Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Yet Another Reason to Head to DTSA

4th Street Market
201 E. 4th St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701

It seems like the latest food trend is the neighborhood dining hall. There are a number that have sprouted up recently in OC. I feel ashamed as a food blogger that we have not gone to the Anaheim Packing District yet, and I do not feel that we have explored the OC Mix at SOCO nearly enough. Our list of restaurants to hit up is dotted with many places at that center. There's also the Union Market in Tustin, which we have walked through recently, which has great potential, but there's not nearly enough places open there yet, and not sure they will be opening anytime soon. So to get some of my food cred back, we made a date with our good friends to explore the newly opened 4th Street Market in Santa Ana.

If you haven't made it to Downtown Santa Ana in a long while, you're really missing out. This area probably has the greatest concentration of our favorite restaurants that I can think of off the top of my head. We have had so many great restaurant memories made here, like C4 Deli, Chapter One, Lola Gaspar, The Crosby, and Mil Jugos. We also have some memories in the making when we eventually visit Playground, the North Left, and Pop's Cafe. This night though, was all about 4th Street Market.

Opened almost two months ago, the buzz for this culinary wonderland keeps growing. Every time I see someone on Twitter post that they are there, or I check out my Instagram feed, seeing some of the great food being served at the 4th Street Market, I get a little pang of jealousy that I am not the one enjoying that food. Located at the corner of 4th Street and Bush, this used to be home to the Santa Ana Swap Meet, but now it's home to 15 retailers, a demonstration kitchen, a community market, a European style butcher shop, and everyone's favorite coffee purveyor, Portola Coffee, which has a very prominent spot in the front of the market.

We arrived here at 6pm on a Wednesday night. The market definitely has a vibrancy about it. Kind of a hip feel to it, without being too hipster. While we were waiting for our friends to arrive, we browsed through the Honor Roll Market. They had some locally grown produce, hot sauces, spices, and some handmade soaps that caught our attention. There's also Dough Exchange, which is hawking baked goods, from the guys behind Playground. At this late hour, the case was kind of barren, but from what we saw, it looked promising.

Our friends finally arrived, and we made a lap around the market, making notes on what we wanted to consume. There were five of us, so we decided to use the divide and conquer technique. We set up shop in one of the seating alcoves, and everyone spread out to order what they wanted. Kind of a little overwhelming, but we all decided to share what everyone brought back to the table. Let's take a look at our selections on this evening.

When we made our first lap around the market, we ran into a familiar face, Danny Godeninez, who is part owner of Ink Waffles, and of course the famous Anepalco's. Every time we see him, he's willing to take the time to talk food with us, and his passion for business is inspiring. For his latest venture he's teamed up with Jaritza Gonzalez to introduce their version of a waffle sandwich. Not just a Bruxie knock off, these sandwiches are larger, and really go for it with innovative varieties, including this Waffle Laki ($9.50). This sandwich was filled with a very well done lamb, lettuce, tomatoes, french fries, and tzatziki sauce. I loved the lamb here, but the waffle was so overloaded that it was kind of a mess to eat. It didn't really hold its sandwich shape for too long. Still really good, and we look forward to trying some of their other six sandwich offerings on our next visit.

One of my favorite booths of the night was Stockyard Sandwich Company. Owner Phil Burden, formerly of The Grilled Cheese Spot, had us oohing and ahhing when we tried both versions of his Naughty Totties ($8) . They have two versions of what they call this, "poutine-ish" item, pork and beef. A little hard to photograph in the container it came in, you need to do yourself a favor and try these tater tots that are topped with carnitas or short rib, a fried egg, cheese, and country gravy. Not sure which version I liked better, but I'm going to love to do another taste test soon. The Westside Cheese Lurker ($10) is also worth getting. This sandwich came with braised short rib, bacon, grilled onion, barbecue sauce, chipotle aioli, pepper jack cheese, and jalapeno. As you might expect, big time flavor on this one. It was served with house made potato chips. A real winner on this night.

