Dish List: Noodle Tramp

IMG_4174

Courtesy of Alex Guardado & Rachel Ann Cauilan

IMG_4158

Courtesy of Alex Guardado & Rachel Ann Cauilan

 

Foodies rejoice! With farm-to-table creations, innovative culinary pairings and a crafty atmosphere, there is now a new restaurant district in Orange County celebrating all things  local.

Nestled in downtown Santa Ana, the newly opened 4th Street Market features a diverse mix of local foods, drinks and high-quality retail items. With over a dozen new and unique storefronts for small businesses, this culinary marketplace has shed new life into Orange County as well as Santa Ana’s Downtown district.

The 30,000 square-foot marketplace is situated on 4th street at the social hub of Santa Ana with its own vibrant quality akin to LA’s own Grand Central Market.

After attending the preview night the week before, there had been high expectations for just how varied and detailed the selection is at the 4th Street Market.

With a modern, spacious hall, the market bustles with energy and creative artwork and designs.

This food hall theme was championed by avant-garde chef, Jason Quinn, who runs the popular and chic Playground restaurant right across the street. Although the foot traffic seemed a bit slower during the evening on a Friday night, this spot is filled with patrons and local business workers during weekends and lunchtime.

The layout suits the daytime working crowd with a very open seating area with all the eateries in the marketplace center. There’s a Portola Coffee Lab bar and Dough Exchange bakery shop for those not interested in a full meal; but for those who were hungry like we were, we were ready to try anything we could get our hands on.

The eclectic mix of quick-serve restaurants, each with their own signature style, proved too hard to choose just one menu item. They have something for every type of food lover, ranging from Waffle dishes, Thai noodles, fried chicken and Latin inspired Asian food to name a few.

First, we ordered at KTCHN DTLA, egg masters who specialize in a wide variety of flavorful layered egg concoctions. We asked the worker there to surprise us with their best go-to dish.

We got their smoked corned beef and egg. The dish comprised of buttery sourdough bread, with a refreshing layer of lime vinaigrette chayote as well as cured beef, oils and seasonings and a nicely done sunny side up egg to top it off.

Although the presentation was spectacular, the biggest downside was the softness of the bread. It made for a messy meal and the egg and cheese overpowered the rest of the dish. One of the positive aspects was the spectacularly refreshing chayote. Similar to a melon or cucumber, this fruit packed a mouthful of flavor and it’s a shame the rest of the dish didn’t fulfill its part.

To fill out the rest of our meal and market experience, we ordered some house made aguas frescas from MAR. Oftentimes, horchatas or piña coladas are a watered down sugary mess. These ones sold here are spot on, full of flavor yet not too heavy.

Noodle Tramp of Lunchbox by Playground served us a nice Thai-noodle dish called Chicken Khao Soi. Packed with spicy red curry, peanuts, veggies and an egg-based noodle, this dish stood out far above much of the restaurant selections. It had a sweet, nut-based broth with an overwhelming red curry; and the horchata and piña colada really balanced the dish out between spoonful’s of the delicious and hot curry.

Although our selection was eclectic, it was only a small portion of what 4th Street Market had to offer. The Noodle Tramp is definitely something we would try again but there’s something for everyone — from tasteful sandwiches, fresh juices, innovative burgers and crafty ice cream. The modern communal dining aspect brings a new dynamic to Santa Ana with its wide-ranging 4th Street Market.

Although featuring exciting and flavorful dishes from some of Santa Ana’s most creative chefs, the underwhelming food experience for the market’s price point and quality irks us to want to come back — but maybe a second visit is in order.