Back in March, I wrote about Mess Hall Market, a new food hall in Tustin. It wasn’t open yet, but I liked the way it was shaping up: a 12,000-square-foot airy industrial space that pays tribute to the property’s military history.
After months of seeing social media posts professing Mess Hall’s any-day-now opening, that day finally came this month. So on two recent evenings, I stopped by for dinner.
Mess Hall is located within the Flight at Tustin Legacy, a currently unoccupied office complex. That makes trips to Mess Hall feel a bit lonely. Everything around it, from the suites to the parking stalls, is empty.
A few dozen people milled, enjoying what will always be this site’s strengths: plenty of sunshine streaming through the tall glass windows and wide-open views of the historic military blimp hangars, mountains and walking trails. And later, sunset views from the outdoor patio.
The scene is a thousand times more peaceful than, say, Anaheim’s Packing House. And, unlike Packing House, Mess Hall has parking and seating galore.
Mess Hall is home to VaKA Burger, Fonda Moderna, The Sandwich Society, Saigon Kitchen, The Little Greek, Slapfish, Big Parm, Fowl Play, The Lost Bean coffee shop and Drink Bar.
Fowl Play’s fryers were among the few things open for business on my first visit, so I tried the Curve Ball appetizer (crispy fried cauliflower bites tossed in buffalo sauce) and the Batter’s Box, which contained fried chicken and a side. I opted for the roasted corn with brown butter and cheese.
I’m glad I did, because it ended being by far the best of my order: a nicely spicy take on the American classic of buttered corn on the cob.
The chicken was solid, plump and juicy, although the skin left a bit more crunch to be desired.
Oddly enough, I couldn’t get a free glass of water with my dinner. I was advised to retrieve a cup by asking for one at the bar, which seemed like a needless foray.
On my second visit, all but one of the stalls was open. (Sandwich Society closes most days at 5 p.m.)
Feeling some Mediterranean, I ordered falafel from The Little Greek, which also has a location in Tustin on Newport Avenue.
Tucked inside the pita were spiced chickpea fritters, chopped tomatoes, pickled onion, a coleslaw and tzatziki sauce. It was a generous portion: three large fritters drenched in tzatziki would make most anyone happy.
And, fortunately for me, The Little Greek offered free cups of water.
I can tell from my visits that Mess Hall Market is still in its opening stages and will need time to find its footing. The dinner hours are quiet. Once all the surrounding office spaces are in business, lunch will be a different story.
But that quiet is a lot of what I like about this place so far: no lines, no battles for a place to park or sit.
I’ll be back in the weeks to come to check out more vendors and hope some of the market’s soft-opening kinks are worked out by the time I return.
IF YOU GO
What: Mess Hall Market
Where: 1705 Flight Way, Tustin
When: Daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.