Aug
01
2008

Wandering Traveler

LOS ANGELES

Farmer’s Market (since 1934) farmers

Monday-Friday, 9 am-9 pm
Saturday, 9 am-8 pm
Sunday, 10 am-7 pm
Some merchant hours vary

6333 West 3rd Street (and Fairfax)
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 933-9211
www.farmersmarketla.com

The original Los Angeles Farmer’s Market started in 1934 with actual farmers selling produce from the back of their trucks in a dirt lot. Now it’s a permanent set-up with (horror of horrors) chain stores like Starbucks (?!) and Pinkberry surrounding its outer rim, and permanent open-air “stands” or shops in the middle.

San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Building Farmer’s Market this ain’t. No rare, expensive, beautiful produce here. Nor will you find gourmet, foodie dream shops serving lavender salt or grass-fed beef jerky. You won’t even find much of what might be deemed “gourmet”. What you will find at its center is almost a time warp, reminding me of ‘80’s food fairs of my childhood with bright red, sugary popcorn or bags of roasted nuts sold by sweet Grandma-types.

I didn’t experience a taste revolution here, but I’m lulled into its charm nonetheless. Piecing together a meal from various “stands” is a fun experience, with tables strewn everywhere for ease. True to form, I researched and compared ‘best recommended’ from multiple reviews, then tried many myself. Here are my top choices:

DRINK

Eple

Eple

Eple: The one spot that was actually inventive and current is a brand new (less than a couple months old) fruit and juice shop next to Pinkberry. Calling itself a “House of Decadent Fruit”, they sell fresh, exotic fruits, and refreshing, eye-opening juices in combos I could drink often: healthy AND teasingly delighting the palate. I love the Strawberry/Red Pepper/ Banana juice – just enough, not too much, red pepper. They also have Kiwi/Spinach/Banana juice, and a few others.

The Refresher

The Refresher

The Refresher: I’m not a soda drinker (never touch it) but occasionally love a high-quality root beer. Still, I couldn’t resist the idea of trying from the large selection of rare bottled sodas at this stand, including their own excellent house-brewed root beer (Bennett’s Big Bear Root Bear) and a Lemon Cola. Check out the daily house specials.

LUNCH/DINNER

The Gumbo Pot

The Gumbo Pot

The Gumbo Pot: This somewhat greasy, Louisiana eatery was my favorite choice for a meal here. Not exquisite, most items are just hearty and plentiful, but shined compared to the letdown of Loteria or French Crepe Co. For $3, you get three hefty Beignets, drizzled in chocolate or plain (pair it with chicory coffee). They grill up Alligator Tail Filets, Catfish, Snapper and fried Oysters. Po’ Boys Sandwiches offer tasty meat (love the Cornmeal Fried Catfish), but darned if I didn’t have to dig to find the meat in all that French bread. And the Gumbo? Not bad. Nice, spicy andouille sausage and some good chunks of shrimp and chicken.

Loteria! Grill

Loteria! Grill

Loteria! Grill: After all the great things I’ve heard about this place, and knowing LA has some of the best Mexican food in the country (I’ve eaten plenty of it growing up), I was pretty disappointed. First, the price: $10 for two microscopic tacos – about three bites each – with rice & beans. Worse, each item I tried did not overwhelm me. It’s good, but heck, local SF taquerias beat it, hands down! What did jazz my taste buds, inauthentic as it is, was the side of “green rice” with flecks of fresh mint. Refreshing, bright and poppy – a treat. Also, tasty black beans. If only their mains were as great as their sides.

The French Crepe Co.

The French Crepe Co.

The French Crepe Co.: It’s mediocre, especially compared to Briton buckwheat crepes at SF’s Ti Couz, BUT… if you want to fill up on crepes, it’ll do the trick with a large menu and sweet servers.

BUTCHER

Huntington Meats

Huntington Meats

Huntington Meats: Just look at the photo of Jim and Dan on the website and you’ll feel good about this place. It’s old school in all the right ways, while current in its use of Harris Ranch, corn-fed meat. They make all sausages on the premises, which sound mouth-wateringly good (Chicken Jamaican Mango, Alligator Andouille). The Renaissance Man has been on a gourmet jerky hunt, trying all kinds of interesting jerky around the country (focusing on the Midwest where beef is king)… and he says Huntington’s beef jerky is the best he’s tasted. You can see the quality as it comes in big sheets of a large cut of meat, not in little strips like most. They make their own BBQ sauce, marinades and chutneys.

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