Kid Hit Menu Items: One of the best things about Mercado La Paloma is the sheer variety and quality. So even if one kid loves Mo-Chica’s rich seco de cordero with sides of ceviche and creamy papa a la huancaina, while another wants burgers and fries, all these needs can be met under one politically progressive, community minded roof. And the agua fresca choices are abundant.
Adult Perks: Mercado La Paloma was a trailblazing force, using food to do good before our current locavore/high-consciousness era took hold. Spending money at M.L.P. supports grassroots businesses and a community development corporation that’s built affordable housing, and created innovative micro-entrepreneurialism in L.A. Oh, and there’s delicious food there, too!
Turn right, and there’s Mo-Chica.
Pros: It’s all about the tasty treats with the good politics at Mercado La Paloma, which also functions as a family-friendly neighborhood gathering center so there’s a PLAY AREA right in the middle. The location is close to the 110, and it’s a terrific option after an Exposition Park excursion.
Cons: Despite freeway proximity, its somewhat off-the-beaten-track location in an industrial area behind the DMV might be off-putting to some. But hey, USC students and bourgie urban bohemians: there’s now an upscale gastropub up the street!A few Mo-Chica specialities.
Changing Station: Yes
High Chairs: Yes, though finding them might require a bit of scavenging.
Parking and Access: Big surface parking lot right next to the marketplace, which also has a lovely veranda.
Other Tidbits: While Mercado La Paloma houses a great selection of food businesses, let’s face it: the two main attractions are the outstanding Chichen Itza and Mo-Chica. Let’s focus on the latter. While I’ve eaten my fair share of Chichen Itza’s chicken tacos during grad school and I liked their brief-lived outpost near Lafayette Park, it’s Mo-Chica that gets me down to south Grand Avenue. The fact that chef/owner Ricardo Zarate chose Mercado La Paloma as the location for his haute Peruvian restaurant makes me respect him even more. But the admiration really comes from the food, which includes astonishing rotating daily ceviches, an artful lomo saltado with a stack of chunky starchy fries and kid will love, plus specialty drinks such as chicha morada (purple corn juice). Where else can you savor an expertly crafted, beautiful serving of oxtail risotto while your kids romp in the play area a few feet away? (Adult supervision still required!) The ladies of Mo-Chica are total darlings and so sweet to kids. Zarate fans — especially those on the Westside — eagerly await what’s in store when he opens Anticucho Picca on Pico near Beverwil above the Test Kitchen’s digs.
UPDATE: Mo-Chica has left the building, sadly, but Chef Zarate has moved onto other wonderful things.Send the kids over here.
MERCADO LA PALOMA (Chichen Itza,
3655 S. Grand Ave., South Downtown
Cuisine: Peruvian, Mexican, Thai, American
Hours: Individual business hours vary within Mercado La Paloma; Mo-Chica is open Monday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m, 6 – 8 p.m.; Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., 6 – 9:45 p.m.