The Original Farmers Market is nearly a century old, but it can sometimes feel like an afterthought for younger Angelenos due to the busier, newer shopping mall next door. In the last two decades, the 89-year-old market has become synonymous with the Grove, and all the traffic and parking headaches that come with it. In fact, many people aren’t even aware that the two are separate entities; the grocery and dining destination is still owned by descendants of the late-19th-century entrepreneur Arthur Gilmore, whose acres of dairy-farm-turned-oil-field are now home to Television City, the Original Farmers Market and Rick Caruso’s artificial, soullessly commercial “town square.”
Whenever I’m waxing nostalgic about old-school L.A. landmarks with amazing food, I’ll be honest: the Original Farmers Market isn’t anywhere close to my radar. These days, the Farmers Market has morphed into a tourist attraction whose narrow passageways become frustrating to navigate on foot on weekends, when heavy crowds wander over from the Grove (a place with downright mediocre dining options). It’s not a place I’d typically recommend Time Out readers visit merely off the food. And if you’re mostly looking to bask in the glorious mix of sights, sounds and smells of a food hall, I’d rather direct you to Downtown’s Grand Central Market, where the eclectic, high-quality mix of newer, chef-driven eateries and affordable lunch spots manage to cancel out the lack of free parking and equally hectic weekend atmosphere.
Still, the Original Farmers Market offers plenty of charms, even for a jaded L.A. native like me. In the last year, Magee’s, the oldest merchant at the Farmers Market, has shed new light for me on just how delicious roasted, salted nuts can be. (After tasting their fancy mix, I’ll never buy nuts from the grocery store again.) I’ve tracked down the only tomato jam within a 10-mile radius at Monsieur Marcel, the gourmet market and bistro on the East Patio. Plus, almost all vendors validate for an hour and a half of free parking in the adjacent lot—an absolute rarity in the area, and an underrated perk locals commuting by car can appreciate.
In the spirit of rediscovering the familiar, I’m pleased to announce the debut of Table at Third & Fairfax, a weekly review series where I’ll eat my way through the Original Farmers Market for a whole calendar year and publish a column every Thursday. In other words, I’m committing to the bit; think Grub Street’s The Year I Ate New York, but geographically smaller in scope. (I will, after all, still be reviewing other restaurants and keeping you all in the loop about all things food and drink related across the city, and I’m just one person!)
With only 32 official restaurant vendors, 52 weeks seems like ample time to get a run of the place, but that’s only if you don’t count repeat visits to try other menu items or see what a given eatery is like on different days, at different times and in different seasons. With such a sprawling coverage area, I often don’t have the luxury of visiting the same restaurant multiple times a year, but Table at Third & Fairfax will allow me to do the opposite of just that as a regular at the L.A. landmark—and letting you know along the way what is worth ordering the next time you’re at the Original Farmers Market.