LITTLE ETHIOPIA

When you start inching your way down Fairfax in the usual gridlocked traffic of the Mid-Wilshire corridor, you might wonder why you ever thought visiting Little Ethiopia was a good idea.

But TRUST US, it is. Nestled on just one block along Fairfax, in between Olympic Boulevard and Pico Boulevard, Little Ethiopia is one of the most vibrant ethnic enclaves in the city – and you’ll find more delicious, can’t-find-anywhere-else dishes in one block than you might uncover in whole swaths of other LA neighborhoods. While you’re likely to see other adventurous eaters or LA locals gathered around tables in each restaurant, you’ll more often overhear conversations in Amharic. So breathe in the spices, and and get ready for the tangy taste of the fermented bread injera: Little Ethiopia is your next neighborhood adventure.

Stop 1: Paradocs Coffee and Tea

Blink and you might miss it, but this cozy space brews up the kind of great coffee you can only find in an independent café. We ordered a Soy Masala Chai Latte (a specialty!), and an Iced Matcha Latte with Almond Milk (one of the best we’ve had).

They offer your standard espresso drinks, as well as more interesting concoctions like iced blueberry matcha, and an array of sandwiches made on freshly-baked focaccia bread each morning. Most of the pastries were sold out by the time we arrived in early afternoon, but the matcha brownie and blueberry cream cheese sconut (that’s right, sconut – we were told it’s softer than a scone) sounded dizzyingly scrumptious.

(1032 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles)

Stop 2: Cannonball and Tilly Vintage

This colorful, dazzling vintage shop has been a go-to for several years now. If you’re looking for something special, a piece that stands out and is certainly not shy – then Cannonball and Tilly is the place for you.

Owner Laura Kranitz travels all over the country (and the world!) to find uniquely lively clothing for the adventurous fashionista. She was once a buyer for one of the most well-known vintage shops in the city and has owned an accessories store for years, and girl knows her stuff. Nothing is over-priced, and you are SURE to be asked where you got that dress/pair of boots/necklace.

Insider’s Tip: Their spring sale takes place April 1st and 2nd, with $10 and $20 specials!

(1029 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles)

Stop 3: Helping Hand Thrift Shop

When we say that this place has almost anything you can think of, we mean it — from Mickey Mouse telephones to 20th century globes to military uniforms and a wall of ironing boards. The shop has been family-run for 20 years, and the owners always seem willing to cut a deal. “Organized” is not an adjective we’d use, but it’s a seriously fun place to dig through. You never quite know what treasures you might find!

(1033 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles)

Stop 4: Buna Market

Did ya know? A buna shop is a coffeeshop, and this new kid on the block is a lively addition to the neighborhood. Coffee service is an important part of Ethiopian culture, and this small café serves food, too. It’s compact but often loud, with Ethiopian families sitting around the five or six tables in the back and chatting with the (sweet!) owners. The small market area in front offers beef jerky, Ethiopian coffee, black African soap, imported mango juice, and even children’s books in Amharic.

(1034 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles)

Stop 5: Merkato

This place has a sweet little coffee counter/bar on the back left. We saddled up for some Ethiopian beers, and the group of men swigging Coca-Cola out of glass bottles and watching soccer around nearby tables made us feel like it was a weekend evening in Addis Ababa.

The restaurant on the right-hand side serves up some of the best meat dishes on the block (try the kitfo, a raw minced beef dish prepared in butter), which is a huge plus for the non-vegetarians in your group. They also have freshly-made injera packaged and ready to take home, as well as the usual bags of lentils and spices.

(1036 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles)

Stop 6: Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine

Don’t let the “vegan” in the name dissuade you – so much of East Africa’s cuisine is veggie-based anyway, so it’s not like you’re entering the African equivalent of Café Gratitude.

Rahel’s was one of the very first Ethiopian restaurants we tried when we moved to Los Angeles, longing for shiro wot from our days in Seattle. After getting elbow-deep in Ethiopian stews with new friends, it quickly became an LA favorite. But even after many visits in recent years, we’d never had the chance to dine “traditionally” – until now. The server immediately offered us the round hut in the corner, and we could barely hide our excitement. If this is your first time at the restaurant (or trying Ethiopian food!) we highly recommend the Millennium Special — it offers the best of everything, from split lentil stew, potatoes with carrots and cabbage, pumpkin stew and string beans.

(1047 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles)

The Details:

Several bus routes run along Fairfax Avenue, and once you’re in Little Ethiopia — it’s only a few blocks, so getting around on foot is the easiest! Watch out for parking restrictions, especially along side streets.

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