How does a business that's more than 100 years old wind up as one of America's best new restaurants of the year? It takes more than simply recruiting a slew of trendy new concepts. It takes a careful balancing of a choice selection of new stands with the best of the old. That's the trick that the Grand Central Market has pulled off. And stay tuned, more is coming. Here are a few favorites.
Eggslut: Honestly, I would like this place a lot better if I got more of a chance to eat there. But when the line to order is always at least a dozen people deep, I have to pick my spots. Alvin Cailan has built a monster fueled largely, but not exclusively, on egg dishes. Granted, though the Fairfax sandwich may be hard to beat (scrambled eggs with chives, cheddar, caramelized onions and Sriracha), the cheeseburger has a cult following of its own. The simply named Slut is simply perfect: a poached egg on top of an unctuous, buttery potato purée, served in a jar. No wonder it's so crowded. www.eggslut.com
Tacos Tumbras a Tomas: This has been my go-to taco stand downtown for more than 20 years, and it has never let me down. Order a couple of tacos and you'll get four corn tortillas and a mountain of salsa-laced meat. The carnitas, of course, are very good, but so is the carne asada, lengua and even the chicken. And on some blustery winter day, try the tacos de trompas: gelatinous, richly flavored braised pig's snouts.
Sticky Rice: Take a seat at the counter. Watch as a cook hacks a green papaya into shreds and then pounds it in a mortar and pestle to make salad. Taste the amazingly beefy, tender Crying Tiger, dipping it in the spicy sauce and sopping up anything left with a clump of sticky rice. If this does not make you happy, what possibly can? Or maybe you'd prefer the gai yang grilled chicken? Or the creamy Hainan chicken or Panang curry? The menu is small, but each dish is a gem.
DTLA Cheese: While the Grand Central Market has been remarkably revitalized of late, most of the new offerings are more in the model of a food court rather than a true market. DTLA Cheese, opened by Lydia and Marnie Clarke, who also run the Cheese Cave in Claremont, and chef Reed Herrick is an exception. True, they do offer terrific sandwiches and salads (the farro salad is especially good), but the real starring attraction is the tightly edited selection of artisanal cheeses in their case. Because sometimes you just need to pick up a wedge of Ossau Iraty on your way home. www.dtlacheese.com
Belcampo Meat Co.: You can appreciate this place for its role in rethinking the American meat system — it's the first fully vertically integrated butcher shop/restaurant in the country — or you can love it simply because its hamburger is everything that a hamburger ought to be. Or maybe you prefer the cemita made with a disk of fried pork head meat, or one of the rotating specials. And if you've got a big dinner party coming up and are feeling a little splurge-y, by all means do try the meat. It is extraordinary. www.belcampomeatco.com
Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 624-2378, www.grandcentralmarket.com