5 New-School Vendors Keeping Grand Central Market Fresh | Squid Ink | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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5 New-School Vendors Keeping Grand Central Market Fresh

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Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 7:02 AM
click to enlarge curry at Sticky Rice - PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Photo by Anne Fishbein
  • curry at Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice, the vibrant stall serving Thai street food, comes to Grand Central Market courtesy of chef Johnny Lee and partner David Tewasart, the folks behind craft-beer lounge Spirit House Bar in Monterey Park. Sticky Rice was the first of the new class of vendors to move into the market — it opened in April 2013 — though it fit into the market's ecosystem so seamlessly that you'd be forgiven for thinking it's been dishing out beef panang curry for as long as Sarita's has been stuffing pupusas. That curry, by the way, is always a good bet, as are the other two dishes that are constants on the menu: khao mun gai (aka Hainan chicken) and a very tasty gai yang (BBQ chicken). Over on the ever-changing chalkboard menu of specials, you'll find things such as a blistering tom yum soup; and if you're lucky, the excellent Issan-style sausage will not have been sold out. While eating at the counter, you might notice the sign stating that the ingredients are local and seasonal, or you might overhear someone asking the cook about whether it's true that the chicken is cooked sous vide (it is). These facts you'll digest along with your meal. And then to finish? Mango and sticky rice. Of course. Stall C-5

click to enlarge G&B Coffee - PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Photo by Anne Fishbein
  • G&B Coffee

See also: Grand Central Market Restaurant Issue

G&B Coffee

No less than The New York Times recently heralded G&B Coffee's iced latte as the best in America. While we don't have the mileage points to verify the claim's veracity, we have absolutely no reason to doubt the qualifications of the head on which the crown rests. After all, this fantastic coffee stand is helmed by Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski, both former Intelligentsia employees who left their positions in 2012 to open it. Maybe just as notable as their background is the fact that their spot is on the Hill Street side of the market, where a passenger loading zone makes it especially convenient to sidle up to the standing bar, flag down a barista as you would a bartender, order your drink and be on your way. The No. 1 iced latte in America, with a house-made, subtly sweet almond-macadamia milk, is quite delicious. That said, when the mercury hovers above 90, you'll thirst more for the espresso milkshake, a behemoth of a drink intended for two (which you will nonetheless happily drink as one), made with two double shots of espresso and McConnell's ice cream. Of course, this being a specialty coffee shop, you can have a Gibraltar if you want it, or a cappuccino, and it will be meticulously prepared with beans from some of the nation's best coffee roasters. But the thing is, no one will discourage your impulse to drown terrific shots of espresso in fantastic ice cream. Welcome to the new world of specialty coffee. Stall C-19

click to enlarge the pizza oven at Olio - PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Photo by Anne Fishbein
  • the pizza oven at Olio

Olio

Chef-owner Brad Kent first tinkered with the science, then perfected the art, of Neapolitan-style pizza at Olio's original Mid-City location. To the relief of those who would prefer not to fight Mid-City traffic, those pies are exactly what you'll find at his space at Grand Central Market, which opened in March. And because you cannot make a great pizza without a great pizza oven, he hauled in a beautiful, domed, wood-burning brick oven. Built in Naples by Stefano Ferrara, it breathes fire in the corner of the stall, its beastly nature tamed by the fact that "OLIO GCM" is adorably tiled on its front, like the name of a dog lovingly painted on her doghouse. You'll want to order a simple Margherita or a seasonal pie topped with things such as wild mushrooms and prosciutto, then turn the corner and park yourself in front of the pick-up window, where you can watch the crew gently stretch a ball of dough and assemble your pizza. Someone holding a peel as long as an oar will carefully and confidently feed the pie to the oven and, at 900 or so degrees, the fire will cook your pizza faster than you have time to Instagram a photo of the process. The crust will be chewy and speckled with char, the cheese melted just so. At 10 inches in diameter, you may be full enough with half. Pizza for breakfast, it is. Stall B-6

click to enlarge Blum's coffee crunch cake at Valerie - PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Photo by Anne Fishbein
  • Blum's coffee crunch cake at Valerie

Valerie at GCM

Think of Valerie Gordon's spot as an updated, open-market equivalent of a classic five-and-dime lunch counter where, not too many decades ago, you could have ended your day of shopping with something like an egg sandwich, a mug of joe, a slice of cake. Gordon runs this stall with partner Stan Weightman Jr.; the pair got their start in 2004 selling handmade toffees. (Before that, Gordon managed the legendary Les Deux Cafes.) Gordon, ever the busy pastry chef, has added all sorts of fun, old-school desserts to her lineup (petits fours! truffles!), all of which can be found at the various Valerie's outposts around town, including a sweets shop in Westlake and a café in Echo Park. And, of course, this cherry-red counter at Grand Central Market, where you can end a day of shopping with a sweet or two while considering a menu that smartly riffs on counter classics. The breakfast sandwich, for instance, is fantastic, made with beautifully soft-scrambled eggs, Gruyère, onion marmalade and, if you really want to gild the lily, a salty slice of jambon de Paris. There's also the cold fried chicken sandwich — easily one of the best sandwiches in the market — with coleslaw and a mustardy mayonnaise. Or, if you grew up watching and rewatching Lucy inadvertently pie William Holden, you can play out the past-meets-present nature of Grand Central Market and get a Cobb salad followed by a slice of Brown Derby grapefruit cake. If nothing else, for old times' sake. Stall E-3

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