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Jul 19, 2009 09:55 PM

SACRILEGE: I don't actually enjoy the Hollywood FM.

Unheard of, right?

I mean, it's the biggest Sunday market in Southern California. It's hundreds and hundreds of stalls selling everything from Catalina oysters to fourteen kinds of eggplant to Holmby Hills bee pollen to grass-fed, sustainably-raised, humanely-slaughtered beef to fifty kinds of homemade kimchi.

But I went this morning with my daughter and it didn't feel like my "home" markets (in order of where I've lived, that'd be Westwood, West Hollywood, Studio City, Santa Monica, Studio City again, and Irvine). Even though the vendors are many of the same people I know, the crowds made it hard to be social.

And the PRICES -- my GOD the PRICES. The same -- the EXACT same -- bunch of basil that was at Irvine for $1.50 last Saturday was $3 today. Same farm, same vendor. Bread for SIX DOLLARS A LOAF! And this is without counting things that I knew would be shockingly expensive ($15 a three-pack for Harry's Berries, anyone?). I usually spend $40-$50 on a week's worth of shopping at Irvine (let's call it produce, pasta, seafood, bread and oil). Today, not counting the bison and pork I bought, it was $73.

I know it's busy, and it's good that it's busy, but it was just kind of oppressive -- and the cars driving up past the booths to the parking structure on Ivar made it just so much worse.

I've had this reaction before at Hollywood, and I *don't* have it to Santa Monica Wednesday (OK, except the price thing, because SM Wed is just as expensive). I think it's honestly that I started to feel claustrophobic, hemmed in, and it coloured the whole experience. SM Wed. is wider -- Irvine is wider -- Studio City is wider, and so there's more room to circulate. (The other markets that give me that closed-in feeling are Calabasas, because of the huge presence of Roadblock Stroller-Pushing Parent People, and the old Glendale one when it was along the sidewalk on Brand.)

Sour grapes, I'm sure, but I needed to get it off my chest. Bad experience or not, there is no better place to get the truly obscure, and for a tourist who isn't actually shopping for their weekly food but is just ogling the truly mind-bending array of food produced within 200 miles of Hollywood and Vine it's an amazing experience...

...but I'm kind of glad my Irvine market isn't like that, and it was a powerful reminder why I went to Studio City on Sundays even though Hollywood was just five minutes further away.

Let the browbeating begin...

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  1. Well I agree with you regarding the sheer mass of people and the prices. That is also why even though after church we are about the same distance away, we prefer to go to our homey Mar Vista market...

    But having been to the Irvine market (which is a FINE market... great size too!) there are just stuff that shows up at the Hollywood Market that would NEVER make it down there... For that reason, we still go on occasion and take tourists (Which the occasional celebrity sightings make it worth them...)


    12 Replies
    1. re: Dommy

      I was actually noticing things both ways. Certainly there's almost no meat at Irvine (which is stupid, because there's meat at Laguna Hills, which is run by the same people), and only one seafood purveyor... but I noticed that Mangi con Amore didn't have pasta at Hollywood today whereas they always do at Irvine, and there are a lot more strawberries at Irvine (perhaps because we're so close to Carlsbad?) even given the late season. There is much, MUCH more Asian produce at Irvine.

      Of course you're right about the sheer variety at Hollywood, and nothing but SM Wednesday really compares. I suppose once or twice a year when I absolutely have to have something, I could deal with Hollywood -- if for no other reason than black raspberries and deer strawberries don't EVER make it to Irvine, and that makes me a sad Ubergeek.

      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        Yeah, I also have note that I smirked about your parking comment... In all my times at the Irvine market, I've had the HARDEST time parking.... Seriously, I've been almost hit several times from people rushing home with their Whoppers... :P I've never had a problem at the HFM, we just park at the Arclight and walk over... also very inexpensive since the Market validates it...


        1. re: Dommy

          Oh, I park on the Trader Joe's side, get a cup of coffee at Peet's or Le Diplomate, and walk through. I can't imagine trying to park on the northwest side (near the brew company or the Indian restaurant)!

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Thanks... It has never occurred to me since I think of most TJs parking as a Contact Sport at well... (Trying to navigate the one in Santa Monica has scarred me for life...)


            1. re: Dommy

              Dommy, for our general neighborhood, I love the TJ's in Culver City. An honest to goodness parking structure with plenty of space and defined aisles to herd drivers.

              1. re: Jase

                I agree! Although I'm close enough not to have to drive there all that often and often ride my bike... :) Although, I should note that parking structure was put up by the CITY... and lest I remind you their ORIGINAL Culver City location which makes the parking situation at the Santa Monica one look good... I tells ya... TJs can not be trusted with parking lots...


                1. re: Dommy

                  True. I think that's why I was always shocked about the Irvine one. Plenty of easy parking. That was another thing I loved about the Irvine FM. Park once and I could hit TJ's also. It made it a lot easier to pick up those one or two items instead of justifying a separate trip. Irvine, I could get breakfast, the huge variety of items and TJ, all in one spot.

                  If the Mar Vista FM had a bakery that carried dependable breakfasty items, I would be immensely happy. I haven't been thrilled with anything I've tried. Delices scones and tarts just don't do it for me.

