Kid Hit Menu Items: Oh goodness, where to start in a century-plus old building densely packed with great food and amazing atmosphere like Grand Central Market. How about pupusas at Sarita’s? Or old school Chinese at China Café. Corleone Pizza? Overflowing tacos at Roast to Go? Ice cream and juices at Tropical Zone, which greets market goers who enter from Hill Street? All of the above? Check out the list of vendors and you’ll see that you CANNOT GO WRONG in finding stuff kids will be psyched to eat. And now there’s Chimú Peruvian Soulfood in the adjacent patio immediately to the south of the market on the Hill Street side, where we couldn’t cut up pieces of pollo a la brasa with sides of slaw and French fries fast enough, and had to get another order of the substantial firm on the outside, silky on the inside fries. The grown ups mostly took care of the relatively mild aji and creamy huancaina sauces. UPDATE: Chimu is now another Local location.
Adult Perks: Few better places in this city provide as entertaining people watching and armchair sociologist playing as Grand Central Market. Neon light enthusiasts and history geeks have every reason to be thrilled, too. As much as I love exciting public spaces that offer responsible and un-obnoxious opportunities for alcohol consumption/adult socializing (Original Farmers Market, Barnsdall Fridays), Grand Central Market isn’t really that kind of place. There’s a liquor store on the premises, but I don’t think many of the vendors offer much in the way of beer, wine or booze. You’ll be able to get not fancy, far from Third Wave cup of coffee somewhere on the premises.
Cons: Teeming crowds and maybe this kind of situation can be overwhelming situation for some. Getting a table requires some hovering, as it does at any marketplace. If you love the Original Farmers Market and places like this, this inconvenience is a very small sacrifice. A lot of the tables at Chimú outside get blasted by direct sun.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Don’t think so, but maybe they’re just very hard to spot among all that tangle of food and people and action.
Parking and Access: Validated parking for 60 minutes in the structure (enter via Hill Street), or surface lots that cost roughly $4-6 in the area.
Other Tidbits: I could write a long, gushy love letter to Grand Central Market. But for expedience sake, I’ll implore those who have never been to just GO there already. Especially if you have kids, because no doubt they will LOVE the sawdust on the floor, the neon lights, the stands, the people, the smells. Set time aside for a bunch of rides on Angels Flight, a walk through the Bradbury Building atrium lobby (no elevator joy rides allowed, sadly), and maybe even peeking into some Broadway movie palaces. We’ve become obsessed with Ross Cutlery, too. Dropping knives off for sharpening and then passing the time by going for some funicular railway riding, eating a meal and a walk Downtown delivers a beautiful high after all that multitasking completion. My alternate suggestion is parking in the bowels of California Plaza up Bunker Hill, eating lunch at Starry Kitchen (where they validate) and riding down to Grand Central Market. Whatever itinerary or spontaneous plan you go with, you’re in for a terrific day. And some damn well frighteningly sharp knives if you pick up your knives at Ross that same day.
317 S. Broadway, Downtown Historic Core
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Daily.