6 must-try dishes at San Gabriel’s new food hall

Quesabirria from La Olla at Blossom Market Hall in San Gabriel.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)
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The Omicron variant surges through Los Angeles and beyond; there’s no federal aid in sight for restaurants facing staffing shortages and temporary (if not permanent) closures as employees test positive for infections; and restaurant operators face these circumstances in what is traditionally the year’s quietest month for dining out: Welcome to the first full week of January 2022.

Taking in the gleam of the month-old Blossom Market Hall in San Gabriel’s Mission District is a cheering reminder that, even in a bleak reality, resolute chefs and operators are making hopeful fresh starts.

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Chris and Nellie Tran, the married couple behind the project, have been working for over three years to open the food hall. Located in a former Masonic lodge building, the space is a calming synthesis of mixed woods, white surfaces and murals of florals in billowing shapes across the vaulted ceiling. A dozen vendors anchor the opening lineup, including several drink specialists: AK Fresh Roast (go for the pandan iced coffee), Circle Tea Bar (hello, brown sugar boba) and Angel & Mason, a wine-and-beer bar with options from local breweries on tap.

With a couple of visits under my belt, here are six early standout dishes I recommend you zero in on. Every vendor asks if you’re eating in or taking it to go; there’s a small side patio for outdoor dining that often fills quickly during prime lunch hours.

Oxtail stew plate and vegan curry with roti at Caribbean Gourmet

Yonette Alleyne — who focuses on dishes from her native Guyana, a country on South America’s northern coast with close cultural ties to the Caribbean — is the chef to whom I beelined in the market. I’ve been a fan since trying her cooking via pop-ups and farmers markets appearances last year, and at her first fixed location, I taste the same rewarding results of slow-simmering and deft spicing. I will always choose her oxtails, the meat caramelized and melting, the hint of allspice mingling with the coconut milk in which the rice underneath has been cooked. Plantains alongside match the oxtails in their amber depths; a patch of chopped cabbage is equal parts crunchy and silky. It’s an uplifting, filling combination.

On the opposite end of the food chain: Alleyne follows a plant-based diet, and her vegan curry combines carrots, peppers, squash and other vegetables in a gently spiced coconut milk broth. Thyme flecks a heap of chickpeas, and the roti pulls easily apart in soft, ragged shreds. Among the vegan options I’ve tried thus far in the market, this is easily the finest.

Oxtail stew in a takeout container
Oxtail stew plate from Caribbean Gourmet inside Blossom Market Hall.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Jian bing at Café Et Cetera

Jessica Wu found an audience for her crepes at 626 Night Market and other events; here she expands her menu with burgers, as well as sweet and savory crepes (chicken salad, strawberry cheesecake, the variations with Nutella that the genre practically demands). The gem by far, though, is Wu’s jian bing — her take on the street-stand breakfast staple ubiquitous in urban centers all over China. Beaten egg fuses with a crepe; crackers made from fried won ton wrappers and halved pieces of hot dog poke out; flavors of soy sauce and chile oil zigzag through every other bite. Try it with bacon, a variation popular in Shanghai.

Quesabirria at La Olla

Sinaloa-style shrimp ceviche, flecked with onions and jalapeños, is an early signature for Joei Miu and Antonio Aguilar as they solidify their roster of Mexican dishes. In cooler weather, I’m feeling warmed by their version of quesabirria — the Instagram-fueled sensation encompassing a tortilla stained red-orange by beef consommé, filled with Tijuana-style birria de res, sealed with shredded mozzarella and crisped on the griddle. If this is your full meal, order at least two and eat them quickly to savor them at their crispest, meatiest and meltiest.

Blossom Market Hall interior
Inside Blossom Market Hall in San Gabriel.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Miso collard greens at Burnt Belly

Immediately the longest line trailing through the market is for Kyu Yi’s barbecue, which often sells out by early afternoon. I watched diner after diner order the three-meat plate, choosing a half-chicken, sliced smoked brisket and pork belly “burnt ends.” Whatever you choose, include a side of collard greens. Yi pounds the greens with umami, simmering them in dashi, doenjang and shards of brisket. For a novel spin, he throws in farro; the grain adds chew without pulling too much focus, but appealingly it almost pushes the dish into a near-complete meal on its own.

A takeout container with barbecued chicken, collard greens and macaroni and cheese.
The three-meat plate from Burnt Belly at Blossom Market Hall in San Gabriel.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Tteokgalbi with cheese and kimchi at Manduyo

Here’s a vision of comfort food: delicate, near-collapsing meat patties (a variation of Korea’s traditional beef tteokgalbi blended here with pork) over white rice with overlays of kimchi and a veneer of cheese, and a fried egg just barely oozing its yolk to complete the picture. Pair it with a bottle of soju from Angel & Mason’s bar steps away. For now, Martin and Jenny Kim sell their namesake mandu — beautifully knotted dumplings filled with beef bulgogi or spicy pork bulgogi — on Fridays and Saturdays only. I didn’t have a chance to try them yet; they’re reason enough to return to Blossom Market Hall before the month is over.

Blossom Market Hall: 264 S. Mission Drive, San Gabriel,


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Stephanie Breijo and I published stories in tandem this week about Horses, the 4-month-old restaurant that breathes life back into the Hollywood space that originally housed the storied 1930s-era pub Ye Coach & Horses. To summarize my review in three words: I dig it. Stephanie writes about the ensemble of chefs bringing the restaurant to life night after night: “To watch the chefs work alongside one another simultaneously is a sight: Elbows and spoons and spatchcocked Cornish hens in one another’s orbit within a kitchen of roughly 400 square feet. And for them to execute it five nights a week to the restaurant’s three packed dining rooms is a ballet.”

Stephanie also has the details on Mother Wolf, Evan Funke’s new ode to Roman cuisine, and other news of the week.

After his two Beverly Hills restaurants closed in 2020 due to the pandemic, José Andrés is returning to Los Angeles with three downtown restaurants in the works. Jenn Harris has the story.

Gustavo Arellano has a column about taco phenom El Ruso and the vital presence of street vendors in Los Angeles.

For dry January, Jenn and Stephanie visit new Silver Lake store Soft Spirits to weigh in on 14 different nonalcoholic beer, wine and spirits.


And, in the spirit of healthy imbibing, Daniel Hernandez makes the case for his spicy jugo verde, recipe included.

 Cornish game hen from Horses
Cornish game hen at Horses in Hollywood.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)