Central Market Brings its A Game

As you know, I went to Central Market last night for what I thought was just a sneak peek at the new cafe and its menu. Instead I got the grand tour (why yes, I’ll try the guacamole from the new Guacamole Bar—sure, ceviche sounds delicious—a little bubbly from the new wine wall? mmm…). De-lightful.

First, I’ll admit my bias. I love Central Market. It’s my second home. I’m there four to seven days a week—sometimes twice a day for lunch and dinner, which is embarrassing when you get the same cashier. I thought it was perfect the way it was and, frankly, was a bit peeved at all the super market shuffling that had been confusing my shopping. But those days are over. Projects are complete. And here are the fruits of their labor, named in order of appearance, not awesomeness. (See map.)

1. Guacamole Bar: Operating Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 7 am to 10 pm. Fresh, flavorful, fantastic!

2. Kit Kitchen: This is what I’ve been dreaming of—a place where all the prep is done for you. Grab a recipe from the rack and get to gettin’. Fresh veggies, cleaned and chopped. Grab-and-go sauces. And the kits, oh the kits! We’re talking everything from Thai Kao Soi to Italian-inspired asparagus and prosciutto. I particularly love that they include the cooking oils and butter, pre-measured for the recipe. It’s a no brainer, and most recipes have speedy chef Rachael Ray beat by 10 minutes.

3. Ceviche: Seven kinds, seven days in a week. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

4. For the Love of Wine: I love the organization. Bottles are grouped by style (do I want a light, bright white or an oaky Chardonnay?), then each bottle is described in greater detail, often with food pairing suggestions. The best part, most bottles are priced below $15.

5. Bath Salt Bar: Mix your own or work from one of their recipes. I’m trying the “Flood of Enlightenment.” Hope it works.

6. Salts of the Earth: This was another highlight of the tour for me, not because I know much about salt, but because I know I want to know more about salt. Get it? There are more than 30 different ones to try. Don’t worry, there’s a chart to help, but I say smell away. Their scent will be enough inspiration. I grabbed an olive-infused variety—it’ll be perfect with a little tomato, mozzarella, and balsamic. (What up, Tom!)

7. Bagels and Flatbread: Now homemade (that’s boiled and baked for the bagels). Now delicious.

8. Salumeria: 21 new salumi offerings at the deli! Who doesn’t love cured meats?

9. Sushi Bar: Now open! You can make your own bento box and choose from more than 30 different sushi offerings. My favorite part is the packaging. It’s all-inclusive. Now instead of flipping the lid to make a tray for your soy, you can use the special compartment that’s built in. Seriously, why didn’t I think of that?

And finally …

10. The Cafe at Central Market: Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, plus brunch (7 am to 3 pm) on the weekends. I sampled two menu items: the Grown-Up Macaroni and Cheese and the Kobe Sliders. The mac was rich and creamy, with a nice pancetta crumb crust. The sliders were juicy at a perfect medium rare, and the chipotle BBQ sauce added some spunk. Indulgent and delicious and hard to believe they’ll be served in a quick-casual cafe setting. And about that setting … The seating downstairs has been swapped, with more indoor and less outdoor. But the upstairs open-air patio makes up for it. After you order, feel free to claim your seat up there. The buzzer you’ll be given has a built-in GPS, so your food will be brought directly to your table with no disturbing “Who got the burger and fries? Anyone? Burger! Fries!”

Two thumbs up from this foodie. I never thought it’d be possible for me to spend more time at the Market, but they make it hard to stay away. Maybe they’d rent me a small space in the Slaumeria.


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