There are few spots in Los Angeles that so well encapsulate the city’s virtues: its vibrancy, its eclecticism, its multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-everything happy hodgepodge. But The Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax, which opened on July 14, 1934, is all of those things, not to mention a delicious place to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner. Consequently, it’s a must for anyone visiting Los Angeles and is beloved by locals too.
The Early Days
Before 3rd and Fairfax was home to Farmers Market, the property was a dairy farm. Then oil was discovered and the cows gave way to oil derricks. By the time the Great Depression hit, large-scale drilling was not permitted on the Mid-City property. So in 1934, two entrepreneurs had an idea to invite local farmers to park their trucks on the property for a small fee and sell fresh produce to the public; it was a hit. So much so that soon, permanent storefronts were erected for the farmers.
A few of the many famous visitors to the Farmers Market over the years include President Dwight D. Eisenhower, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Temple. James Dean is said to have eaten breakfast at the market on Sept. 30, 1955, the day of his fatal car accident.
Farmers Market 101
When most people picture a farmers market, they think of a temporary outdoor market with rows of stalls selling produce. While you can pick up some beautiful fruits and veggies here, there is much more to the Farmers Market than fruit stands. The bustling Market features more than 100 specialty shops, produce stands, food vendors and sit-down restaurants. And most of the Market is covered, so it’s open rain or shine. Parking is free in the Farmers Market lot for two hours with purchase validation from one of the Market merchants.
Breakfast of Champions
Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts is popular for a quick a.m. bite. The golden, oversized cinnamon rolls and the crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside apple fritters are especially finger-licking good.
For a more substantial sit-down breakfast, there’s Du-par’s. The traditional buttermilk pancakes are some of the city’s best. The omelets are fit for a lumberjack and come with crisp, golden hash browns. And if you need your breakfast fix in the middle of the night, not to worry - Du-par's is open 24 hours.
Something for the Kids
Kip’s Toyland is a longtime market favorite. They carry a selection of the popular Ty brand stuffed animals as well as oldies but goodies such as Adams prank snapping gum and rubber pencils and Mad Libs. Crafty types should make a beeline for Sticker Planet with its rows and rows of stickers of popsicles, tropical fish, skeletons, planets - you name it. “The litmus test for our store is, ‘If it sticks, we can sell it,’” says owner Richard Kraft.
Don’t Forget Mom and Dad
Located in the shadow of the iconic Clock Tower, TASCHEN sells coffee table books on a wide range of subjects, from art and architecture to photography, fashion, and a section devoted to NSFW titles.
Everyone knows about Tabasco and Tapatio. But how about Scorpion’s Sting or Blair’s Sweet Death Sauce? The shelves at Light My Fire are filled with just one thing: hot sauce. Hot sauce for the most macho and hot sauce for the more tender tongued, some with names that can’t be printed here.
Take a Global Culinary Tour
Jimmy Shaw's original Loteria Grill closed in October 2018. But taco fans needn't worry - Loteria's centrally-located Market stall is now occupied by Trejos Tacos, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day from 9am - 9pm.
Fried chicken fans can't miss Chef Neal Fraser's Fritzi Coop, while those in an old school mood will love Magee's Kitchen, THE original Market restaurant that's served its famed corned beef for generations.
Diners can travel the world at the Market, from family-style Italian at Buca di Beppo to Brazilian churrascaria at Pampas Grill, to China Depot, Moishe's Restaurant (Mediterranean), French cuisine at The French Crepe Company and Monsieur Marcel Bistro; Singapore's Banana Leaf, and Sushi A Go Go.
Before You Leave
There is something mesmerizing about watching the freshly ground peanut butter go round and round as it flows out of the shiny metal grinder at Magee’s House of Nuts. The small jars make great gifts. Another must is Littlejohn’s English Toffee House where the specialty is - you guessed it - toffee. Made on the premises, the toffee is crisp and super buttery. You can buy it in sticks. But we prefer the traditional slab variety enrobed in milk chocolate and finished with crunchy, crushed almonds. Almond Roca has nothing on Littlejohn’s.