While traditional restaurant concepts struggle with changing wage scales and consumer attitudes, many chefs and restaurateurs are looking to fast casual concepts to get accessibly priced, high quality eats onto customers’ plates. Nowhere is this more apparent in the ongoing explosion of high-profile food halls all around Los Angeles. These are spaces where multiple fast-casual restaurants - many of them scaled-down versions of existing L.A. favorites - operate around a central dining space, allowing consumers to pick and choose a variety of great food options for a single meal. The transformation of the food court/food hall from convenience to destination has just begun.
There is no list of food halls in Los Angeles without Grand Central Market at the top. In continuous operation since 1917, this 30,000 square-foot space in DTLA contains some of the best known and loved food vendors in town. One of the original Downtown L.A. revitalization projects initiated by developers Ira and Adele Yellin in 1984, GCM’s ever growing popularity has set the tone for a boom of similar venues. Popular establishments such as Eggslut and Press Brothers got their brick-and-mortar starts here, and the floor also boasts outposts of L.A. mainstays such as Wexler’s Deli. From papusas to ramen to carnitas to quality raw oysters, not to mention fresh produce and fixings to make mole, there is truly no way to leave here empty handed or with an empty stomach. It’s a favorite stop for locals and tourists, so early arrival is recommended, particularly on weekends.
317 S Broadway, Los Angeles 90013
TASTE Food Hall at the FIGat7th outdoor shopping center is an excellent example of the chef-driven fast casual game. Among standard mall food court fronts like Five Guys and Starbucks are L.A. originals such as Loteria Grill (pro-tip: killer happy hour), Pazzo Gelato, and Ohana Poke, along with revamped-for-the-mall concepts from K-town’s upscale Park’s BBQ and New Moon contemporary Chinese. This space was created not just to feed ravenous shoppers with the bare minimum of nourishment (food court); it is a food hall, a place of novel ideas and a destination in itself.
735 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles 90017
One of the newest to join the food hall tribe is the relatively cozy Corporation Food Hall on Spring Street in Downtown L.A. Do not be fooled by the size, though, the food is a big deal. This is a prime example of a food hall’s highest function: bringing together the best offerings from the wider region in one place. Eager to try the notorious Mac Daddy Burger (yes, the “buns” are made of deep fried mac and cheese) or BMC Fries topped with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos from Pig Pen Delicacy but can’t make the trip to Long Beach or Irvine? Here you go. Same with the “inauthentic” Mexican-style creations of Tacos Tu Madre and the clean Mediterranean fare of Soom Soom. The selection is tight but great, and the exposed brick walls and wood high-tops are eminently photograph friendly.
724 S Spring St, Los Angeles 90014
Taking place every Sunday at the five-acre Alameda Produce Market inside ROW DTLA, Smorgasburg LA features dozens of food stalls, special pop-ups, and a wide range of lifestyle vendors. New additions to the rotating food roster include Baohaus, Big Mozz, Burritos La Palma, Daddy's Chicken Shack, Gentaro Soba, Golden Clouds, Hearth & Olive, Mideast Tacos, and Sweet N Hollow. Every third Sunday of the month, Beat Swap Meet presents the Smorgasburg LA Record Fair + Vintage Market, featuring 10,000 curated vintage vinyl from every genre plus t-shirts, cassettes and CDs. And there's even two hours of free parking!
785 Bay St, Los Angeles 90021
This 213,000 square-foot commercial complex on the corner of Western Avenue and West 5th Street in Koreatown is the long-awaited mix of retail and fast-casual dining known variously as Gaju Market and California Market. On the ground floor is the massive Korean grocery store with an ample selection of produce and Asian specialty products, but the real cherry is the rooftop food court. Opened in 2017, Square Mixx offers a range of Korea’s favorite fast-casual brands into one space - many available for the first time in the U.S. There are Chinese, Thai, and Japanese style noodles and small plates, hot stone bibimbap and vegetable kimbap, massive plates of donkatsu (pork cutlets), and the unforgettable purple sweet potato confections of Cafe Bora. More retail and food storefronts open monthly, so bring some friends to team-eat with and enjoy the K-pop in the hall or the sun in the outdoor space.
450 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles 90020
6333 W.3rd St. Los Angeles 90036
For years, Aviation Boulevard near LAX was home to a staid neighborhood joint decorated with vintage planes. As of 2017, The Proud Bird re-opened as a 300-seat, six-kitchen dining hall offering a mix of “Asian, Italian, BBQ, Burgers and American cuisines.” Notably, Compton’s beloved Bludso’s BBQ has started its second life here, serving the Texas-style fare that made the original storefront an L.A. institution. For those who need a little relaxer before heading to the airport, the Mile High Club Bar and Lounge offers happy hour every day from 4-8pm. The service is fast-casual and items are priced a la carte, but every Sunday offers a $30 unlimited option where diners serve themselves, cafeteria style. The update includes complimentary tours of the original collection of aircraft memorabilia that still festoon the property.
11022 Aviation Blvd, Los Angeles 90045