When most people think of grocery options in Downtown LA, the most popular one that comes to mind is Ralphs Fresh Fare in South Park. The central location near the Financial District and the prominent name recognition of Ralphs have made it the go-to place for most downtown residents. As a result of that concentrated shopping from downtowners, the Ralphs in Downtown LA is one of the highest grossing stores in the entire chain. Even so, it is inaccurate to say that Ralphs is the only large grocery store in Downtown LA. Little Tokyo’s Woori Market, a Korean market that replaced Mitsuwa Market in 2009, is a full-scale grocery store that downtown residents should take more advantage of, even when other options come to Downtown LA soon including City Target and Smart & Final Extra.
Anyone who ventures inside Woori Market for the first time is usually pleasantly surprised how large and well stocked it is with high quality food. There is a large produce section in the front of the store as well as a great seafood section in the back stocking a unique variety of seafood (that you can’t find at Ralphs the last time I checked) such as cholesterol-lowering sea cucumbers and yummy sea urchins. In fact, Woori Market goes a step further by giving its customers a “tuna cutting performance” (as LA Weekly calls it) on every Saturday at 2pm. Yes, an entire giant yellowfin tuna is carved and packaged up right before your very eyes!
In addition to seafood and meats (beef, lamb, chicken, etc.) available, there is obviously a large selection of Asian food items such as kimchi and tofu, a million different ramen varieties, frozen packaged food such as dumplings, and just about every kind of soy sauce imaginable.
And after you’re done grocery shopping, don’t forget to stop by the small food court located inside by the check-out counters. Sakura Noodle is one of my favorite “cheap eats” in Downtown LA where you can get a giant bowl of hot yummy pork belly ramen for less than $6. Why wait in line at Daikokuya?
Unfortunately, part of the reason why fewer downtown residents shop at Woori Market is because of its location in a more car-oriented section of Little Tokyo at Alameda and 3rd Street. The market is also “hidden” inside a 1980′s dated shopping center, called Little Tokyo Shopping Center, with anti-pedestrian blank walls (zero store frontage) that prevent any sort of human interaction along the sidewalks. Sadly, you could be directly across the street and not know there’s anything going on inside the shopping center. This will hopefully be addressed someday by its new Korean-American owners who plan to eventually remodel the facade of the shopping center, making it a tad-bit more inviting.