Gallery: Los Angeles: Tacos, Quesadillas, and More at Downtown's Mercado Olympic

Along Olympic and Central
Along Olympic and Central

From the intersection of Olympic and Central, looking east, you can already see the colorful stalls and stands that line the sidewalk. All under the sunny gaze of the downtown L.A. skyline.

Open-air vendors
Open-air vendors

The existing storefronts along the street also roll up their doors, selling bulk candies, little trinkets, and piƱatas in bulk. Seriously, this is where to go when you need to throw a party for a thousand of your closest 9-year-old friends.

Tight walking
Tight walking

Space can be tight under the tarps, with toys to the right and bags of dried chiles and corn husks to the left.

More chiles
More chiles

Chiles de arbol, chipotles, poblanos, and more lay open in large crates, waiting to be weighed and taken home.

Cooking at the Mercado
Cooking at the Mercado

Finally, the food. Mulitas, quesadillas, fried plantains, grilled cactus, and that L.A. staple, hotdogs wrapped in bacon, lay ready and waiting to be eaten.

Lots of corn
Lots of corn

Another staple is the elote, a grilled corn cob served on a stick with salt, chile powder, butter and mayonnaise. The boiled and seasoned kernels on the right can also be topped with a variety of ingredients, and are known as esquites.

Chicharron and Chorizo
Chicharron and Chorizo

This vendor pulls thin, crispy sides of pork skin from his bubbling cazo of hot oil. The skin is sold in large, salty sheets as a walking around snack, while the hanging chorizo is for taking home and enjoying later.

Fried Pescado
Fried Pescado

Here, thin strips of tilapia are fried into warm, crispy-yet-tender fish sticks. Top 'em with a squirt of lemon and some Tapatio, but be sure to give them a minute to cool off first.

Carnitas vendors at work
Carnitas vendors at work

Carnitas is big business in Los Angeles, and the hard-selling vendors at Mercado Olympic certainly know how to cook a pig. They also know how to have a little fun.

Pork close-up
Pork close-up

Carnitas perfection at work.

Tacos Al Pastor
Tacos Al Pastor

There are tacos, of course. Lots of them, including this al pastor taco that is shaved directly from the spit, right in the middle of the Mercado Olympic.

Blue Corn Quesadillas
Blue Corn Quesadillas

Hand-patted quesadillas are also common, although the blue corn variety is less so. Most quesadillas are customizable; chorizo is a popular choice but squash blossom flowers also work well with the thick, fresh tortillas and melty Mexican cheese.

Huitlacoche
Huitlacoche

Huitlacoche, the funky Mexican corn smut that tastes a bit like truffles, is also a popular quesadilla offering.

A vat of Churros
A vat of Churros

Of course, what trip to the Mercado Olympic would be complete without a freshly fried churro? Mixed on site and handled with some serious expertise, these churros are squiggly and delicious, warm and light on the inside with a heap of cinnamon pressed onto the crisp exterior. It's a fantastic way to end a food crawl through the stalls of the Mercado Olympic.