I never had the pleasure of eating at Civic before they closed up, but if Joe Melendez's new venture, Mar is any indication, I really missed out. We picked two items from this seafood focused menu. Their Ceviche of the Day ($8) happened to be a Mahi Mahi in a mango habanero salsa on this evening. The fish was fresh, but a little too much liquid in this serving. I also would have liked a little more spice. This was more on the sweet side, with just a little note of spice on the back end of each bite. Katie could not stop raving about the Poke ($10) here. She of course loved the cubes of rich ahi tuna accented with garlic, ginger, green onions, sesame seeds, and topped with avocado, but she was also enamored with the zucchini carrot noodles this was served on top of. She loved this option, and would get this again in a heartbeat.

I'm not really into food trucks, because I'm not into hunting down my food when I'm hungry. One truck I had always heard good things about though was Dos Chino's. Lucky for us food truck snobs, there's no need to hunt them down now since they will be at 4th Street Market permanently. Katie wanted to give their Latin/Asian mashup a try, so she had their Vietnamese Roasted Pork Tacos ($7 for two). These tacos brought these two food cultures together wonderfully. Inside the corn tortilla is a five spice roasted pork belly, pickled carrots, daikon, and jalapenos, and then a touch of green salsa. The result was a wonderful fusion taco that will have us exploring more of their menu next time.

I've had some real good experiences with fried chicken recently. It all started when I went to Disneyland and had their version at the Plaza Inn. It continued when I went to my buddies house, and he treated us to his version of this southern classic dish. This Fried Chicken Combo ($10) completed the trifecta of great fried chicken. This fried chicken was delicious, and had a sweet sauce that did not overpower, and let the chicken shine. It was moist, without being greasy. Very impressive. This combo was also rounded out by a unique Chipotle Potato Salad and a slice of Skillet Cornbread. Both were pretty tasty, but didn't distract us too long from finishing the fried chicken.

Also from the boys at Playground is this hamburger concept, Wagyu Chuck. I've heard great things about the off the menu burger at Playground, and if it's the same as this one, those raves are well deserved. I'd describe this Double Burger ($9) as being a very clean and simple burger. Kind of like In-N-Out, but higher quality ingredients and better flavor. The bun was really good here, with a nice toasted touch to it. We all were a fan of the Fried Baked Potatoes ($2) as well. These kind of tasted like they would fit right in at the OC Fair, but were not as greasy, and with a very nice crunch to them. A very impressive side item for the burgers here.

By this time of the night, I can admit that I was pretty much done, but I knew that other people in our group wanted to try dessert. There are a number of options for dessert at 4th Street Market; like Front Porch Pops, Torch S'More Company, and the place we eventually ended up, Chunk-N-Chip. Ice cream cookie sandwiches seem to be a hot trend right now, and these were solid, even though I was already pretty stuffed. They make all of their cookies here, and the ice cream is also made by them. They had some very interesting flavors, and were very generous with the samples. I settled on a Half Sandwich, which was a dark chocolate chip cookie with banana ice cream on top of it. Rebekah had a scoop of peach ice cream sandwiched between two macadamia nut with white chocolate and pineapple cookies. She was in total bliss having this, which made up for the fact that she was going home with our friend Angel. Not the easiest pill to swallow. Anyways, this was a great end to our night at 4th Street Market.

When I saw my good friend Angel again the next week at our regular poker game, we both remarked that we did not think there was anything that we had on this night that we would not want to have again. Everything really impressed us, and we look forward to coming back again soon to try more. I'm not guaranteeing that you will like everything that you encounter at 4th Street Market, but you will definitely find something you will be telling your friends that they must try when coming here. I'm just glad that for a few hours at least, I felt like one of those hip, food bloggers while eating at 4th Street Market. Well worth the trip just for that.

For more information about 4th Street Market, head over to their website here: http://4thstreetmarket.com/

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