It was 1934, and when Blanche Magee arrived at a patch of the Gilmore family’s land and served sandwiches to hungry fruit and veg growers at the new “Farmers Market,” she couldn’t have imagined it was going to turn into one of L.A.’s biggest attractions.
Magee gambled on good food staying the course though, and this July 15, that same Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax - and known as the Original Farmers Market since 1992 - celebrates its 80th anniversary, and events include its 6th annual Taste of Farmers Market, which runs from 5-9 p.m.
One of the best deals in town (tickets are $35 in advance, $40 on the night), it’s an easy way to walk round the culinary world as over 50 of the market’s vendors and grocers offer samples, snacks and even snifters of their fine fare from France, Spain, Korea, Brazil, China, Greece, Asia and the USA.
Arriving early is the best advice – it gets real busy, real fast – but after being issued with your recyclable plate, take a moment to study the “menu” and decide whether you’re going for a meandering walk and random tastes, have something you can’t miss and need to get to ASAP (hello Pampas Grill and their Brazilian BBQ!), or are planning a methodical hit-and-run: starter, entrée, main course and desert.
Juggling the plate and a drink can get tricky (there are beer and wine samples too), so pace yourself and remember that while this isn't a Vegas AYCA Buffet (though often you can get second helpings if you ask nicely), you should come hungry. There are plenty of future food ideas to check out on the stalls, but plate-wise here are some of the places you should visit:
Jambalaya at Gumbo Pot (stall #312).
Definitely one you seek out, there's Cajun cooking and some hot stuff here. Their gumbo has to be tried at least once, and the beignets are sinfully good too.
Pulled Pork Sliders at Short Order (stall #110).
Nancy Silverton, Bill Chait and the late Amy Pressman’s upscale gourmet BBQ place actually built-on to the Farmers Market when it opened a couple of years ago, and it quickly became a favorite with younger visitors.
Mee Goreng (fried noodles) at Singapore’s Banana Leaf (stall #122).
Prepared fresh and usually served on an actual banana leaf, the Gazal family’s colorful curries are fantastically popular, flavorsome and mild to spicy – get here quick!
Tri Tip Sandwiches at Huntington Meats (stall #350).
A serious old-style butchers shop (count all the sausages and check out their unique “tomahawk” steak), they’ve been here nearly 30 years.
Truffle Mac n' Cheese at Planet Dailies (stall #P20 and #O20).
Since you're going to be filling up all night, you may as well try the good/bad delights of this combo. Planet Dailies is upstairs, overlooking the Farmers Market Plaza, and is also home to cocktail heaven bar Mixology 101.
Smoked Salmon Tapas at Tusquellas Seafoods (stall #316).
Bob Tusquellas started working with his dad when he was 11 years old, and has been here for longer that he cares to remember. Be sure to ask him for a recipe!
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Tacos at Magee's Kitchen (stall #624).
Today granddaughter Phyllis runs Magee’s, the restaurant Blanche originally opened Downtown but bought here after her sandwiches were a hit. You can also nibble some nuts at Magee’s House of Nuts (stall #218).
S’more Pies from Blaze Pizza (stall #A14).
When you're ready - and if you have room - for dessert, pop to Blaze. One of the newest arrivals at the Farmers Market, Blaze Pizzas are made from scratch and features artisanal ingredients, and only need 120 seconds in their blazing oven.