Obligatory Grand Central Market Lunch (aka Is There More to Life Than Pig & Cheap Chinese Food?)
Yesterday I took my very first trip to the Grand Central Market downtown- and let me be the first (although probably not) to say: if you work in walking distance from Hill and 3rd, I am extremely jealous of you! Sure, some complain that a number of the stalls are crappy, and there is not enough variety. You know what I say? Who needs more than roast pig parts and cheap Chinese food!? Not me.
If you enter on Broadway (btw. 3+4th) you’ll be greeted by this. Roasted pig parts of various shapes and sizes, behind the glass window of Las Morelianas. The guy behind the counter (inexplicably) handed me a free sample (maybe he saw the longing in my eyes?) And by free sample I mean an entire carnitas taco, made up of bits and pieces of all the pork parts inside the window. We’re not talking a sample of orange chicken on a toothpick, people. We’re talking an *entire* taco. And with that, the Grand Central Market is now the greatest place I’ve ever been.
My buddy’s strategy was to chose the place with the longest line, and that seemed to work out pretty well.
His chicken torta from Tacos Tomas looked pretty tasty, but I wouldn’t walk back to work with this one. This sandwich needs to be eaten right away. I, on the other hand, had a bit more trouble making my decision.
It is really hard for me to turn down cheap food court Chinese food, and Grand Central is filled with the stuff. And I love how all of them have some more interesting options… like fried sardines and whole fried fish. In fact, I love how almost every single place in the food court has whole fried fish. It’s like the bourbon chicken of the Grand Central Market food court. Everybody has to serve it to compete.
If you don’t like the steam tables, there’s the incredibly sweet looking China Cafe- which appears as if it could have been there when the market opened in 1917. I’m all about the SGV, and would never order anything called chop suey, but it’s nice to see such an old school American/Chinese diner owning it in such a historic context.
As tough as it was to forgo the Chinese food, I ended up at Sarita’s Pupuseria… an industry standard for the GCM.
They make their pupusas fresh to order, and have over 15 varieties ($2.40 each). Revueltas is my go to order (pork, cheese and beans) but we also tried the chicken and cheese (you know, for science.)
Neither had a ton of meat (I can always use more), and if you’re expecting crispy pork bits you’re going to be disappointed (chicharron in pupusas refers to a ground up pork with a paste-like consistency) but the flavor was great. And their cabbage slaw, which should come standard with all pupusas, was great. Tangy, sour, and a nice little kick.
I could eat two of these for lunch with some of their perfectly cooked sweet fried plantains ($2.25) and call it a day. But, obviously we didn’t do that. Commence over-ordering in 3…2…1…
Whole fried fish… had to be done right? For $8 you get the fish, rice, beans, salad, and two homemade tortillas which tasted like unfilled pupusas. The fish was fun to eat, and crispy, and tasted good with all the other stuff. Not surprisingly it was a bit dry (it had giant slits, and was sitting in a steam table for god knows how long) but I didn’t mind it. It was good enough, but not so good that I won’t go trying all the other versions of whole fried fish the food court has to offer.
All in all, it was a successful first of what I’m guessing will be many visits to the Grand Central Market. What’s your favorite lunch there? Right now I’m thinking that it can’t get much better than standing at the counter of Las Morelianas eating a taco filled with porktastic mystery meat. But, clearly, I’m open to other suggestions.
Sarita’s Pupuseria, 317 S. Broadway (in the Grand Central Market), 213-626-6320. Enter on Hill or Broadway btw. 3+4th. Parking is free for one hour with validation if you enter on Hill btw. 3+4th and spend over $10