Food halls are opening in unsuspecting places in L.A. right now. Folks from the actual neighborhoods they serve are behind them (I see you, Blvd Mrkt), andBlossom Market Hall in San Gabriel is the latest. Located on a palm tree-lined street just blocks from pho fave Golden Deli and xiaolongbao legends Hui Tou Xiang NoodlesHouse, Blossom is neatly tucked inside a restored 1949 Masonic lodge just a dumpling’s throw away from the San Gabriel Mission. It’s the vision of the husband and wife team and San Gabriel natives Chris and Nellie Tran. The duo wanted to create a space where everyone in the community could come together and break bread under the same roof.
“People didn’t think a food hall could work in San Gabriel,” said Nellie Tran. “If you go south, you have Valley Boulevard, and there’s a lot of immigrants from Asian and Latino communities. Some don’t even speak English. If you go north, you have Pasadena and South Pasadena. We’re in the middle. People don’t think these communities can come together, but they can, and they have been as we’re starting to see.”
On opening night, I saw this unity happening in a neighborhood I grew up in that doesn’t usually see much meshing. Folks from different cultures—Asian, Latino, Black, and Middle Eastern—came out in droves, excited to see a food hall in their typically low-key community. It was a crowd usually only seen in nearby Pasadena.
“I’m a South San Gabriel native and got married at the mission next door,” says Amanda Moreno Erdogan. “Having this beautiful new space in the neighborhood that celebrates three of my favorite things—food, culture, and community—means the world to me. Tacos, Caribbean jerk chicken, beef galbi, Bahn mi, and acai bowls. What more can you ask for?! It’s an exciting time for the area.”
The Trans were inspired by the Markthal market hall in Rotterdam, Netherlands, which they frequented when they lived abroad for ten years, choosing cities like Copenhagen and Strasbourg, France, where bicycling is the primary mode of transportation. Chris, a bike enthusiast, sits on the board of Active SGV, an organization that puts together a Ciclavia-like event every year in the SGV called Golden Streets. A former research scientist who helped develop two FDA-approved drugs that target advanced prostate cancer and improve patient life expectancy, Chris bikes his son to school every day. Nellie wrote about city development and restaurant openings for a neighborhood blog in San Francisco. Both are passionate about creating spaces that build community and encourage movement.
They hired 42 Architecture to restore the 11,700 square-foot building, which on the outside is reminiscent of a Restoration Hardware with its white facade and black window trims, a nod to embracing the new and preserving the old. Inside, half of the A-frame ceiling is painted with a colorful mural of California wildflowers designed by Nao Miyamoto. The 13-stall food hall features mostly local culinary talent, including AK Fresh Roast, which specializes in a strong cup of Vietnamese and American coffee, and Angel & Mason, a beer, wine, sake, and soju bar.
I had the beef galbi at Smorgasburg resident Manduyo, perfectly seasoned and tender. It comes with a bed of fluffy white rice and crispy green salad evenly dressed with a spicy, tangy vinaigrette. Their signature mandus (Korean dumplings) don’t disappoint and pleasantly appear on their logo.
La Olla Cocina encapsulates the essence of the neighborhood with a menu boasting birria and mariscos. Another husband-wife team, Joei Miu, whose Vietnamese and Chinese American, and Antonio Aguilar, who’s Salvadoran, live in Temple City and met working at her father’s restaurant in Houston. Miu’s father, a refugee from Vietnam, originally opened a Mexican restaurant in Lincoln Heights in the 80s and decided to relocate the family and the restaurant to Texas, where the industry wasn’t as competitive. Miu and Aguilar moved back six years ago after a brief stint in Las Vegas, where they started a dessert business.
“The items on our menu are very close to our hearts,” said Miu, who’s expecting a baby. “They are foods we order whenever we see them.” In addition to tacos and tostadas, she and her husband serve beef birria consomé and passionfruit and guava panna cotta.
When the Trans moved back home to raise their son, they grew frustrated eating out at their favorite hole-in-the-walls, which in the SGV are primarily found in strip malls, and having nowhere to go afterward.
Blossom Market Hall is just the beginning of a Mission district in the midst of change. Across the street from Blossom, there’s construction happening on what Nellie says will be a karaoke bar with private rooms. A new Thai spot opened next door called Dancing Spoons, famous for its Thai green tea. Down the street, Lunas Restaurant is a family-owned Mexican restaurant that has been around since 2007 and serves classic dishes like enchiladas and chile verde with a full bar and big-screen TVs.
“We’d go out to eat with our son, and he’d get a surge of energy,” says Nellie. “He was running in parking lots. We were afraid he was going to get hit by a car. We were like, ‘Why doesn’t this place have a food hall? Let’s do it!”
Blossom Market Hall is just the beginning of a Mission district in the midst of change. Across the street from Blossom, there’s construction happening on what Nellie says will be a karaoke bar with private rooms. A new Thai spot opened next door called Dancing Spoons, famous for its Thai green tea. Down the street, Lunas Restaurant is a family-owned Mexican restaurant that has been around since 2007 and serves classic dishes like enchiladas and chile verde with a full bar and big-screen TVs. Blossom is equipped with a performance stage that saw dragon dancers on opening weekend. Upstairs is a 2,000-square-foot skylit meeting space with Wi-Fi and local artists displayed on the walls.
“I always felt downtown San Gabriel had so much potential, so I’m thrilled we have a place like Blossom,” says Jennifer Lim, who lives two miles away. “I think everyone wants to see the vendors thrive. This place is just the beginning of something bigger in this neighborhood, and I’m excited to see it grow.”
The San Gabriel Mission was set on fire during the summer uprisings of 2020 but unrelated. Missions are contentious as battlegrounds, where natives were killed to make way for colonizers and their belief systems. Blossom, which is situated right next door to the Mission Playhouse, can bridge belief systems and bring people together only the way food can.
Blossom Market Hall 264 S. Mission Drive San Gabriel, CA 91776-1127