LAmag.com, July 14, 2009
We hear the debates ad nauseam. “La Brea is the boundary between the Westside and the Eastside.” “No, it’s La Cienega.” “Are you crazy? It’s the L.A. River.” Here’s a much simpler suggestion on how to identify your place as an Angeleno: You’re either West Patio or East Patio, as in the two great public seating areas of the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax.
This week the market commemorates its 75th birthday with food tastings, strolling barbershop quartets and parade bands, and a giant cake replica of the famous clock tower. Is there any landmark in the city whose survival is more worthy of celebration? We named the market one of the 64 Greatest Things About LA last year, citing its “quaint metal chairs and handmade rolling carts…the dawdling screenwriters, the Auschwitz survivors, the Japanese students in tidy uniforms, the grandmas of Park La Brea reborn as town gossips and resident sages.” I have moments—mostly when I’ve pulled into the parking lot from a traffic jam—when I feel like the market is my archipelago in the middle of chaos. Eight years ago, when the Grove shopping complex opened on the market’s borders, many of us feared that the archipelago would be destroyed. Those worries were captured in “Market Watch,” our October 2001 story about the history and culture of 3rd and Fairfax. Thankfully, the Grove’s success seems to have done nothing but increase foot traffic at the market.
As for me, I’m strictly East Patio, have been since I was born. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve eaten my share of po’boys from Gumbo Pot (though I took the addition of a Starbucks there as a personal affront). But my family set its roots right in front of Bob’s doughnut stand on the East decades ago, and we’ve never looked back. My love of the market is no secret—it’s where my colleagues threw me a surprise baby shower. A slice of pizza fresh out of the brick oven at Patsy’s, a warm maple bar from Bob’s, and a scoop of mint chocolate chip from Bennett’s—ahh, I’m East Patio to the core.