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Grand Central Market serves up a trend: Food halls

The interior of Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, taken September 2014.
The interior of Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, taken September 2014.
/Flickr user Neon Tommy (Creative Commons)

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Grand Central Market turns 100 this year, and for decades it was a place where generations of families could grocery shop.

But more recently, it was reborn as a massive foodie destination.

Tourists and L.A. natives might slurp vegan ramen at Ramen Hood, enjoy some churros con leche ice cream from McConnell's or wait 30 minutes (or more!) for an egg sandwich at Eggslut.

And the success of GCM spawned its own trend in Southern California: the rise and popularity of food halls.

"There is so much speculation in the real estate market now," says Farley Elliott from Eater LA. "Any space that is of a certain square footage where people think they can break it down and piecemeal it up is being considered for a food hall."

They're a little different from food courts since the latter tends to have chains and franchises as their main tenants.

But a food hall is where local restaurants and chefs can try out different concepts under one roof.

GCM's recent iteration started when the food truck Eggslut came in to set up a permanent stall and just sell egg sandwiches.

"It's a hard endeavor: the truck backs down, you've got to move it somewhere for a particular amount of time, you have to drive to your locations," says Elliott. "It's a big, big suck of your energy, money and time."

A stall at GCM, however, meant that the rent would be cheaper than the owners opening up their own restaurant. Plus they could rely on the high volume of foot traffic in downtown.

They also tapped into the way Americans like to eat.

"More and more people are embracing this style of dining: fast-casual with lower price points," says Elliott.

Eggslut's popularity drew other vendors like it over the years, and the cumulative success of the entire space has spawned imitators across SoCal.

"It's a trend that is catching on more and more simply because you have rising rents in Los Angeles," he says.

Elliott frequently writes about what's on the horizon, and notes that two food halls are scheduled to open up in downtown LA within a year.

Edin Park in Beverly Grove is scheduled to debut in a few months with two stories and 31 different stalls.

The Beverly Center will also be opening up a food hall on top of the building once renovations are complete.

And Orange County has its own mix of food halls throughout the area.

Listen to the full interview by clicking the audio player above.