LA night markets are essential spots for the city’s pop-up and street vendors. The pandemic led to a surge in the number of street food vendors as many who had lost their jobs turned to alternative sources of income. Arguably, we’re seeing LA’s street food scene at the peak of its power – the most exciting experiments and innovations don’t happen in restaurants with white tablecloths. It takes place on a small grill placed haphazardly on top of a shopping cart, dimly lit by an upgraded neon light.
Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 972, a bill that would help street food sales become legal in California. It’s a long-overdue step in the right direction that has plagued LA’s night markets impromptu raids and closures last year. The city’s night markets alternate between curated spaces featuring tried-and-true pop-up classics and chaotic street markets featuring a dizzying array of foods and goods.
Here are seven that are worth checking out. Protip: cash is king, and not all street vendors are always there, so go with an adventurous spirit and a hungry stomach to see what you find the night you go.
Guatemalan Night Market (Westlake)
Bonnie Brae and 6th Streets
open at night
A fixture on the streets of LA, the Guatemalan Night Market features nightly vendors along Bonnie Brae and 6th Streets. You will find everything from churrasco (grilled meat) to Guatemalan-style chow mein. The Caldo of Pata, a delicious beef soup scooped out of a giant tub, is the perfect warm broth for a cozy evening. But the star of the corridor is Dad with Pollo– Crispy fried chicken and fries smothered in three types of sauces. Several vendors have huge pots of bubbling oil running all night, roasting some of the best chicken you’ll experience in Los Angeles. Bring cash of course.
Thai Night Market (East Hollywood)
99 cent shop parking lot: 5270 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90027
On Monday and Tuesday nights, Thai vendors open the tailgates of their vans and line a strip of Sunset Boulevard to sell everything from wok-fried Pad See Ew and boat noodles to boba tea and Chinese donuts. Some vendors offer large Thai-style crepes, a classic staple of Thai street food. If you start at the edges of the market, you’ll find your dollar skewers and dollar donuts. But make sure you find your way to the center, where you can buy Thai medicine or condensed milk-soaked desserts.
Alameda Night Market (Fashion District)
1123 S Main Street. Los Angeles, CA 90015
Thursday to Sunday
The Alameda Night Market down Main Street is framed by a gorgeous view of the downtown LA skyline. It’s a perfect place to take a family out on a weekend night or for a quick pit stop to start a date night before heading to a bar. As you enter, a DJ belts out loud reggaeton music, but each stall has its own music rig that creates a cacophony of hip-hop and pop hits. Pupusas, Birria de Res, Agua Frescas and Elote can all be found at the Alameda Night Market. The seemingly ubiquitous Birria ramen can be purchased from multiple stands for $12 to $15. If you feel like it, you can also pick up crystals and have your tarot cards read. What’s more LA than birria tacos and some light fortune telling?
El Gato Night Market (Westlake)
941 S Union Ave Los Angeles, CA 90015
Friday to Sunday
El Gato night market is located across from the Curacao building in Pico-Union. A little more extensive than the Alameda night market, El Gato offers everything that Alameda does and then some. Several vendors sell merchandise ranging from Croc gallows and clothing to children’s toys and phone accessories. Unlike Alameda, El Gato places more emphasis on grilling, with some vendors grilling skewers of beef, pork, and squid over charcoal. You’ll also find a few other quirky items here, like Hot Cheeto-crusted California Rolls and dessert pops shaped like…er, genitals.
626 night market
285 Huntington drive. Arcadia, CA
Follow Mama’s Night Market to see when they next show up.
The largest outdoor night market in Southern California, 626 Night Market curates a carnival-like atmosphere. It’s also arguably one of the first – at least the first to blow up and get a lot of well-deserved hype. 626 Night Market, which has its larger location in Arcadia, now offers 626 mini-offshoots in Santa Monica and San Diego. With dozens of vendors, 626 emphasizes Asian cuisine, although you can find just about anything here. Pasta, dumplings, lobster, oysters, sushi and more are on offer. Some Asian desserts, from Hong Kong-style egg waffles to Hello Kitty macarons, are hard to find elsewhere. It’s a great place to take the family as the market includes carnival games and activities. Go during the golden hour when the setting sun dapples the San Gabriel Mountains and paints the entire market in hues of purple and orange. 626 only comes out every two months, so check her Instagram for details.
Mama’s Night Market (Art District)
The Berrics, 2535 E 12th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Follow Mama’s Night Market to see when they next show up.
One of the newest entrants to the night market game, Mama’s Night Market features “the best of LA’s Asian and Hispanic street food.” You can find ban me and panzit Next concha negras, and baleadas. Part food festival, part dance party, Mama’s is a curated event that requires a ticket to enter. A karaoke booth and an arcade are among the alternative activities. Mama’s is the only night market in LA that is 21+ and allows them to sell alcohol on premises. Leave the kids at home and come eat and celebrate.
Wilmington Night Market
Figueroa Street and Pacific Coast Highway, Wilmington
Wednesday to Sunday
This relatively new night market in LA’s South Bay has only been open for a few months, but it’s hugely popular, attracting vendors from all walks of life to join in the street food action. From “sandias locas” (whole watermelons cut out and served with enough chamoy to feed a small family) to birria and Korean BBQ, this night market offers a diverse gastronomic offering. It also deserves credit for its ample parking, as it takes place on the curb around a parking lot next to a subway station that’s empty in the evenings. You’ll also find “mini pancakes,” carnitas, tacos de canasta, and funnel cakes. Note: There are two shifts of providers, some only in the afternoon and others from 18:00. – Javier Cabral
26 Avenue Night Market (Whittier)
11003 Sports Arena Drive. Whittier, CA 90601
Saturdays 5:00 p.m. to midnight
Avenue 26 Family Night Market is arguably the Latino night market that started it all in Los Angeles. Since moving from Lincoln Heights, the famous 26 Avenue Family Night Market has now taken root at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena and is livelier than ever. Over 50 street vendors gather each weekend to sell food and merchandise and offer a unique experience. You can also find succulent carnitas, Al Pastor tacos, pupusas, birria, hot dogs, ceviche, and a variety of sweet dishes. The market is family friendly and free to the public. They’re guaranteed to have a good time, they have live DJs to set the mood, clown performances for the kids, and special events like Chicano Comedy Night and more. Don’t forget that as a LA TACO member you can also redeem your free groceries at the information desk.
Support our local partners