This week we take a look at one of the oldest food halls in the City of Angels - Grand Central Market in downtown LA - as well as one of the newest - Topanga Social at Westfield Topanga.
Grand Central Market first opened over a century ago in 1917. It was then called the “Wonder Market” and billed as “the largest and finest public market on the Pacific Coast.” It was housed in the Beaux-Art style Homer Laughlin building. An interesting piece of trivia is that Frank Lloyd Wright had an office on one of the upper floors. Today, there are 40 stalls with a plethora of cuisines to choose from, including one of the oldest legacy vendors - Tacos Tumbras which has been there since 1972, serving over 300 lbs a day of Michaocan-style carnitas, to newer entrants like Sticky Rice, which heralded a renaissance of sorts for the location. Thinking about the Thai chicken BBQ with sweet chili sauce and spicy papaya som tam salad is enough to make anyone’s mouth water. Eggslut brought a ton of buzz to the venue, and one of the most recent entrants, Broad St Oyster Company, means you can get your warmed butter lobster roll without having to drive all the way to Malibu. There’s also the famous strawberry donut at The Donut Man, which is an amazing blend of yeasty goodness sliced open lengthwise and piled high with strawberries. How one manages to fit it in their mouth is beyond me.
Now we hop over to the Valley for the recently unveiled Topanga Social. Formerly home to a Sears, it opened on May 11 and offers 27 new bar and dining options to choose from. What immediately strikes you upon entering from outside is a lovely outdoor patio and a bar called Margarita Garden that clamors for drinks and lively conversation. Upon entering the dining area, you are greeted by a cornucopia of choices. Will it be an oh-so-crispy Katsu Sando with Wafu slaw? Or the amazing Shrimp Boat from Shrimp Daddy, served on a pineapple, no less? One enticing element of food halls is that they elevate the drinking experience. Here, there is a rollicking Rock & Reilly’s bar that is perfect for happy hours or even just a noontime drink, a stall that specializes in micheladas called, what else but I Love Micheladas, and for those who want a bit of bubbly, there’s Pearl Champagne Bar. At 55,000 sq ft, Topanga Social offers 700 seats indoor and 80 outdoors. As part of the something-for-everyone trend we are seeing at food halls, Topanga Social has also incorporated touchscreen ordering that lets you order from a variety of vendors simultaneously. You simply click on the stall you want to order from, its menu pops up, and you can continue to order from others, such as getting a specialized drink from Hey Hey like the Jewel, a jasmine green tea with strawberry and lychee, paired with aloe jelly.
For both locations, it looks like the advent of spring and warmer weather is making Angelenos venture out more. Grand Central Market saw a spike in YoY traffic in late April, and as of last week, foot traffic was still positive. Westfield Topanga looks like it may have received a boost from Topanga Social, as we see that traffic was up 13% YoY the week of its opening.