8 great things we ate at the first Smorgasburg in downtown L.A.

If you braved the heat to spend Sunday at the debut of Smorgasburg, a weekly outdoor food market at the Alameda Produce Market in downtown Los Angeles, congratulations. And thanks to the many folks who spent their day cooking stellar barbecue, tacos, porridge and many other great dishes under the blazing sun on a Father's Day.

Brought to you by the people who who created the original Smorgasburg in Brooklyn in 2011, the L.A. version was curated by Smorgasburg co-founders Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler, and local food writer Zach Brooks – which meant an impressive gathering of local cooks as well as many design and crafts vendors.

For those of you who stayed home with the AC, the market will pop up again next Sunday, June 26, as well as for the foreseeable future. Bring a hat, some water and a serious appetite — and don’t worry about parking, as there’s a giant parking garage. Here are eight reasons to hit the market.

Bub and Grandma's Bread — Baker Andy Kadin makes baguettes and loaves from locally milled Grist & Toll flour and natural levain at a bakery just east of downtown. Kadin makes great  baguettes with serious crust and terrific crumb, and loaves of 100% whole wheat, emmer, rye, sesame and others. Also at Cookbook in Echo Park and various local restaurants. 

 

Burritos La Palma — If you don’t get to their truck or to the actual taqueria in El Monte enough, now you can come downtown every Sunday for these stellar burritos. They’re made of handmade flour tortillas and Norteno-style beef birria, and you can order them either as part of a special or con todo, with beans and cheese tucked in with the meat. These are deeply traditional things — the taqueria is a branch of a small chain based in Jerez, Zacatecas — made with a perfect balance of ingredients. Get extra salsa and a horchata and find yourself a picnic table.

Califas Taco — Esdras Ochoa has been busy lately: the Mexicali Taco & Co. chef-owner recently opened Salazar, his new barbecue restaurant in Frogtown. And Sunday he debuted Califas Taco, his new taco stand at Smorgasburg. These are Ochoa’s idea of tacos: L.A. tacos by way of Mexicali and Calexico, as Ochoa is himself. Thus there are classic tacos, but mostly variations on the theme of the French fry: tacos with fries, fries with Mexican chili, fries with mushrooms and aioli, and fries with just ketchup. If you’ve been eating Ochoa’s cooking since he first opened Mexicali, as a street stand on First Street and Beaudry Avenue, it’s a very delicious déjà vu.

 

Guerrilla Tacos — It should surprise no one that Wes Avila has parked his taco truck at Smorgasburg. Guerrilla Tacos, one of the best and most beloved of this town’s taco trucks, fits perfectly into the setting of artisans and craftspeople. On Sunday, Avila was turning out beef and foie gras tacos, his signature sweet potato tacos, ahi tostadas, crab tacos and mushroom quesadillas. And yes, Avila was there, cooking in the back of his truck as he once was cooking with Walter Manzke, Gary Menes and Alain Ducasse. 

 

Maury's Bagels — It is inexplicably difficult to find a good bagel in this town, something that Jason Kaplan’s Maury’s Bagels — Maury is the Gjusta alum’s middle name — is working to change. The bagels are chewy and deeply flavorful; the smoked fish is from Gjusta, Travis Lett’s Venice restaurant. And while we wait for Kaplan to find the storefront he’s currently looking for, now there’s a weekly stall where you can get a bagel (plain, sesame or everything) with the classic lox, onion and tomato, or one with avocado, whitefish or shmear. 

 

Porridge + Puffs — If you too have been in porridge withdrawal ever since Minh Phan closed her wonderful Porridge + Puffs restaurant in Hollywood, you can now find Phan’s bowls of rice and pickles and other glorious ingredients once a week at her new stall (she’s also been doing pop-ups). Sunday’s bowls: scallion porridge with poultry and mushroom, and a vegan bowl of porridge paired with pickles, kumquat jam, fried scallions and a smoked hibiscus pickled egg, plus sugared puffs with jasmine cream. 

 

Rucker’s Pie — Pastry chef Nicole Rucker, previously of Gjusta and now with Cofax, bakes amazing pies. Whole pies, hand pies and the little “babes” she’s now bringing to Smorgasburg. Sunday, the little pies came in apricot-rosemary, strawberry and a combination of Marionberry and Murray berry, while the slices included chocolate chess, lemon chess, blackberry-blood orange and blueberry-lemon. If you haven’t tasted truly excellent pie crust lately, you should probably get more than one. 

 

Ugly Drum Pastrami — The menu is simple — a pastrami-and-rye sandwich, half of a pastrami-and-rye sandwich, hot dogs and papaya slushees — because sometimes simple is best. Ugly Drum was founded four years ago by Joseph Marcos and Erik Black, two restaurant alums of Campanile and Spice Table, and they make stellar small-batch pastrami. Get a slushee and watch as they cut the smokey meat for you; if that doesn’t jump-start your appetite after all those tacos, nothing will.

These are by no means all the terrific vendors that Smorgasburg is bringing to the market. There are plenty more, including Amazebowls, Banh Oui, Carnitas el Momo, Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, Ramen Burger, Sticky Rice and many more. For a full list of vendors and other information, go to the Smorgasburg L.A. website

Smorgasburg L.A., at the Alameda Produce Market, between Alameda Street and Bay Street, downtown Los Angeles; every Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

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