Is there anything more timeless than a Mexican mercado?
Walk through one and see large burlap bags piled high with wrinkled, shiny chilies as the nutty aroma of nixtamal mingles with tropical fruits. Friendly comedori owners bark at would-be diners, introducing their regional specialties. El Mercadito in East Los Angeles, Plaza Mexico in Lynwood and Alameda Swap Meet are three such stores that have been serving Angelenos for decades. But Northgate González’s new Mercado González in Costa Mesa, opening Nov. 17, has captured the full mercado experience like no one has before, fusing groceries with fine dining through engaging food stands and even a full-service restaurant from two of the most the successful Los Angeles operators.
The new dining destination may be the boldest project yet from the Mexican supermarket chain founded by Don Miguel and Doña Teresa González, which spans 43 markets in four Southern California counties. Mercado Gonzales draws inspiration from Mercado de Coyoacán in Mexico City (CDMX), Centro de Abastos in Guadalajara, and the 129-year-old Mercado Benito Juárez in Oaxaca de Juárez, among others. Project manager Joshua González put together an eye-catching layout of stalls, produce kiosks and other covered indoor market booths that are individually prepared and etched with bright, sunny logos on a pastel background. Muralist Claudio Limon is responsible for the festive, joyful Mexican spirit that permeates the market inside and out.
The advantage of a mercado erected in the modern age—like CDMX’s Mercado Roma—is accessibility. Mercado González has done away with cold, segregated aisles in favor of an open floor plan where pan fusion from the panaderia, hot tortillas from the tortilleria, sweets from the dulceria and large wooden crates filled with dry beans all vie for shoppers’ attention . The aguas frescas stand boasts vintage slogans like “Las Mejores Frutas de La Temporada” (the best seasonal fruit). Walk around and soon enough the urge to snack on anthochitos will lead customers to the comedores. This is where Mercado González stands above all others, featuring a collection of Mexican eateries from Jalisco, CDMX, Sinaloa and even the famous Churreria El Moro.
Local stars Chiva Torta from the Albarran family serve up spicy tortas ahogadas, while Japanese-Peruvian chef Luis Uechi makes popular Mexican-style sushi at Sushi El Sinaloense. The Zenteno family has given its blessing to Rodolfo Zenteno and Jesse Fernandez, sons of the founders of Tacos Los Güichos, to open their own taqueria based on the family’s signature al pastor. Don Miguel, a carnitas spot that pays homage to Northgate founder González; Las Cazuelas guisados; and Mariscos El Pariente, are operated by Mercado González, with menus created from market ingredients. In total, more than 20 puestos offer regional food reflecting the breadth of Mexican culture in the greater Los Angeles area.
For more full-service Mexican cuisine, Maizano and Entre Nos, the new restaurant and bar from Gruppo Apapacho, the restaurateurs behind LA Cha Cha Chá, Loreto and Za Za Za, are accessible through a glass turnstile door located next to the comedores. The table-oriented menu features a modern yet approachable antojito and haute Mexican approach to tlacoyos, mole negro and cochinita pibil, using fresh masa from Tortilleria La González. The 6,000-square-foot restaurant and bar draws from Mexican states such as Puebla, Oaxaca and Yucatan for menu items located in Mercado González.
Since 1980, Northgate González has evolved from a grocery store serving the Latino community in Los Angeles to one catering to waves of immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Mercado González looks to the future as a fresh model that has the potential to enter non-Hispanic neighborhoods, offering the festive romance of the Mexican mercado as entertainment. It’s an escape from the ordinary supermarket. It’s also an exciting innovation for a regional Mexican brand that could make Mercado González a national name.
Gonzales Market opens today at 2300 Harbor Boulevard, Costa Mesa, CA, 92626 with hours of operation from 6am to 11pm daily. The working hours of each of the providers are different.