I was called to downtown LA today to serve my jury duty. I was hoping they wouldn't even call me in this week but they did, though I didn't end up actually serving on any jury. That's a relief.
Well we had one and a half hour lunch break. I wasn't sure where I was going to eat until a friend of mine who I was chatting on AIM via my iPhone suggested that I go to the Grand Central Market for lunch. It sounded very intriguing as I really have a thing for these kinds of places where you can buy produce and eat a bunch of different foods from various mom and pop food stands.
Being in downtown LA, the place was dominated by Mexican food stands. Unlike your normal food courts at your suburban malls, Grand Central Market is closer to the markets you would find in Latin America and Asia. There were fresh produce, raw meat and seafood stands and a good choice of Mexican and Asian foods. I really like this atmosphere, so real; so unabashed.
I didn't have enough cash on me so I was looking for stands that would take my credit card. I just don't carry a whole lot of cash on me. It's a force of habit. At first I was a bit scared that none of the places inside would take credit cards being that they are mostly small private operations. But fortunately there were enough choice inside who did. I wasn't going to starve.
I surveyed the market to see what were being served and which are the most popular places. I wasn't surprised to discover that the Mexican stands were the most popular. There were a few Chinese, Japanese and a Middle Eastern stands inside. The Asian eateries looked like the same things that I could get at the food courts at a mall and the Middle Eastern Kabobs just didn't look appetizing. So I opted to try the Mexican stands.
Having been sitting inside a courthouse since 730am, I really wasn't all that hungry. I had a bunch of snacks that kept me going all morning so I really didn't want too much to eat. As I stood in front of a rather busy Mexican stand Roast To Go, I noticed the size of the $2.50 tacos from the women who were standing next to me. There was a very generous portion of meat, so I ordered only one thinking it should fill me up.
I was pretty full after the first taco and really could have just walked away. But I thought to myself that I probably won't be coming back here anytime soon. I like the place but how often am I really going to stop by here. I was contemplating to just buy a fresh apple and eat that, but then the tacos were just too tempting to pass up. So I decided to try a taco from another stand: Ana Maria. It was so cheap that there was no real reason why I shouldn't give it a shot.
This time I ordered a Chicken taco. They ended up giving me two sets of tortilla and a huge portion of meat. They were even more generous than the first one with the meat, but I felt I didn't get quite enough parsley and onion to balance the meat properly. I also opted out of the sause cause I really didn't want any more hot sause. That was not a smart idea. These tacos really need the sauce to give it a little wetness it desperately needed. The meat by themselves being such a big portion is a bit dry on the mouth, and chicken is generally more dry than the beef. But it was still a good taco in the end and I still enjoyed this little treat in the middle of a very boring and wet day.
If I had an office job, this is the kind of lunch I would want to give my day as a little change of pace. It's just a refreshing way to enjoy a little food that's not served inside some fancy expensive restaurant. Sometimes the greatest pleasures in life is just to get a nice bit of food off the side of the street and enjoy it in an atmosphere that's uninhibited, natural and genuine. Feel free to stop by Grand Central Market the next time you happen to be in downtown LA and craving a little bit of food. It may not really be all that grand, and probably not all too centrally located, but the market sure serves up a nice little slice of a different cultural life that you probably won't find all too common around Los Angeles.