When I was little, the only place in our area to go get Judaica - menorahs, kiddush cups and the like - was in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Fairfax is not really in our area. Even back then, it was an hour's drive. When you're four or five years old, that feels like forever. One thing that made those long trips worthwhile was the promise of going to the Farmers Market. Located at the corner of Fairfax and Third, this was and continues to be a favorite place whenever I'm in Los Angeles.
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The original Farmers Market came into being in 1934 when 18 farmers parked their trucks on vacant land at Gilmore Ranch to sell fresh produce to “locals” who flocked to the location. The idea was a huge success and grew. Eventually, the Gilmore's stopped letting the farmers come for free. They started renting space to them for fifty cents a day. Today, Farmers Market is more than just the place to get Los Angeles' finest produce.
Farmers Market boasts 70 shops and restaurants. You can buy magazines and books at either the Farmers Market newstand or the News on Third shop. Many of the souvenir shops carry t-shirts and hats, but you can buy some beautiful women's fashions at Cactus Fashion. Speciality shops include The Gift and Gadget Nook where you can buy all kinds of thing-a-ma-bobs and doodads for the kitchen; Sticker Planet which has more stickers than the most avid seven year old could ever imagine; Black Orchid Boutique which has a huge collection of Laura Burch cats as well as other decorative arts; and Light My Fire which specializes in hot sauces and salsas (all arranged according to their rating on the Scoville scale of heat.) And I've only just scratched the surface.
What most people come to Farmers Market for, however, is the food. There is Bennett's Ice Cream where the ice cream is made on the premises as well as sorbets, sugar free and fat free yogurts. It's been around since 1963. Dupar's Pie Shop and Restaurant offer more than 25 varieties of pies and of nut breads. They've been here for more than 60 years. Other shops specialize in nuts, cheeses, olives, breads, and sausages. There are poultry and meat shops here with real butchers working in them. Like the produce, the quality of everything in these shops is A-1. That's why people come to Farmers Market.
The restaurants include Bryan's Barbecue Pit which specializes in real Texas style ribs. When my friend Mario (a Houston native) is in town, he makes it a point to come here. The Gumbo Pot specializes in authentic Cajun food. Here you can find muffelattas, po'boy sandwiches, beignet and alligator all on the menu. How good is it? It's listed in the Zagat guide. Magee's Kitchen started out making sandwiches for the farmers who parked their trucks out here in 1917. They're still in business and specialize in roast meats, lunches and dinners. If Brazilian is your thing, try the Pampas Grill. Malaysian food? Try the Singapore Banana Leaf. The list of places to eat goes on and on. With places in business since 1917, you know that they're doing something right.
Restaurants at Farmers Market are all very reasonable. At none of them have I ever spent more than $10 on a meal. Of course, the specialty shops can empty your wallet and max out your credit card before you can say "Save me Allan Greenspan." There isn't a visit that goes by that I don't find some new thing that I didn't know existed that I now can't live without.
If Farmers Market was just about shopping, it might just be a great place to spend money and have lunch. It's more, however. During the summer, there are concerts. Every Friday night from 8 to 10 p.m., there is karaoke. There are annual events here too. Farmers Market has its own authentic Mardi Gras celebration. It is the best one in Los Angeles. Start out at the Gumbo Pot and eat the real Cajun cuisine. There is music and dancing to Cajun and Zydeco music. There is also a strolling Dixieland band. The Market is decked out with green, purple and gold Mardi Gras decorations. There are beads, doubloons and masks.
For St. Patrick's Day, you can top off a dinner of corned beef and cabbage with Green beer and strolling Celtic musicians. For Easter, the Market brings in a petting zoo and lots of egg decorating. For Cinco de Mayo, there is live Mariachi and folklorico dancing.
And so it goes on throughout the year.
One of the other attractions to be aware of if you come to Farmers Market is the CBS studios next door. If you're there at the right time - usually just after lunch during the week - you will likely be approached by someone offer free tickets to the taping of a show. This is one of the best entertainment values in town.
Parking at Farmers Market is free with validation. They're open from 9-9 Monday through Friday, 9-8 on Saturdays and 10-7 on Sundays. The Market is located at 6333 West Third Street, Los Angeles CA 90036-3154 which is at the intersection of Third and Fairfax.
I loved Farmers Market as a child. I still do. I can't not go into the toy shops. The candy stores still attract me. Today, however, I especially love the gourmet groceries I can buy here. The customer service in all the stores is superb. The food is great and the memories are wonderful. There is something here for everyone. I strongly recommend coming here the next time you're in Los Angeles.
Who knows? You might even see some famous faces there. This is L.A., after all.
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