Be a Tourist in your own Town
I moved from Long Island, NY to Hollywood in 1995. One year after the Northridge Earthquake,a few years after the housing crash of 1990, the Rodney King Riots, and the Seattle “Grunge Movement” which included a few decent bands,alot of bad imitators and the almost intravenous invasion of Coffee into the veins of America. .
I’d hit a level of bordom and depression in my life that was in dire need of something drastic to reinvigorate me. I felt trapped. I needed a change. So, I packed up my shitty Ford Escort and moved to LA.
Back in 95′, Hollywood was in a lull. Alot of people I met told me stories of “back in the day”…aka the, 80′s, when Hollywood was crawling with rockers, people having sex in the bushes on Sunset, Rock n’ Roll Denny’s insanity at 3 in the morning etc.
I missed it all. I had opportunities to visit LA back in 83′ when my childhood friend moved here and would send me letters telling me “I have a spare bedroom, come visit”…I didn’t, I was too involved in my then band to even take off a week. We really weren’t too busy to take a week off, I was just too wrapped up in it to do anything else.
Stupid me. Looking back now, I would probably have never come home. For years after I tried to convince the band to move to LA, so we could “get signed”. No one wanted to. You see New Yorkers have this thing about New York being the center of the universe, so it’s hard to convince alot of them that any place else exists.
Anyway, water under the proverbial bridge. Back to 1995…
Hollywood was this place that “used to be…” and was kinda slow at the moment. I didn’t care, I loved it. It was quaint, seedy, and glamorous all at the same time. It was laid back, but still exciting, and you could still feel the ghost of Poison and Guns N Roses in the neighborhood, even tho’ those folks were curshed under the shadow of “alternative”.
Alot of people I met were around the same age as me, and grew up on the same 70′s pop culture I did. The Powerpop movement was surging, and bands who loved the Beatles and Cheap Trick were coming out of the woodwork.Fun, without all the cheeze of the 80′s. I met lots of cool people, saw cool bands, got to record some of them too. Hollywood still had some of it’s old architecture from the 50′s still hanging around, Ben Franks was still open, Rock n Roll Denny’s showed no sign of meeting the bulldozer. It was old and cool….That was then…
In 2006 it’s a very different place. I moved out to “the valley” in 2002. Why ? Hollywood was getting crowded, people were moving in. Lots of Britney Spears and N’ Sync clones were running around, listening to shitty music, saying stuff like “dope” and “bling”,like MTV oepened up it’s can of worms and poured it out all over the streets, and those horrific Strip Mall on Hollywood Steroids starting rearing their ugly, massive heads. Hollywood was making it’s comeback, and it was going to be bigger, brighter, glossier, more fake and in your face than ever. Change was coming…you could just feel it.
It started with The Hollywood and Higland Project. Hollywood and Highland is for all intents and purposes, a Retail Theme Park. When you walk inside, it looks like a mini town. All frilly, overdone with ugly details, and the dreaded “upscale shopping”. Gross. Add to that, the location, which makes getting in and out of Hollywood an insane clusterfuck. There are only a few ways into Hollywood from the Valley….Highland, Cahuenga, Laurel Canyon…that’s pretty much it.
“SO, how about this…we put a HUGE shopping attraction right at the main mouth of one of those conduits”….STUPID. Now, the traffic here is insane.I’m glad I don’t live there now, but I DO miss what it was, and find myself a little sad when “I go into town” now to do stuff. As a result, I end up doing the touristy stuff, oddly enough.
In 95′, The Farmer’s Market on 3rd and Fairfax was a cool little piece of old Hollywood where you could go on a weekday morning and eat, get coffee, whatever…You’d pull right into the parking lot and park. There was no guard collecting money, no parking vaidation tickets….you could go wherever you want. Inside, you’d see old timer’s, mostly the area’s Russian and Jewish folks eating and talking, or buying stuff from the Vegetable stands and Meat Market….It was old school, a step back in time. It was a big social thing for the old timers.
Farmer’s Market….greab a seat, and a bite.
Surrounding the Farmer’s Market was a plant nursery to one side, a bank to another, a wine store, and CBS studios. There was a makeshift post office in a trailer, and there was DuPar’s…home of the best pancakes on earth.
Sometime after the Hollywood and Higland Project, some developers bought all the land around the Farmer’s Market with the idea of putting in one of these Retail Theme Parks….I’m sure they tried to buy the Farmer’s Market, but I think the old timers probably raised hell about it and demanded they leave the Farmer’s Market Alone…
Thankfully so. The Farmer’s Market remains largely untouched, and still retains that old school charm. Soon as you step outside tho’ it’s a whole new Ballgame.
I’m big, I’m new, I’m upscale and grotesque, I’m a theme park,studio backlot and a mall all in one…I am the GROVE!
WEEEEE!!!!! Let’s ride on the TROLLEY mommy! Coolness has left the building
BOOM!!!! The G R O V E HAS ARRIVED !!!
