In 1880, A.F. Gilmore and a partner bought two dairy farms in Los Angeles. They split their holdings 10 years later and Gilmore took control of the 256-acre ranch, its dairy herd and farmhands at what is now the corner of 3rd & Fairfax, The Original Farmers Market.
When Gilmore wanted to expand his dairy herd, he started drilling new wells for water. Instead, he discovered oil. Soon, the dairy herd was replaced by a field of oil derricks. The rich oil field near the La Brea tar pits continued to generate crude, but the derricks were no longer permitted on a large scale within the city.
The Gilmore property remained largely vacant into the 1930s, when at the height of the Great Depression, two entrepreneurs, Fred Beck and Roger Dahlhjelm, approached A.F.’s son, Earl Bell (E.B.) Gilmore, with an idea of building a village at the corner of 3rd & Fairfax where local farmers could sell their products. In July of 1934, a dozen farmers and a few other merchants arrived and began selling their fresh produce out of the back of their trucks.
By October 1934, farmers and merchants, including restaurants, grocers and service providers, were moving into permanent stalls. Gilmore Stadium was built that same year before the market opened and was home to the L.A. Bulldogs, the city’s first professional football team. The stadium also hosted rodeos, boxing matches, swim exhibitions and motorcycle races. Gilmore Field, opened in 1939, was the home of the Hollywood Stars, one of two professional baseball teams in L.A. before the Dodgers left Brooklyn.
Eighty-seven years and a Grove later, the market still holds that old-world charm for shopping and dining, with some of the same vendors like Patsy D’Amore’s Pizza which has been in business for 75 years, and Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts which has been in the same spot for 74 years.
The stadium and baseball field are gone, but despite the surrounding gentrification, a step into the market is still a step back in time. Whether you’re looking for holiday gifts, superior meats, produce, candy and nuts or a fun lunch that feels like a vacation, the 87-year-old Original Farmers Market is a local paradise. Here are some of our favorites:
Magee’s House of Nuts. President Dwight Eisenhower was hypnotized by the peanut butter machine upon his visit and a few years later, the Beatles visited the same shop. They have a delicious selection of macadamias, pecans and walnuts. The oldest tenant in the market, they’ve been making their peanut butter since 1934 with peanuts only, no added sugar.
Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market. A food lover’s dream, this gourmet market is possibly one of the best in Los Angeles. They offer thousands of imported specialty foods, olive oils, charcuterie, cheeses, wines, giftware and baskets as well as demonstrations, a French bistro and seafood market for that New Year’s Eve bouillabaisse.
Kaylin and Kaylin Pickles. One of the newer additions to the market, Scott Kaylin has brought savory and sweet gluten-free and vegan New York-style pickles to the West Coast. Pick up a pouch of jalapeno, kosher dill, half-sour, horseradish, mustard, spicy dill and honey mustard for your next open house host gift.
Huntington Meats, Poultry and Sausages. Another market mainstay, this old-fashioned butcher shop has a premium selection of steaks, chops, poultry, housemade sausages and meatballs as well as classes and is the protein source of a good many of L.A.’s best restaurants.
Rick’s Produce. A great place for local produce, Rick’s organic fruits and vegetables are sourced from the family’s farm in Fallbrook. They also have a snack bar with smoothies, salads, juices, salsas, acai bowls and carry jams.
Anaheim House of Jerky. Looking for a stocking stuffer for one of your favorite carnivores? This wacky stall offers more than 40 different varieties to choose from, ranging from traditional beef and chicken teriyaki to alligator, shark, rattlesnake and camel as well as vegan versions.
Little John’s English Toffee House. Candy master Michael Graves turns out handmade chocolate, caramel and toffee confections daily at Little John’s which has been a market favorite since the 1940s. There is an ample selection of gift kits including holiday specials like eggnog fudge and old-fashioned mint bark.
Zia Valentina. This vendor has become a hot topic among coffee lovers for the world-famous edible coffee cup known as the Waffleshot – a chocolate-dipped cone filled with espresso, coffee or granita.
If you choose to sit down and dine in and tip a few, try margaritas or brunch at the airy El Granjero Cantina, perfect for people watching. Gift cards are available. The contemporary British pub Market Tavern is a fun stop for a pint and if you’re lucky, you might just be able to order up a flight from owner Gary Twinn and Honeydipper, and swap punk rock stories. On Sunday afternoons around 5 p.m. you just might catch a little live music from his ex-pat musician friends in the space filled with rock & roll photography over a dish of chicken curry.
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