Food Hall Magic at Union Market in Tustin
Remember when you were a teenager and going to the mall was fun? You had so many shops in one place, multiple floors of beautiful things and people all over the place that seemed excited to be there, to be experiencing things. A huge part of the amazing experience of mall-going was the epic and vast food court – every type of food you could ever want were all present at the food court. You could fulfill every deep-seated taste bud desire you had, all in one place. Although the magic of the mall has faded quite a bit since our teenage days, the new iteration of this magical experience can be found in the “marketplaces” or “food halls” popping up all over Southern California. Luckily, in the heart of The District at Tustin Legacy, we have our own local marketplace center called Union Market, and man, oh man, any visitor can get all their cravings in food, booze and goods satiated at this local gem.
Union Market is a maze of halls and mini-shops and cafes that are set up in the magical food court style we all know and love. This maze of amazingness is jam-packed with over 14 different food and drink spots, and a handful of stores and shops sprinkled in the mix. Whatever you’re craving, you get your hands on it here. Do you want a poke bowl with a dessert crepe and a side of bacon mac-and-cheese? You got it. Are you craving ice cream, a butter croissant and a Thai coconut to drink? No problem. You want to eat an acai bowl while your mom eats gluten-free pasta? Come on down. You want a dirty martini and a haircut? Pssh – easy.
This place is centrally located in The District at Tustin Legacy, next to Whole Foods, Ulta, Vans, Costco and a ton of other places, so technically you could also get some shopping done while you’re there, but really, it’s just a great place where everybody can get what they want. Inside the Union Market, Portola Coffee Roasters will pump you full of the best tasting caffeine you’ve ever had, and Churned Creamery is just down the hall if you want something sweet after you’re all hyped up on that amazing coffee. In the same area, Cubed is the independently owned one-stop Hawaiian-centric poke shop that was created by lifelong friends, and all that love shows through in their poke. You can also find amazing spam musubi and other delicious Hawaiian-inspired treats.
The Kroft is just across from Portola, where you can dive into a variety of fresh-made comfort foods with French-Canadian inspiration. We’re talking about amazing sandwiches made with the freshest ingredients, succulent meats hot off the rotisserie, and customized bread from an artisan baker. We’re also talking about the epic strange wonder of poutine – double-fried French fries piled high with fresh cheese curds and a variety of different homemade gravies and signature toppings.
Right smack-dab in the middle of the Union Market is the Central Bar – aptly named – where you can get a variety of craft beers, cocktails or wine and people watch as others walk around in awe and find what they’re looking for in the maze. Now, Union Market has its fair share of options when it comes to bars. Central Bar is an amazing location, but the craft cocktails at Kettlebar and the heavenly Tiki drinks at Stowaway are better suited for cocktail connoisseurs. Kettlebar has roots in the South and creates amazing Southern cuisine as well as complex artisan-crafted cocktails. It’s a favorite watering hole of serving industry folks and of people who love a complicated spirited-forward craft cocktail, made with love.
Stowaway specializes in Tiki-inspired cuisine and cocktails and offers a fun and flirty atmosphere that makes guests feel like they really are a stowaway on a 1950s cruise ship! With adorable and accurate mid-century Tiki décor – including a variety of artworks by SHAG, this little hidden bar is difficult to find in the Union Market, but what a fun trip you’ll have in this Tiki haven.
If you’re feeling a little sweet but want to stay on the healthy track, you could try a freshly made artisan crêpe from Crêpe Coop (and top it with all the best bad-for-you treats) or, even better, you could stop by Berry Brand Superfoods and get a loaded Acai or Pitaya Bowl topped with your choice of healthy and natural toppings. There are also many other great little stops that offer freshly made pasta, milk tea with boba, sweet little fruit tarts and flavored shaved snow, baked goods like donuts and croissants, and a surprising variety of young Thai coconuts and coconut waters.
The shops at Union Market are just as unique as the food options, and sporadically placed as you stumble into one or another whichever way you’re headed in this maze. Le Petite Chenille is a chic boutique clothing store that has fashion-forward looks and items for every kind of taste. Scent Avenue is a great-smelling little shop that has every type of aromatic accessory you might ever want or need. With a great curated selection of candles, diffusers, essential oils, bath bombs, wax melts, perfumes and room sprays, you simply won’t ever need to go to another candle store or essential oil party ever again.
The Paper House is also an essential shop offering a great selection of stationary, cards, journals, banners, decorations, desk accessories, tote bags, holiday supplies, art prints, calendars and toys for the kids. This independently owned boutique is small but artfully designed and offers only the best and the most clever and stylish paper goods.
The OC Hit Factory is the cherry on top of the sundae that is Union Market. A subsidiary record label under Sony Music Entertainment, this back-corner spot offers the public vocal and instrument lessons, songwriting workshops, a state-of-the-art recording studio, a 24/7 radio station and acts as a venue for live music. Not too shabby for a marketplace, right? So, if you’re in the mood for an updated version of the mall food court magic with a touch of awesome, Union Market in Tustin is the place to go.