Elat and Alef markets
On Friday I went for the first time to the Elat and Alef middle eastern markets, which are side-by-side on Sunset Blvd just east of Robertson. What a trip! They are the largest middle eastern markets in the area, so far as I am aware. They've got all the middle eastern stuff you could want, and they're also an excellent cultural spectacle, with that crowded bazaar feeling you want from a middle eastern market. I believe one of them has a kosher butcher, but I don't recall for certain.
The downside is the parking, which is horrific. They each have parking areas in the back, but they're always crowded as heck. The parking at Elat is especially bad, with a line of cars endlessly sprawling out onto the side street. It must drive the neighbors to despair. The parking behind Alef is marginally better. They validate for a half-hour on a $10 purchase, with a $6 flat rate otherwise, if I recall correctly. The immoral option is to park behind the Walgreen's (I think it is) that's right on the corner of Sunset and Robertson. That's half-hour free parking for Walgreen's customers, and they have a puffed-up security guard who walks around swinging a set of handcuffs to make sure you get the idea. I ended up parking there and buying some water at Walgreen's before setting out to the markets, and didn't get towed. But who knows.
As a footnote, I wanted to mention a minor discovery that I made at another middle eastern market, Star Market (12146 Santa Monica Blvd, West LA, 310 820 6064). They have dried apricot paste. It comes in 500-gram packages, wrapped in cellophane, with an endearing cardboard label indicating that it was "MFG by Mohamed EL Shalati, Damascus - Syra Tel: 5231243". It's a sticky flat sheet of apricot with some sugar and oil mixed in. I have no idea what you're supposed to do with it, but if you cut it into squares it makes good candy. I have been a big fan of apricots since I was six years old, when I had my tonsils out and the only thing the nurses would let me drink afterward was apricot nectar -- I have no idea why.