Though I’ve frequented only a fraction of the businesses and parks in the area, I’m totally in love with downtown LA. A couple of weeks ago I checked off a few destinations on my hit list: Angeles Park (the one they make look so pretty in 500 Days of Summer), the Angels Flight Railway, and the Grand Central Market just across the street. This is a great trifecta, each just steps from the other and perfect for an easy, historic outing.
The park isn’t as kept up as I’d hoped, and of course the cable car was under construction the day I went, but the market was awesome– it’s nearly 100 years old and has been in the news lately because of a contentious facelift that’s still going on. Pricier, hipster-serving merchants are moving in and there’s legitimate concern that the new clientele they draw will push out the old-school, affordable vendors that have been there for years. My hope is that both the old and new businesses can have a place here; there are certainly just as many veteran stands I’d like to frequent as there are new tenants. Here are four newbies that are already moved in or are about to open… once the July heat subsides and you’re feeling a little hungry, a walk through the market will make for a great day, or at least a great lunch hour.
Downtown LA is full of surprises, and most recent one to jump out at me is the Handsome Coffee Roasters and Egg Slut partnership on Mateo Street. The Egg Slut truck roves around a bit, but you can consistently find it at the curb outside of HR Monday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. One of the only food trucks that focuses on eggy breakfast concoctions, Egg Slut had me at “breakfast sandwich.” I grew up on junk food, and the Egg McMuffin was high on my list of favorite drive-thru eats.
As a grown person and a Los Angeles food addict, I do understand that the McMuffin is no match for any of the delicious a.m. options in L.A. I love the griddle cakes from Salt’s Cure, the cheap two-egg breakfast plate at Nick’s Coffee Shop, and the pork belly hash bowl at Sycamore Kitchen. But they now have some competition IMHO, because my new favorite breakfast is any sandwich from the Egg Slut truck, paired with a strong-as-a-Hulk-Hogan drip coffee from HR.
Of course I ordered the sandwich that most closely resembles my favorite McD’s sammy: bun, sausage patty, fried egg, cheese, and aioli (top left photo). DAMN good, and clearly capable of blowing it’s fast food predecessor out of the water. Friends had a similar sandwich but loaded with bacon instead of sausage (top right photo).
There are a million and one reasons to drive to DTLA, but here’s another one for all the McMuffin lovers out there.
There are few neighborhoods in L.A. changing as rapidly as downtown. Pop-up restaurants are settling down in brick-and-mortar spaces in the Arts District, money is pouring in for infrastructure improvements and new developments, and the Expo Line will bring downtown residents to the Pacific within a few years. Those of us in L.A. for the long haul will have the privilege of watching this historic neighborhood go through a renaissance of sorts. Soon we’ll all be saying “Remember when…?”
If you find yourself in the mood to explore, here’s a suggestion or two for your next DTLA stroll.
BAR Ama, Josef Centano’s newest kitchen venture on 4th Street at Spring, has been on our list since it opened late 2012. We love baco mercat, so of course hopes were high as we stepped into the space — a cool, open dining room with exposed brick, campy metal dishware, and a jolly staff (I feel like I’ve had some serious friendships form while dining at Baco — where do they find such jovial dudes to work the floor?). An order of puffy tacos were a must (we tried the pork and pineapple), and everything beyond them was just for gluttonous fun: Tex-Mex queso and chips (fancy nachos, really), green enchiladas with a kick of heat, and a duck chalupa on special. We didn’t leave disappointed or able to walk well, and the first thing we’d do again is the taco, but of a different type for variation’s sake. The shells are deep fried in peanut oil to achieve their airy, bubbly texture, the waiter explained, and the pork and pineapple made for this awesome sweet/salty combo that I loved.
One should not leave the area without whiling away an hour or two in The Last Bookstore — though two hours may not be enough. The store is housed in an old bank building and takes up the street level and second floors. Below is The Crocker Club, above are artist’s live/work spaces. It feels a bit post-apocolyptic and lawless inside: a few shelves are easy to maneuver (the bestsellers wall, the used fiction section), but the entire 2nd floor has few labels, some shelves organized simply by spine color — the pre-Civil Rights area of books, I guess — other books glued together to make arches you can walk under or book windows that serve no purpose (other than being awesome) that I can discern. It’s an experience, and if you’re a book lover, it’s one not to miss.
A short drive away is Demitasse Cafe, a Little Tokyo coffee shop often recognized for it’s hot sipping chocolate. It was too warm of a day for the likes of hot anything, so an ice coffee it was. Their pastry counter deserves a once-over as well — every month they source the goodies from a different local bakery.