We all know that Grand Central Market underwent a huge revamp a few years ago, bringing a lot of new, interesting dining options to downtown. But the market continues to change even now, with some swapping out of vendors, and an expansion of the stalls into the seating area. (Did you know there's seating downstairs, too? It's not as charming but it'll do in a pinch.)
Here are the five vendors currently doing the most interesting work at GCM. The list will inevitably change, but for now, here are your best chances for eating excellent food.
It doesn't get as much attention as the other prepared-food vendors — maybe because it is firstly a cheese shop — but DTLA Cheese has a nice, small menu of simple dishes, most of them cheese-based, unsurprisingly. There are salads, sandwiches and a nice macaroni and cheese on the menu, but the true star is the unassuming, shockingly excellent grilled cheese sandwich. It looks like a classic home-style grilled cheese, and it nearly is, as it's served on buttery, sweet white bread. But the blend of three cheddars and one local mozzarella seem perfectly calibrated to create sandwich perfection. It's served with a dollop of stone-ground mustard, and a small pile of pickled onions and cucumbers that are so perfect, so sweet and tart and herby, that I'm convinced this could become a strictly pickle stall and do just as well as it does selling cheese.
Pupusas seem so easily made, so straightforward — so of course they aren't. The stuffed and griddled corn cakes are a Salvadoran specialty, and at Sarita's, they're the star on a menu rounded out with plantains, eggs, slaws, rice and other classic pupusa side dishes. There's a big variety here, too: a dozen every day, from meat to cheese to beans to vegetables. You'll want a knife and fork.
This was one of the anchors of the “new” GCM when it was remodeled in 2013. The stall is but one outlet of the vertically integrated farm, butchery and restaurant business that Belcampo is extending up and down the state. This small branch has a butcher stand, where unusual animals and cuts, all grass-fed, can be purchased. Or just slide down to the counter, where a range of meat-heavy options awaits. The burger has always been the star, with that pristine meat, fancy cheese and grilled onions on a sesame seed bun overshadowing the truly excellent French fries. But if you're doing a Market bang-bang (and you should), go for the smaller, In-N-Out-style Fastburger. It's just as good, and it has a tomato on it. For your health!
For ostensibly being right on the ocean, L.A. has never been much of a seafood town. But we do have a couple of bright briny lights among our restaurants, and La Tostaderia is one of them. Whether it's marinated, grilled or fried, the cooks know how to handle fish, shrimp, octopus — you name it. Everything arrives brightly colored, from the sea creatures themselves to the chilies, herbs and fruits topping everything. If your out-of-town guests haven't had fish tacos yet, this is a great place to take them.
Sari Sari Store
This is the newest addition to the market as of press time, and it is doing excellent work. The Filipino stall not only has excellent food, it's almost like a real restaurant, with metal utensils and glass water cups that the staff will refill if you sit at the counter. (The restaurant is owned by Margarita and Walter Manzke, whose other U.S. ventures, like République, are high-end.) The sisig (pork head) with a fried egg is perfection — it's actually relatively light on the rich meat, which is a good thing — and the tortang talong (eggplant) is great, too. But do not miss the buko pie. It's a coconut custard pie filled with slices of coconut and topped with coconut shreds. It's wildly rich. It's absolute madness.
Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, downtown; grandcentralmarket.com.