Upscale shopping, a megaplex theater (a good theater I must say), an Apple store (the saving grace), and a trolley car that goes from one end to the other….YAY!…DISNEY is in the HOUSE ! A huge fountain centerpiece wows spectators, and Hollywood is BACK, in all it’s 80′s over the top, disgusting splendor.
Yea….a more gross juxtaposition you be hard pressed to find, but hey, I’m sure the Farmer’s Market Vendors are happy as a pig in shiznit about it, with all the patronage it’s bringing in.
So, that being said, the Farmer’s market is still a great place to go. Once you’re inside, you have no evidence of all the other ugliness, except for the fact that it’s more crowded than when I first used to go there.
Step back in time….The entrance to Farmer’s Market.
The French Crepe Company.
Usually we go to Kokomo to eat, but on this particular day we opted for The French Crepe Company, being that we didn’t want to indulge in a huge meal, as to save room for the OTHER Hollywood staple, Canters (more on that later)
We had a roasted Turkey crepe, with some kind of cheese (unnamed) and tomatoes, and a standard “sweet crepe”…basically butter and sugar…Crepes are just so good if prepared right….these were pretty damn good. Warm, soft, tasty…everything inside all melted and gooey, everything it was supposed to be. The sweet crepe tasted like swedish pancakes, sweet and buttery…just awesome. I’ll be back to this place again.
The French Crepe Company – Just perfect !
The Farmer’s Market also has several fresh produce stands, a meat market, liquor store, and even a store that sells only Hot Sauce. There are, of course, all the Hollywood tourist trinkets, and tons of other great food stands and bakeries, ice cream, Chinese, BBQ, pizza, you name it. Many of which have been there for years.
Bob’s Coffee and Donuts. great Coffee, Great Donuts, Old school, what else can you ask for ?
No trip to the Farmer’s Market is complete without a quick cuppa joe and a donut from Bob’s Coffee and Donuts. Their cinnamon rolls are just amazing. Coffee is always good, and the seating area is a great place to hang, IF you can find a seat. This place has been here many years, and is always voted Best Coffee and Donuts in LA.
There IS a Starbucks on the other side of the market, but you ain’t gonna find these donuts there…
Anyway, a trip to the Farmer’s Market is a way bigger hassle these days, with the aformentioned parking attendants, Grove mobs, and general Hollywood madness, but it’s still a nice place to go for a bite and to walk around and check out the shops.
Sometimes it ok to be a tourist in your own town…next stop…Canters.
Canter’s, a Hollywood Institution
What can be said about Canter’s ? It’s been around almost as long as the Farmer’s Market. It’s a Hollywood Institution. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a heinous undercover news investigation that uncovered some really bad health issues in the kitchen didn’t put a dent in this place’s business (it’s since been improved on the cleanliness front)
So what are they famous for, besides being a hangouot for famous people, not so famous people, freaks, weirdos, and the old school Fairfax Jewish community ?
Matzo Ball soup, what else IS there are Canters?
The Matzo Ball soup for one. All my Jewish friends who grew up on “mom’s matzo ball soup” say this is the next best thing. I never even tried matzo ball soup until having it here, so I have no frame or reference beside my own tastebuds, but this stuff is GOOD! It’s pretty basic….A bowl of Chicken Soup with a HUGE matzo ball in it. Carrots are extra, and I always indulge. No need for much else, the matzo ball is the star of this shindig…big and tasty, great consistency, and a bowl of this is a meal. They give you bagel chips on the sidem which are great for dipping in the soup, or if you’re REALLY hungry, order a toasted and buttered bagel on the side, and dip THAT in there….YUMMY !
You can also get a nice Kreplach soup too, which is basically a Jewish Dumpling, or the “Mish Mash” soup, which is matzo ball, kreplach and noodles…I’ve only attempted that one a few times.
I HAVE had other stuff there too. They make great salads, and breakfast is aways good.
Then there are the Sandwiches….and when you’re in a Jewish Deli, you best get your sandwich on rye bread. Being that they’re a bakery, you can bet on the rye bread being good, and it is…..stack up some turkey, or corned beef or pastrami (if you’re into that kinda thing) or turkey or egg salad…good stuff. The pumpernickel bread is great too.
Then there is the usual diner stuff, burgers, spaghetti, desserts from the bakery etc….A huge menu overall, but it’s the matzo ball soup that makes me go out of the way to go there.
You can’t really go wrong with a place where Rodney has his own booth, and some of the wait staff have been there 40 years or more. Like I said…it’s an Institution.
2 HUGE dining rooms, a deli counter, a bakery counter, and the Kibbitz Room, which is an adjoining bar, with live bands (sometimes, all star jams or a dj), all relatively untouched since the 50′s, and still retaining their great Googie Light Fixtures. Canter’s was a big hangout back in the heyday of the Sunset Strip, ie: the 60′s, and continues to be the place to go after a night out in the clubs….just go there after 2 am any night of the week, and see for yourself.
419 N Faifax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036