            2. re: Das Ubergeek

              DU, you and I might have inadvertently participated in the county exchange program. I think you moved down to OC about the same time as we moved back to LA.. As much as I like our (as Dommy would say) homey Sunday Mar Vista market, I do miss the Irvine one. The Saturday SM one is pretty good but prices also seem high and I have to deal with the Promenade factor. And by gosh do I miss Rachel's delectable offerings at Black Market. I've yet to find an acceptable replacement on the Westside surprisingly.

              As for parking at Irvine, the TJ side is definitely the key. OC TJ parking lots don't seem to be the nightmare that LA TJ ones are. I used to stop at that coffee shop when it was Diedrich's and head over to Blackmarket for a scone to go with the coffee. Perfect breakfast to start the day of shopping.

              After this review, I don't know if I want to bother venturing over to Hollywood when I've got the SM one for more exotic offerings and the Mar Vista one for my weekly needs. Not to mention that I get to walk over to Mar Vista and not deal with parking.

              1. re: Jase

                How funny -- you've described almost exactly my routine on Saturdays. Peets for coffee, a scone from either Blackmarket or Picket Lane (a new addition), the market, and then TJ's and, if required, Wholesome Choice.

                I agree with Dommy that the West LA and Valley TJ's have awful, awful parking, except the Palms one, which is the sanest of the bunch.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  How could I forget Wholesome Choice! Now you're really making me miss the easy Saturday routine I had. Escape out that back entrace of the TJ's lot, a quick left on Culver, zip right into that parking lot and another quick right out and the 405 is right there. Made for very efficient Saturday morning shopping to get anything I couldn't find at Stater Brothers. Which was my go to store for inexpensive staples.

                  One of the few things I miss about OC. It certainly takes a bit more planning to do my shopping in West LA.

                  Picket Lane? I'm headed down for a 1 p.m. Angel's game this Saturday. Maybe I might go down early and visit the market old times sakes and some goodies. At the very least, I'll stock up on some Blackmarket items for my wife. Any recommenations on Picket Lane items?

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    And now that the new TJ's is open on Olympic just west of Barrington there is another west side location with ample parking

              2. re: Dommy

                Parking at HFM: typically I do a circle around the market (east on Hollywood -> south on Vine-> west on Sunset -> south on Ivar -> west on De Longpre -> north on Cahuenga -> east on Yucca -> south on Ivar -> repeat.). It rarely takes more than 5 minutes to find on-street parking unless it's after 11am. I agree with UG that there's a lot more sizzle than steak at the HFM, but there are a few standouts that make the fuss worth it, like Mom's Products (although I know they're at other FMs) and the woman with the wooley hat who sells amazing organic lettuce and other veggies on the west side of Ivar below Selma. There's also Kendor and the grass-fed bison lady and the avacado lady on the west side of Ivar nearish Hollywood.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. i can only enjoy it right when it opens at 8AM when it's usually people really intent on shopping and not there for any other reason. after 9 or 10 it's way too crowded and the description of it being "oppressive" is spot on. i had a hard time with it and my local FM before hollywood was the ferry plaza in SF! somehow i was able to tolerate the crowds and the prices there and talk about oppressive and expensive!

              9 Replies
              1. re: trolley

                For me the goal is to be done by 1030 when it starts getting uber-crowded.

                And last time I went Harry's completely sold out of strawberries before 1045 or so and all they had on their table were some strawberry drink and green beans!

                1. re: AAQjr

                  I agree with the rec to arrive early. I've never felt annoyed or pressed in the pre-10 a.m. hours.

                  1. re: katydid13

                    I was done shopping and in my car at 9.36.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Wow, try going at 11am! you'll have a lot of fun. We all have to do our own cost benefit analysis, I normally go to Santa Monica Sunday. The selection is really not nearly as good IME though, but it is less stressful.

                      1. re: AAQjr

                        I find the Sunday SM one to be a Zoo especially with the Donkey rides for kids. It is held in too small a space for the traffic it produces and people hang out even more then they do at other markets. though I have only been once since the Mar Vista Market started it may have calmed down since people have options

                        1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                          True, but all that stuff (mini horse ride, kids rock band) is out of the way from the produce vendors. I love the free and convenient beach parking as well. I've never gotten the closterphobic feeling that you can get at Hollywood.

                        2. re: AAQjr

                          I find the selection at the weekend SM market to be dismal. I've never been to the Wednesday market, but the Sunday market dedicates too much space to the donkey rides and prepared foods, and not enough to fruits and vegetables. The crepes are good, though.

                          1. re: msmerymac

                            Comparing the Sunday Main St. market to the Wednesday Promenade market is like comparing a low-flow showerhead to a fire hydrant.

                    2. re: AAQjr

                      Yeah, even at the Pasadena Saturday FM you need to get there early. It seems the class of people who get there after 10 change from the early birds (more rude, pushy, etc.).

                  2. I'm with you. The HFM has never been that impressive to me.

                    1. It's a wonderful (albeit crowded and less charming market than it used to be) right in the middle of one of the biggest metropolises in the world. I used to live on Whitley, just a few blocks away, in the early nineties and the market had a much more low key feel then. But, back then, the whole neighborhood had a more shoot-y, drug-y, gang-y feel then too. Like all things Hollywood, the market has gotten more expensive, more crowded and more Disney. But, I'm happy to see so many people there and still find more to buy than I could every carry back to my car.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: SaltCod

                        What I wouldn't give for Hollywood to have that shoot-y, drug-y, gang-y feel again.....I miss those gritty days...

                        1. re: schrutefarms

                          I lived on Grace during those days. Mixed memories.