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NEIGHBORHOODS: Little Ethiopia

THE GUIDE

Fairfax Avenue seems to have crossed oceans when it reaches this flavorful and colorful stretch of stores.

March 10, 2009|Rachel Levin

L.A.'s Fairfax Avenue has long been a meeting place for diverse cultures.

It became an artery for the Jewish community in the 1950s, and the original Farmers Market has been a central gathering ground for Angelenos of every stripe since 1934.

The most recent arrivals to claim a slice of Fairfax as home are Ethiopians, who in the 1990s began forming a critical mass of restaurants, markets and service shops between Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive.

In 2002, the city officially recognized this enclave as Little Ethiopia, and today the buzz of commerce -- and coffee -- transports visitors to Addis Ababa.

A culture of coffee

Hailing from the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopians take their brew seriously. The traditional coffee ceremony involves hand-ground beans brewed in a decorative pot alongside burning incense. Take in the complete ceremony at Messob (1041 S. Fairfax Ave., [323] 938-8827, www.messob.com). Or, for a quick pick-me-up, stop at the coffee counter at Merkato Ethiopian market (1036 1/2 Fairfax Ave., [323] 935-1775, www.ethiopianmerkato.com), where you can also buy beans from the homeland to brew at home.

Sans utensils

Spicy, hearty stews scooped up with injera bread -- a spongy pancake that substitutes for silverware -- are the foundation of Ethiopian meals. At area favorite Meals by Genet (1053 S. Fairfax Ave., [323] 938-9304, www.mealsbygenet.com), chef Genet Agonafer slow-cooks her authentic dorowat (chicken stewed in red pepper sauce and Ethiopian butter) for two days to achieve the intense flavor. She serves it family style with fresh injera baked across the street at Rosalind's (1044 S. Fairfax Ave., [323] 936-2486, www.rosalindsrestaurant.com).

Local color

The colors of the Ethiopian flag -- green, yellow and red -- saturate the fashions at area boutiques. At Safari Ethiopian Store (1049 S. Fairfax Ave., [323] 935-5749, www.ethiopiandesign.com), you'll find traditional, gauzy white cotton dresses trimmed in these bright hues. At reggae outlet Jah Lambs & Lions (1030 S. Fairfax Ave., [323] 931-2903, www.jahlambsandlions.com), these same colors adorn T-shirts and knit caps in the Rasta spirit.

Funky finds

Thrift and vintage stores along the block are frequented by bargain hunters and set designers alike. At 45 Three Modern Vintage (1051 1/2 S. Fairfax Ave., [323] 932-0832), owner Staci Cain gives furnishings sourced from around the globe a post-modern makeover. Finds include an 1868 Victorian folding chair reupholstered in bold African print and a '40s wingback chair swathed in '70s psychedelic python.

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