Ethiopia in Los Angeles
Hidden gems and good finds on the small strip along Fairfax Avenue.
By Annie Suh –
You’ve probably passed by Little Ethiopia (which they officially named in 2002) many times while driving en route to Culver City or The Grove. Maybe you’ve even dined at one of the tasty Ethiopian restaurants. But if that doesn’t describe you, maybe it’s time to head on over and tantalize those bored palates of yours.
Though the small Ethiopian strip located on the south side of Fairfax between Olympic and Whitworth is not very expansive and lacks the hip flamboyance that West Hollywood basks in, it’s a flush place for those into uncommon finds.
The Ethiopian Market of LA
Let me direct you to the Merkato Ethiopian market that sells Tej—honey wine that is a famous national drink in Ethiopia. This refrigerated dessert wine sells for $10 a bottle and you can find it near the back of the store. Ethiopia is also known for their excellent coffee, which you can try at their coffee counter. Or you can purchase their coffee beans to brew at home.
A lot of customers go to Merkato to buy Ethiopian spices or fresh injera bread, which is best described as spongy flat bread used to scoop food on since the culture doesn’t use utensils, even at the restaurants. (Btw, I hope you’re not calling them uncouth. If so, you may be subconsciously using your own cultural standards to judge—not cool.) Eating with the hands is a normal, traditional practice for many cultures including India and the Philippines.
While you’re at the market, if you’d like to introduce your ears to a new tune, direct your attention to their Ethiopian music collection. Popular musicians include Tewodros Kasahun, if you like reggae, or Aster Aweke, if you’re into slow love songs. Sorry, no English translations.
Little Ethiopia’s Thrift Shops and the Best Eateries
Out the market to the left and across the street are under-the-radar thrift shops that are filled with hidden gems. Helping Hand Thrift Shop at 1033 is the jackpot for unique charms and jewelry where I found an Ethiopian cross charm, vintage bowling bag and ball, retro furniture and classic Kodak Brownie Hawkeye cameras from the 1950s. They also have props for rent.
Fill that after-shopping-empty-stomach syndrome by dining next door at Addis Ethiopian Restaurant, which has garnered five stars on Yelp—just in case you were wondering. Addis opened only about six months ago and refers to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. An appetizing and popular dish is their Veggie Combo (#17 on the menu), which includes six items including Misir, split red lentils in chili sauce, and Kik Alicha, split peas, served by friendly staff. Meals by Genet, Rahel Ethiopian Veggie Cuisine, and Messob Ethiopian Restaurant are also worth a visit.
LA is home to about 30,000 Ethiopians, according to an unofficial estimate by the local Ethiopian Consulate. You may not be able to go to Ethiopia, but at least you can get a small taste of it right here in Los Angeles.