RECOMMENDED: The best farmers' markets in LA
The next time you're at a restaurant and tempted to ask the waiter where your astoundingly fresh beets came from—don't. We'll save you the trouble and answer for you. The beets (and, likely, the majority of the dish's ingredients) probably came from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. While the market occurs on a couple of days (Wed, Sat and Sun) in various parts of Santa Monica, the best day to go is on Wednesday along Arizona Avenue. This is our city's largest and most popular farmers' market—and where LA chefs go to grocery shop. After parking in one of Santa Monica's public parking structures (free for the first 90 minutes), head on over to the market, where you'll likely find Freddy Vargas from Scarpetta picking up basil; Kris Tominaga from The Hart and the Hunter asking for a 10 pound bag of leeks; or Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura from Lindy & Grundy, who are big on instagramming the produce they buy.
For the amateur chefs among us, there's plenty for you here, too. On the way to Harry's Berries, you might pass by Roots Brothers Grows, where a rastafarian in a purple and yellow mumu will call out, "Come try da best lotion in da world!" Sample almonds dusted with everything from paprika to cinnamon and sugar at Fat Uncle Farms, or pick up produce from any of the farm stands—all certified organic—like cold blueberries at Whitney Ranch Organics or heads of Swiss chard at Jaime Farms. In the mood for a more substantial snack? Sugarfish sets up a stand at the corner of Arizona and 3rd, where you can order sashimi à la carte and devour it in the small tented seating area (mostly populated by elderly men who people-watch). The best part about the market is that once you become a regular, conversations with vendors will shift from "How much?" to "How's the baby doing?" before debating the benefits of raw versus pasteurized milk.