4th Street Market: Unique Cuisine in a Vibrant Setting
by Susan Montgomery
A hot new culinary trend in California (and all over the country for that matter) is food halls. These establishments typically include a variety of different food and drink vendors offering their products in one expansive location. One of the most enticing venues I’ve visited is the 4th Street Market in Santa Ana, located in the East End District. (Santa Ana is located in southern California’s Orange County, about ten miles from the coast.) I loved this food hall for its tantalizing variety of culinary options, its welcoming ambiance, and its bustling outdoor patio rocking with live music on the Sunday we visited.
4th Street Market houses 15 vendors who offer their tasty wares in more than 30,000 square feet of space in an inviting, casual warehouse setting. Cooking classes and community events are also held in this space.
4th Street Market is particularly unique because it includes the innovative East End Incubator Kitchens, which are spaces that can be rented by culinary entrepreneurs who want all the tools necessary to launch their ventures without having to make a huge investment in equipment and space. Ten kitchens are available with three focusing on gluten-free cooking and one on confectionary creations. These kitchens can be rented by the hour, day or month and include access to cold or dry storage and labeling facilities. Another service is Food Centricity, which helps the vendors professionally package and market the items they produce.
If you have an idea for a great restaurant, food product, food truck or vendor booth, this is the place to go for all the help you need to launch your concept and make it work.
On the day we visited, we tried dishes from the following innovative vendors, but there are also other enticing food booths to puruse:
Recess, the adult beverage bar on the premises, served us a special craft cocktail called Le Vie en Rose, a delectable pineapple gin infusion with grenadine and lemon. Besides a variety of other cocktail creations, the bar also serves homemade sodas, craft beers, and wines.
Electric City Butcher (known as ECB), an onsite butcher that obtains its products from sustainable farmers who raise animals humanely, prides itself on personalized service. We happily snacked from an appetizing charcuterie tray with meats prepared by ECB. The owner, Michael Puglisi, has modeled his shop after his family’s butchery in Sicily.
Mar, specializing in seafood with Asian or Latin flavors, served a tangy ceviche featuring fresh, fresh, fresh, melt-in-your-mouth poke.
Dos Chinos also offers an inventive menu of Asian and Latin dishes. We loved the mini tacos with a zesty cilantro sauce. You can choose from a variety of meats or fish for your tacos.
KTCHN DTSA’s chilaquiles were especially savory with beef, cheese and a fried egg served in fried corn tortillas that had been simmered in salsa.
Terra, focusing on an all natural eating concept, served us delicious, juicy cheeseburger and vegetable sliders.
Alta Baja Market, one of the newest venues in the 4th Street Market, features the rich and diverse flavors of Mexico, the American Southwest, and California. It also offers gift items, baked goods, wine, craft beer, kitchen items, and some enticing workshops focused on community growth and cultural topics. This photo shows one of the seating areas where guests can enjoy Alta Baja Market and dishes from other food booths.
Sit Low Pho, featuring authentic Vietnamese dishes, served us savory egg rolls and chicken wings that had simmered in garlic butter.
Pig Pen Delicacy is the place to go for comfort food since it offers creative takes on all things pork (including bacon of course). I recommend the tasty pork belly slider or the flavorful pork belly poutine. I happily discovered poutine (basically French fries drenched in gravy and topped with other good things) last fall in Canada and now can’t wait to try different versions, which are becoming trendy on American menus. The Pig Pen version was outstanding.
Jinny’s Pizzeria offers artisan, completely made-from-scratch pizzas with a distinct flair. You can build your own pie and choose from fresh, seasonal ingredients, such as fennel sausage, casteveltrano olives, a unique mushroom mix, and a variety of cheeses.
Stockyard Sandwich Co. focuses on meaty, cheesy sandwiches. Servings are big and you can also order soups, salads and, yes, those trendy poutines. A must-try is the flavorful Baby Short Rib Poutine.
Chunk n’ Chip is undoubtedly one of the most popular stops at the 4th Street Market because when you’re finished with everything else, of course you need dessert to to off your dining experience. Craft ice cream “sammiches,” decadent combinations of craft cookies and ice cream, are oozing with goodness. Try such creative concoctions as Butter My Velvet (red velvet cookies and peanut butter ice cream) or Bahama Mama (macadamia nut cookies with pineapple and white chocolate ice cream). Ice creams are made from seasonal produce so the menu changes as availability of ingredients changes.
Front Porch Pops offers handcrafted popsicles and ice cream bars that are perfect chilly treats on a hot summer day. Try Honeydew Mint, Roasted Peach Raspberry, or, for a bit of spice, Mango Chili.
Portola Coffee Lab is the perfect place to end your tour of 4th Street Market with its range of creative coffee drinks, all made from beans harvested from dedicated farmers. This coffee shop is appropriately called a lab because the focus is using the best beans, and roasting and brewing processes to produce outstanding coffee. The coffee with tonic water was unique and refreshing.
4th Street Market is located at 201 East 4th Street in downtown Santa Ana. It is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Photos with this article taken by Todd Montgomery.