On She Goes

Enjoy a Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles

Spend the day in this historic part of LA.

Chanté Griffin
Chanté Griffin
January 31, 2018
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Los Angeles County is said to be home to the largest Ethiopian population in the US, with more than 60,000 residents; Little Ethiopia is their cultural hub. The area, located on a small, surprisingly nondescript stretch of Fairfax Avenue in the Pico/Robertson neighborhood, offers visitors a chance to experience Ethiopia while never leaving Los Angeles’s borders. A closer look, however, reveals the Ethiopian flag hanging high, a few shops lettered in Amharic, and an array of stores ready to immerse you in the very best of Ethiopian culture and cuisine. Spend the day in this historic part of LA with an itinerary of shopping, checking out the culture, and grabbing a few bites to eat.

Grab some essentials on the market shelf attached to the Merkato restaurant.
photo by Chante Griffin

Merkato Restaurant
1036 1/2 S Fairfax Ave

Although Merkato features only a small breakfast menu, the place is a great way to start your day in Little Ethiopia. It serves filling entreés, including an Ethiopian-inspired omelette, as well as more traditional options like folle—seasoned garbanzo beans spiced with amaze (a pepper) and topped with yogurt. Like many restaurants in Ethiopia, Merkato is attached to a market and gift shop. Need some red lentils for an upcoming dinner party? No problem. How about some shea butter or frankincense incense? Done. You can leave Merkato with a happy stomach and some hot sauce in your bag.

Little Ethiopia Cultural & Resource Center.
photo by Chante Griffin

Little Ethiopia Cultural & Resource Center
1037 S Fairfax Ave

After breakfast, walk across the street to the Little Ethiopia Cultural & Resource Center. Founded in 2010, the center introduces visitors to the history and traditions of Ethiopia. Saturday mornings feature dance and art classes, plus language courses for kids and adults. The center also hosts events on the first Thursdays and Sundays of every month, showcasing art, music, and sidewalk vendors. Another option is the cultural immersion program, curated especially for groups and tourists. The program lasts three to four hours and includes a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony and lessons in Ethiopian history, literature, music, and dance. Call to make a reservation.

Rehal Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine.
photo by Chante Griffin

Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine
1047 S Fairfax Ave

This is the perfect spot to enjoy a light lunch, especially if you’re either vegan or vegetarian. Rahel serves up chickpeas, zucchini, split lentils, and string beans—all slow-cooked to savory perfection—alongside gluten-free injera. I recommend the red lentils, and of course the champagne. (If you don’t know what injera is, then you should definitely visit Little Ethiopia.) The restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet from 11–3 daily, including a champagne brunch on Sundays.

Safari Ethiopian Store
1049 S Fairfax Ave

This shop has been a staple in Little Ethiopia for more than 20 years and sells imported clothing for adults and children. Each piece is 100% cotton and handmade, including the intricate, hand-stitched embroidery. The shop boasts artwork and jewelry too, but it is its owner, Alem, who is the crowning jewel of the boutique. She is as personable as she is eager to share stories about her homeland. So feel free to walk in, take a seat, and ask her to explain what women wear during a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

Cannonball & Tilly.
photo by Chante Griffin

Cannonball & Tilly
1029 S Fairfax Ave

If you’re like me and can’t resist at least browsing in a vintage shop, stop by Cannonball & Tilly. Since it’s a “vintage store” and not a “thrift store,” not everything is super thrifty, but there’s a discount rack in front, plus plenty of finds inside that are worth the price tag: a black leather clasp purse from the ’60s, stark white arm-length starlet gloves, and cowboy boots right out of the ’80s. I guarantee you that you will find something that suits your fashionista taste buds, no matter how bold or reserved you may be.

Meals by Genet
1053 S Fairfax Ave

A dinner at Meals by Genet is a must. The restaurant’s design parallels any popular Hollywood dinner spot, with crisp, white tablecloths, a custom-designed lighting system, and candlelit tables, while its food parallels the authenticity of any hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop spot. Owner Genet Agonafer hand-prepares each meal. The house specialty is Ria Genet’s doro wot, a chicken dish slow-cooked for two days in a blend of Ethiopian spices. This is one of the dishes that secured the restaurant a spot on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. I’d strongly recommend making reservations in advance.

Buna Ethiopia Restaurant & Market
1034 S Fairfax Ave

If you’re a dessert and coffee lover like me, then finish the evening here, right next door to Merkato. Coffee is their specialty, and you can pair a cup with an Ethiopian-spiced version of baklava or tiramisu. Or, if coffee isn’t your thing, try their Ethiopian spice tea. You’ll wrap up your day with a full stomach, and you’ll be full of experiences to share on your Instagram.