Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Ultimate Guide to the LA Farmers Market


Well, I did it! A little more than a month ago, I pledged to visit every food stand in the Third and Fairfax Farmers Market, and I'm proud to stand on the proverbial aircraft carrier and say, "Mission Accomplished." Below are a few notes about my mission followed by a complete summary of my findings. My more detailed reviews are available here.

How did I do it?


My mission was simple, eat at every stand in the Farmers Market: old favorites as well as places I'd never gotten around to trying. However, I did not include chains (Starbucks, Johnny Rockets, Pinkberry) or restaurants in the adjacent properties (Marmalade Cafe, Morels, etc.). I also excluded the second floor sushi restaurant Kado; this was to be about the places occupying the actual Farmers Market property.

For the past six weeks, I ate at the Market two to three days per week, sometimes more. Often, I would have more than one meal a day (or at a time) at the Market and, whenever possible, I would drag friends along to help increase my sampling possibilities. For stands I had never tried before, I tried to sample a variety of dishes, including specialties.

I ended up going to 34 different food stands/restaurants. Of those, 10 were places I had never tried before.

It was an interesting experience and gave me some small sense of what it must be like to be a professional food critic. Fun, but also tiring.

How did I rate them?


I divided the Market stands into three tiers using the following criteria:

TOP TIER: A great find. A place worth a special trip to the Market.

SECOND TIER: A good place. Not worth a special trip but a place that you might want to try if you happened to be at the Market.

THIRD TIER: Places that I would not go to again. Not necessarily bad (though some were), but generally unexceptional.

Of my new tries, two made it into the top spot, but most were relegated to the third tier.

Without further ado, here is the complete list with a few brief comments. New tries have been marked with an asterisk(*).

TOP TIER


Bob's Coffee and Doughnuts - LA's best cake doughnuts and apple fritters

Country Market* - Funnel cake of the gods

Du-Par's Restaurant - Great pies, pancakes and the last great Monte Cristo in LA

The French Crepe Company - Tasty Crepes, sweet and savory

Littlejohn's - The best toffee around and other tasty candies

¡Loteria! - Mexican, great chilaquiles and queso fundido, avoid the bland tacos

Moishe's Village* - Boerek (Turkish pizzas), get it with fried eggs

Monsieur Marcel's - Best fondue in town

Pampas Grill - Brazilian churrascaria

Patsy D’Amore’s Pizza - Real NY style pizza


SECOND TIER


Bennett's Ice Cream - Decent homemade ice cream

The Gumbo Pot - Cajun food, po-boys, jambalaya, etc.

Moishe’s - Lamb ka-bob and other Middle Eastern fare

Singapore’s Banana Leaf - Paratha with Curry sauce is the go-for dish

Thee's Continental Bakery - Good cookies and pastries

Tusquellas Fish & Oyster Bar - Fish & chips


THIRD TIER

The Bread Bin - Eastern European sweets

Bryan’s Pit Barbecue - Dry, underseasoned barbecue

Charlie's Coffee Shop* - Basic diner food with a homey atmosphere

China Depot - The better of two Chinese steam table stands

Coffee Corner* - A small selection of pastries

Deano's Gourmet Pizza* - Pizza and pastas

Gill’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream - Soft serve

Kokomo - New school diner food, interesting in theory, boring in fact

La Korea - Basic Korean food

Magee's Kitchen* - Carving station meats and old-time Mexican dishes

Market Grill - Cheeseburgers and fries

Peking Kitchen* - The lesser of two Chinese steam table stands

Phil's Grill* - Basic Jewish deli fare done competently

The Salad Bar* - My choice for worst place in the Market -- lackluster salads and cold sandwiches

Sushi A Go Go* - A small step up from Ralph's sushi bar

T&Y Bakery - Cakes and pastries that look better than they taste

Ultimate Nut and Candy - Flavored popcorn and candies

Ulysses Voyage - Unexceptional Greek sit-down restaurant

For more complete reviews, see my original postings, cataloged here.

There you have it, another exercise in my obsessive completionist tendencies and the Ultimate Guide to the Farmers Market.

7 comments:

Erica Sleestack said...

This experiment may be your first step to a pulitzer. Jonathan Gold got his start by eating at every dive on Pico Blvd. MOst of those third tier spots seem pretty uninviting, particularly "Peking Kitchen"...but you courageously chose to give them a chance anyway...and I guess that led you to discover Moishe's Village and their Boereks...so hopefully it was all worth it.

I look forward to your coming comparative review of convenience store fare. Are AMPM's dog's really better than 7-11's Big Bites (which I found to be pedestrian)?

Bon Vivant said...

I just can't not go to Loteria! so that's where I always eat.

Many (many) years ago I used to live in Park La Brea when Kokomo's fist opened. Back in the day it was very good and a little ahead of its time. I haven't been since I've moved out of the area so sorry to hear it's third tier.

I know we discussed this before but my last meal at Ulysses Voyage was fabulous. I know others who think that it's so-so so maybe I just got lucky that night?

sku said...

Erica, I am flattered that you would even mention me in the same paragraph as our exalted local critic. Thanks.

As to convenience store hot dogs, LOL...but I will be doing a post on the bacon wrapped push cart variety sometime soon.

Bon Vivant, I too used to live in Park La Brea and I think Kokomo's has gone down hill. I definitely remember it as being better.

As to Ulysses Voyage, I gave it another try for this roundup, but I was still really unimpressed. Maybe you did get lucky or maybe it's just a matter of opinion...what did you have there that was so great?

Bon Vivant said...

I started off with the tamarosalata which had a much better texture and taste than at Papa Cristo's (I have to say though that I've only had the tamarosalata at PC's at their Thursday night dinners and I feel overall the food sucks at those dinners; any other time the food is excellent.) The roe was salty and briny without that steel like taste at PC's.

Here's where I may have hit the jackpot: my entree was a special grilled sea bass. It was simplicity at its best! The fish was very fresh and was skillfully cooked.

augustgarage said...

I'm largely in agreement with your ratings among the places I've tried (although I also have a really hard time going anywhere other than Loteria). I find Singapore's Banana Leaf to be Top Tier (Mee Goreng or Laksa w/fishballs are my go-to menu items) where as the French Crepe Company is woefully inadequate (though I wouldn't dispute a 2nd Tier placement as they aren't flat out gross or anything).

Then again, I haven't had a chance to eat Indonesian food much at all, where as I've had crepes at nearly a dozen places from Portland to Paris.

sku said...

I can see not being satisfied with the Crepe Co. if you're comparing it to Paris, but where else in LA would you suggest for great crepes?

augustgarage said...

L.A. has a ton of amazing food (regional Mexican, Thai, and Japanese for starters) but is weak when it comes to breakfast*. We don't have the "breakfast culture" like up in the Pacific Northwest, so this isn't a big surprise...

There are a couple places that have great German pancakes or reasonably good egg dishes, but I haven't really found good crepes here yet. You can certainly do (a lot!) worse than the Crepe Co. in L.A. I had marginally better one's at a place in Los Feliz a couple years ago (sorry, I don't remember the name), but not good enough to warrant a repeat visit.

*also the Indian food here is pretty crap - though Al Watan Halal is excellent (and very affordable) for Pakistani food...