crunchy exterior forms. Sarita’s started griddling these babies close to 20 years ago, and they do so with great volume in a market filled with newcomers. Ask for a side of plantains or yuca and consume piping hot. These dishes reheat surprisingly well with oil and a griddle pan. But why wait? —Mona Holmes

Avocado toast at Ramen Hood

A black plate with crispy rice blocks topped with avocado at Ramen Hood.
Avocado toast at Ramen Hood
Cathy Chaplin

While most grab a stool at Ramen Hood to slurp chef Ilan Hall’s vegan ramen, don’t sleep on the creative appetizers. On the small plates menu are things like cucumber salad and banh mi poutine, but it’s the avocado toast that proves most memorable. The base, a deep-fried block of vinegary rice, comes topped with ripe avocado slivers, torn fresh herbs, chile threads, and yuzu kosho. Whereas most avocado toast is perfectly pleasant but ultimately uninteresting, this version delivers a tour de force of texture and flavor — far and away the most unique avocado toast in the Southland. —Cathy Chaplin

Fried chicken at Lucky Bird

Lucky Bird chef/owner Chris Dane.
Lucky Bird chef/owner Chris Dane.
Lucky Bird

Don’t be fooled by Lucky Bird’s simple exterior. Here in chef/owner Chris Dane’s workshop, he’s developed the kind of chicken that he likes to eat. There’s no trendy hot chicken or anything overly complex. Lucky Bird prepares really solid fried chicken that’s juicy with a batter that always remains in place while taking a bite. Additionally, Dade maintains a chicken lab in the rear kitchen where staff butcher chickens, transform the flavorful crispy bits at the bottom of the fryer into incredible gravy, make a proprietary fermented hot sauce, and repurpose meat scraps for popcorn chicken. —Mona Holmes

Grilled cheese at DTLA Cheese

A grilled cheese sandwich with lots of cheese.
DTLA Cheese
Jane Bruce

There’s not much “market” left at Grand Central Market these days, as most of the square footage has been turned over to a variety of small food stalls, from Wexler’s to Eggslut to the Oyster Gourmet. Thankfully shoppers can still flex their retail power at DTLA Cheese, the upscale cheese shop that hugs the south wall across from Kismet Falafel. Owner Lydia Clarke helps to curate a tight collection of impressive cheeses from across the globe for take-home consumption, but don’t worry, the daytime lunch diners won’t go hungry. The grilled cheese sandwich at DTLA Cheese is one of the best in the city, and is made even better as a ham melt with caramelized onions against all that cheddar. Anyone willing to ball-out would do well to opt for the $25 cheese board, which comes loaded with slices from the case — and more than a few helpful words of wisdom from Clarke herself. —Farley Elliott

Sisig fried rice at Sari Sari Store

Sunny eggs in a bowl with rice.
Filipino rice bowls at Sari Sari Store
Matthew Kang

The worker bees in and around Grand Central Market are lucky to lunch at chef Margarita Manzke‘s Sari Sari Store, a standout among the panoply of Pinoy places that have opened in recent years. Start with a melon slush and move on to the sisig fried rice bowl, an intriguingly rich mash up of crispy head cheese, garlic rice, onions, chiles, and ginger. The decadent bowl is topped with a fried egg, complete with lacy whites and a runny yolk. Filipino fish sauce and vinegar are on hand to balance flavors to fit any mood. While it might seem over-the-top to tack on a slice of coconut pie after all that richness, it certainly is the right thing to do. —Cathy Chaplin

Chocolate chess pie at Fat & Flour

A slice of chocolate pie on a plate.
Chocolate chess pie at Fat & Flour
Mona Holmes

When Fat & Flour opened in Grand Central Market last month, it seemed like the ideal spot for Nicole Rucker’s desserts. In fact, it’s the only dessert stand in the historic Downtown bazaar. Stationed on the north wall next to Sari Sari, her indefinite pop-up is constantly evolving its look, feel, and menu. The setup, a simple food stand with a vision for sustainability, is a complete shift from Rucker’s shuttered Fiona. Here, Rucker up-cycles baked goods and doesn’t sacrifice on flavor, especially when it comes to her famous chocolate chess pie. Version 2.0 utilizes leftover cookies, smashes them into a crust before pouring the insanely fudgy filling into the pan. That glossy and cracked top is beyond eye-catching, with an outstanding brownie flavor. Plan accordingly, items sell out quickly and Fat & Flour is open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. —Mona Holmes

Wonton soup at China Cafe

China Cafe
China Cafe
Farley Elliott

There are a lot of big names at Grand Central Market, from celebrity chefs to well-known attractions like Eggslut, but few have maintained as steady a presence as China Cafe, the expansive sit-down counter that faces out to Hill Street. Diners trying to find the spot need only to discover the neon-lit bright red sign that hangs behind the counter, complete with its expansive menu below. There are staple Chinese and Chinese-American dishes for just about every palate, chief among them the chow mein, chop suey, and egg foo young. The real hit at the all-day space, which opens at 8 a.m. daily and usually sports a small wait for a stool, is probably the wonton soup, served in all its glorious broth with heavy wontons and veggies. This is simple comfort food, done for more than a generation at one of Grand Central Market’s most beloved stalls. —Farley Elliott

Gai yang at Sticky Rice

Grilled chicken with sticky rice at Sticky Rice in Grand Central Market.
Gai yang at Sticky Rice
Matthew Kang

Sticky Rice might be the most well-rounded food stall in the entire market, with a tight menu of Thai street food classics that excels from top to bottom. While the khao soi would normally be my pick for the best dish on the menu, the gai yang (grilled chicken) probably has wider appeal and won’t fill you up, leaving room to try more dishes around Grand Central. The tender grilled thigh picks up heavy grill marks and is served with a sweet-tangy sauce and the stall’s namesake rice. A side of papaya salad keeps every bite fresh like ginger at a sushi restaurant, providing a fish sauce punch whenever the chicken starts tasting monotonous. But with the nice grilling and gentle Thai seasoning, that chicken delivers until the end. —Matthew Kang

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