Is there anything more timeless than a Mexican mercado?
Walk through one and see large burlap sacks piled high with wrinkled, glossy chiles secos while the nutty scent of nixtamal mingles with tropical fruit. Convivial comedor owners bark to prospective diners, pitching their regional specialties. East LA’s El Mercadito, Lynwood’s Plaza Mexico, and the Alameda Swap Meet are three such mercados that have served Angelenos for decades. But the new Mercado González by Northgate González in Costa Mesa, which opens on November 17, has captured the full mercado experience like none before, converging groceries with quality dining through engaging food stalls and even a full-service restaurant by two of LA’s most successful operators.
The new dining destination may be the boldest project yet from the Mexican supermarket chain founded by Don Miguel and Doña Teresa González, which spans 43 markets across four Southern California counties. Mercado González takes inspiration from Mercado de Coyoacán in Mexico City (CDMX), Centro de Abastos in Guadalajara, and the 129-year-old Mercado Benito Juárez in Oaxaca de Juárez, among others. Project manager Joshua González put together an eye-catching layout of stalls, produce kiosks, and other covered indoor market booths that are individually curated and etched with bright, sunny logos against pastel backdrops. Muralist Claudio Limón is responsible for the festive, joyful Mexican spirit that permeates the market inside and out.
The advantage of a mercado erected in the modern era — such as CDMX’s Mercado Roma — is accessibility. Mercado González has stripped away cold, detached aisles in favor of an open floor plan in which the pan dulces from panaderia, the hot tortillas from the tortilleria, the sweets from the dulceria, and large wooden crates teeming with dry bean varieties are all vying for shoppers’ attention. The aguas frescas stand boasts old-timey slogans like “Las Mejores Frutas de La Temporada” (the best seasonal fruit). Walk around and soon enough the urge to snack on antojitos will lead customers to the comedores. This is where Mercado González stands above all others, showcasing a collection of Mexican eateries from Jalisco, CDMX, Sinaloa, and even the famous Churreria El Moro.
Local stars Chiva Torta by the Albarran family serves spicy tortas ahogadas, while Japanese-Peruvian chef Luis Uechi does popular Mexican-style sushi at Sushi El Sinaloense. The Zenteno family has given their blessing to Rodolfo Zenteno and Jesse Fernandez, sons of the founders of Tacos Los Güichos, to open their own taquería based on the family’s signature al pastor. Don Miguel, a carnitas spot that pays homage to the Northgate González founder; Las Cazuelas guisados; and Mariscos El Pariente, are operated by Mercado González, with menus created from market ingredients. In all, more than 20 puestos offer regional food reflecting the breadth of Mexican culture in the greater Los Angeles area.
For a more full-service Mexican dining experience, Maizano and Entre Nos, the new restaurant and bar from Gruppo Apapacho, the restaurateurs behind LA Cha Cha Chá, Loreto, and Za Za Za, is accessible through a glass turnstile door alongside the comedores. The masa-centric menu features modern, yet affordable antojitos, and a Mexican haute cuisine approach to tlacoyos, mole negro, and cochinita pibil using fresh masa from Tortilleria La González. The restaurant and 6,000-square-foot bar draw from such Mexican states as Puebla, Oaxaca, and Yucatán for menu items, located inside Mercado González.
Since 1980, Northgate González has evolved from a grocery store serving LA’s Latino community to one servicing waves of immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Mercado González looks to the future as a fresh model that has the potential to enter non-Latino neighborhoods, offering the festive romanticism of the Mexican mercado as entertainment. It’s an escape from the common supermarket run. It’s also an exciting innovation for the regional Mexican-owned brand that could make Mercado González a national name.
Mercado González opens today at 2300 Harbor Boulevard, Costa Mesa, CA, 92626 with hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. The operating hours of each of the vendors vary.