Food-Lover's Guide to Los Angeles

Markets, farms, artisans, & best shops for cooks

City: Los Angeles, California Population: 3.8 million Local specialties: Fresh produce, ethnic cuisines, fusion food

There are two versions of Los Angeles ... or hundreds. On the surface, there is Hollywood, the Sunset Strip, and stereotypes of starved actresses. This is the LA that rarely gets mentioned in the same breath as other food-centric cities like New York and Paris. But dig a little deeper, or open your eyes to this vast city's ethnic neighborhoods, and LA becomes a food lovers' paradise. With the world's largest Korean, Iranian, and Guatamalan communities (to name just a few) outside their native countries, and the year-round availability of fresh, quality produce, LA is rich in culinary tradition and innovation. In pockets throughout the city, there are shops selling specialized ingredients, fusion dishes being born, and artisans hard at work.

Like many tourists, when I first came to LA, I was completely unaware of how much this city had to offer, food-wise. Visits to just a few of LA's immigrant communities and food markets convinced me that this was a place to continuing exploring, and within five months, I moved here. More than seven years later, I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface. There are so many more ingredients to experiment with, farmers to meet, and artisan products to taste.

Los Angeles can be a difficult place for visitors; there's the notorious sprawl, and some of the city's most interesting culinary destinations are housed in nondescript strip malls. I hope this guide provides some assistance, and I look to our readers to share even more tips. Where do you shop in Los Angeles? What do you consider the must-taste spots for food-loving visitors? If a visitor was going to take home a food souvenir from this city, where would you suggest they buy it?

Foods You Must Try

California cuisine – fresh, seasonal produce and fusion dishes
• Ethnic cuisines – Armenian, Chinese, Ethiopian, Filipino, Guatemalan, Indian, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Persian, Salvadoran, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese
• Fresh farmers' market produce
• Burgers – fast food and gourmet
• Frozen treats – ice cream, gelato, sorbet, paletas (ice pops)
• Korean barbecue
• Pastrami
• Sushi
• Tacos
• Tamales
Mobile food
• Anything recommended by local food critic Jonathan Gold

Farmers' Markets

There are 95 Certified Farmers' Markets in Los Angeles County. These are the two markets we especially recommend for visitors:

Hollywood Farmers' Market - Emphasis on produce and prepared foods; family-friendly atmosphere (Sunday)
Santa Monica Farmers' Market - Emphasis on produce; frequented by professional chefs (Wednesday)

Food Halls

El Mercado de Los Angeles (aka El Mercadito) - Three-story market with Mexican food, products, restaurants, and mariachis
Grand Central Market - Established in 1917, the market features international produce, meat, seafood, spices, fresh tortillas, and prepared foods
Original Farmers Market - A 75-year old LA landmark with fresh produce, meat, seafood, baked goods, candy, nuts, ice cream, and restaurants

Ethnic Grocery Stores

• Argentinian: Mercado Buenos Aires
• Armenian: Jons Marketplace, Super King Market
• Chinese: 99 Ranch Market
• Filipino: Seafood City
• Greek: C&K Importing
• Indian: India Sweets and Spices, Samosa House
• Indonesian: Simpang Asia
• Iranian: Elat Market, Jordan Market, Q Market, Star Market
• Japanese: Marukai, Mitsuwa, Nijiya
• Jewish: Elat Market, Kosher Club
• Korean: California Market, Galleria Market, Han Kook (HK) Supermarket
• Latino: El Super, Liborio Market
• Russian: Odessa Grocery
• Thai: Bangluck Market, Silom Market

Specialty Shops of Note

Bar Keeper - New and vintage glassware, barware, and books
Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery - Gourmet market specializing in Italian, Argentine, Greek, and Middle Eastern ingredients
Bottega Louie - Restaurant, gourmet market, and patisserie
CheeseStore of Silver Lake - Fine cheeses, wines, and gourmet products
Cheese Store of Beverly Hills - Imported cheeses and high-end ingredients
Erewhon Natural Foods Market - Organic, natural, and macrobiotic foods
European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen - Sausages and European groceries
Galco's Soda Pop Stop - Over 450 sodas, 500 beers, and candies
Joan's on Third - Gourmet market and café
Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market - Fine food store adjacent to a French bistro
Mozza 2 Go - Pizzeria Mozza's Italian specialty shop
Nicole's Gourmet Foods - French and gourmet foods
Santa Monica Seafood - Fish and seafood
Surfas - Restaurant supply and gourmet food store

Independent Food Artisans

Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale - Italian gelato and sorbet
Carmela Ice Cream - Seasonal ice cream and sorbet
Delicieuse - Goat's milk ice cream and sorbet
Ellelle Kitchen - Handcrafted jams
Fugetsu-Do Confectionery - Japanese mochi, since 1903
Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea - Coffeebar and roasting works
La Brea Bakery - Original storefront of Nancy Silverton's artisanal bakery
Little Flower Candy Co. - Fresh caramels and marshmallows
Mashti Malone's - Persian ice cream and sorbet
Paletería La Michoacana - Mexican ice pops
Scoops - Innovative ice cream and sorbet

About The Kitchn's Food-Lover's Guides

We focus mainly on home cooking here at The Kitchn, and we know that one huge source of inspiration is travel. We want to give you ideas for things to eat and places to visit even when you're away from your home kitchen. We want to inspire your inner chef and introduce you to the best spots for food-lovers in a dozen or so major cities.

These guides don't deal with restaurants; there are plenty of other resources for that. These are the spots for food-lovers and cooks: the markets, specialty cookshops, and best small-batch artisans. If you're traveling in one of these cities this summer, we hope these guides help you find something inspiring. And if you live here, maybe you'll find a new resource to inspire your daily cooking!

We need your help, too, with these guides. Each city's thread will have at least some recommendations, but of course they will be incomplete. So we need your insider help. Tell us where the best markets, food shops, jam-makers, brewers, butchers, independent groceries, bakery supply stores, and quirky, strange, out-of-the-way food experts are. What are your favorite places to shop, as a cook?

Related:
Sense of Place: The Ingredients and Flavors of California
Sense of Place: The Food and Cuisine of California

(Images: Flickr member Steve Zaslavsky licensed under Creative Commons, Emily Ho)