As a frequent out of town guest of Grand Central Market, I try to find a new spot to eat every time I visit. Top Chef’s Ilan Hall’s vegan ramen joint was the perfect spot for me this trip. The site of several patrons sitting at the counter hunched over a large bowl of curled noodles in a delicious steamy broth with chopsticks in hand drew me in. Ramen Hood usually has a decent sized line that moves somewhat quickly. You basically order your bowl and do your best to find a seat at the counter or one of the surrounding tables in the market. Menu choices are various ramen bowls, some sides and some add-on’s for your ramen (vegan egg, bean sprouts, oysters, mushrooms, etc). They also have a combo special that includes ramen, a side and a drink.
I eat anything spicy and went for the Spicy Ramen. They have a variety of small plates to choose from for a side and I chose the avocado toast (a new thing I’m really into) for mine. The Spicy Ramen isn’t super spicy but they have plenty of ingredients on the counter that you can add more spice to it. The broth is very rich and milky because it’s made from sunflower seeds that are roasted and pressure cooked to obtain its natural oils. They also simmer kelp, white miso, onions and mushrooms in the broth. My Ramen bowl was fantastic and full of all types of flavor. The egg that is added in is vegan. The avocado toast was a pleasant surprise. It was one of the best avocado toast I have ever had (and I made my own creations at home). I’m not vegan and was really surprised how flavorful and filling everything was. I also enjoyed sitting at a counter and watching the kitchen staff work their magic. This was a really nice visit to the Market and Ramen Hood. I’m looking forward to a future visit.
Patsy D’Amore was the first to bring pizza to L.A. at the Casa D’Amore restaurant in 1938 after making pizzas in New York and Boston. Patsy moved his oven from the outpost he had on Catalina Island to Los Angeles and opened up the first pizza stand at the Original Farmers Market in 1949. His famous Villa Capri restaurant was a regular hangout of the Rat Pack in the 50’s. His daughter now keeps the family legacy going with this location at the Farmers Market. They make New York style pizzas and the lasagna and calzones are made up fresh daily. Amore means “heart” in Spanish and these guys love to say they make their pizza from the heart. In typical New York fashion, I grabbed a slice to go after a full day of sampling at the Market. The pizza wasn’t bad. Not much different from what you grab to go on some corner in Manhattan. I think what the draw for me was their long history with Hollywood. I’ll give their full menu a shot another day.
¡Lotería! Grill first opened in the LA Farmers Market by Jimmy Shaw in 2002. Now there are five locations across LA. Jimmy wanted to put true Mexican food on a plate after seeing so many Americanized versions of it all over Cali. Lotería is a type of bingo game in Mexico that uses game cards with images that represent Mexico. Many of these images are posted all over their restaurant. I read a guide of best foods to try at the Market and their popular nachos made the list. Some of their other favorites include the Chicharrón de Queso (pork dish), the tacos and their signature Guisos (slow-cooked stews). They also have a full breakfast menu for the early risers. Even though I was just sampling today, this mini nacho plate packed a punch. It consisted of corn tortilla chips, black beans, Pico de Gallo, jack cheese, tomatillo Salsa, onion and cilantro. I love nachos that just ooze with cheese and this one didn’t disappoint. The staff was great and it was fun to sit behind the counter and watch them passionately cook up some great food. I hope to grab a full meal next time around.