75 years at Third and Fairfax in CityBeat:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
There’s a brass band huddled in the heart of the Farmers Market, their puckered lips squeezing out Bourbon Street melodies. Streaming past the band are dozens of eaters wrapped up in the Mardi Gras spirit – feathered masks fringed in a rainbow of colors and beads slung across their bodies like bandoliers. But though toes may be tapping, all eyes are aimed toward the food – scallion-topped bowls of gumbo and bacon-wrapped chicken breasts.
Although the defining dishes have changed over the decades, that focus on food has been the constant in the Farmers Market, now celebrating 75 years at Third and Fairfax. That’s an accomplishment – a lifespan that in the food world usually demands some kind of reincarnation.
But the Farmers Market has never had to undergo any such rebirth; instead, it simply evolves, adapting its style to changing tastes. Behind its white walls, the market erupts – the recent Mardi Gras celebration filled the place to capacity, but there’s rarely an hour when the crowds dip below a crush.
Since it started cooking a few years ago, Lotería has consistently been one of the market’s busiest stalls. Because it translates alta cocina-style Mexican meals to a more street-like setting, you won’t find any steely spits of al pastor here. But the restaurant delivers elsewhere: a finely spiced mole poblano, a quartet of worthy enchiladas and a great cactus salad, to name a few. Though there’s now a full-fledged Lotería restaurant in Hollywood, the stall is still a top-tier option with a kitchen that can capably bridge the gap between taco trucks and tequila bars.
Singapore’s Banana Leaf is squeezed in on the edge of the Market, but its lines are just as long. Dishes here pull from Malay, Indonesian and Singaporean traditions (think laksa and gado-gado), though some of the most unique plates probably get passed over for the chicken and beef satays. And there’s plenty of reason for that – served with compressed rice cakes known as lontong, those charred skewers top the ranks of the Market’s satisfyingly simple choices.
Sweets-seekers aren’t left out either. If you grab a good enough parking spot, Thee’s Continental Bakery will entice you right at the entrance. As its name suggests, the bakery covers a lot of European ground, from carefully layered baklava to fat, marzipan-shelled slices of Princess cake. Beyond the inimitable Du-par’s, there’s also the equally excellent Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts, where America’s quintessential pastry gets the kind of care it has always deserved.
Head in without a plan and the Farmers Market can wipe away an entire day, filling you up from breakfast all the way to a second dinner. And popular as they are, the aforementioned stalls don’t even begin to construct a complete cross-section of the market, which, because of its venerable reputation, can vault even the newest vendors to institutional levels.
The Market is stretching its celebratory festivities out across the whole year, but you can share your own personal history of the place now both online and at so-called memory boards stashed throughout the property. After 75 years, it should be obvious that the best memories here are always the edible ones.
Farmers Market, 6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 933-9211. Open Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Lot parking. Food for two: $10-$30. farmersmarketla.com.