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The Neighborhood Project: Fairfax Village
Stores on Fairfax Avenue. Photo by Terry Stamatis.
The first time I saw it over a year ago, I thought it was fluke, a coincidence, a mis-hap. But no, it is true, on Saturday mornings in the Fairfax District, Orthodox Jewish families en route to synagogue share the sidewalks with Gay couples walking hand-in-hand on their way to brunch. There are no contemptuous faces or grunts. Instead, they pass each other on the street, sharing good-morning-to-you-too nods. Needless to say, Saturday morning is one of my favorite times to visit Fairfax, but no matter when I am there, I always feel as if I am in the belly of era-conscious beast, the chimeric love-child of elder generations and new bohemians who want to keep the former quondam au courant. The Fairfax district is an electric blend of echoed restraint, capricious indulgence, and post-modern pluralism.
Boundaries: Fairfax stretches east to west from La Brea Avenue to Doheny Drive, and north to south from Melrose Avenue to Wilshire Boulevard.
Freeway Access: Parking in Fairfax is a bitch. You should just forget about cars and freeways and take public transit instead. The Metro Trip Planner can help you get to Fairfax.
Parking in Fairfax can be a bitch.
Public Park: Pan-Pacific Park is the only major park in Fairfax. The park has a main entrance at 7600 Beverly Boulevard between Stanley and Curson Avenues.
Photo of Pan Pacific Park by brainylagirl via Flickr.
Fairfax Village signage is located on Fairfax Avenue between Melrose Avenue and Clinton Street.
Los Angeles County Unified School District ABCs and 123s:
Some of the famous alumni of Fairfax High School (7850 Melrose Avenue between Fairfax and Genesee Avenues) include the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Slash from Guns 'N' Roses, Lenny Kravitz, Demi Moore, Mickey Rooney, Phil Spector (!!!), and Jermaine Jackson of the Jackson Five.
Photo by Subway to the Seavia Flickr.
A Little Bit of Photo History:
The Wilshire Oil Fields at Fairfax Avenue and 3rd Street circa 1924.
Photo from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Database.
Herbert's Drive-In circa 1940 on the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.
Photo from the Los Angeles County Public Library Photo Database.
The Mercury Aviation Field at Melrose and Fairfax Avenues, no date available.
Photo from the Los Angeles County Public Library Photo Database.
Where to Shop:
You will want to buy every book, comic, and DVD to be found at Family (436 N. Fairfax Avenue between Oakwood and Rosewood Avenues).
Photo by my friend Terry Stamatis.
Solomon's (447 N. Fairfax Avenue between Oakwood and Rosewood Avenues) sells Kosherland board games (sorta like a blessed Candyland) and has a Hebrew Superman poster in the front window that is quite possibly the very best thing in all of Fairfax.
Kowboyz (8050 Beverly Blvd between Laurel Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard) specializes in used cowboy gear.
Photo by steve c. via Flickr.
If you love to cook, Bargain Fair (7901 Beverly Boulevard between Fairfax and Hayworth Avenues) is an inexpensive catering supply store that is stocked from floor to ceiling with pots, pans, dishes, and food tools. I especially like their giant forks. If you love Hip-Hop, check out Fat Beats(7600 Melrose Avenue near Curson Avenue). Sometimes you can find the living urban legend DJ Homeless hanging out there. The Adidas Store (8009 Melrose Avenue between Laurel Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard) has the dreamiest way-too-expensive-to-actually-buy sneakers ever.
Where to Eat:
The story goes that Tomato Pie Pizza Joint (7751 1/2 Melrose Avenue near Genesee Avenue) came into being when two ex-New Yorkers got sick and tired of not being able to get any decent pizza in Los Angeles, so they opened up their own pizza-making establishment to ensure that they would always have some of that New York style pizza at hand. Speaking as a New York ex-pat myself, I'd say they have done a pretty good job, especially with their Grandma Pie.
Cayenne Cafe (7169 Beverly between Detroit Street and Formosa Avenue) is my favorite place to go for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. The menu is very modestly priced and everything tastes great, but I'm partial to their teas, pasta, couscous, and falafel. The restaurant is airy, yet has a decadent and inviting atmosphere conducive to stuffing yourself with a full three course meal. Oh, and by the way, the wait staff is gorgeous.
Nova Express Cafe (426 N. Fairfax Avenue between Oakwood and Rosewood Avenues) is the best late-night dining in the Fairfax District. The outer-space-in-the-1950s-themed cafe serves organic vodka martinis and better than average diner-esque food while playing classic sci-fi movies like The Angry Red Planet. After I have had a few of the Nova Martian Martinis I usually get confused and worry that I have been selected as Joel's Mystery Science Theater 3000 replacement and shipped off to outer space to watch really cheesy sci-fi movies with a few robot friends. If you ask a local how to get to Nova Express Cafe, they will have no idea what you are talking about...everyone thinks the place is called "Alien Bar."
Photo by Martian Crocodile via Flickr.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, people would often suggest that I go to Canter's (419 N. Fairfax Avenue between Rosewood and Oakwood Avenues) for late-night dining (presumably suggested because they have never been to the Alien Bar). Having been there and done that, I recommend that you don't eat your dinner there. The food there is not very yummy, and expensive at that. But you should definitely pick up something from the Canter's bakery. I am partial to their chocolate cupcakes. The cupcakes deceptively look like something that your mom would make for an elementary school bake sale, but actually have a sophisticated, rich, and decadent chocolate and butter cream taste. While you are there, check out the Canter's ceiling. It is like the Sistine Chapel of all-night diners.
Photo by Terry Stamatis.
The Blitzstein Museum of Art (428 N. Fairfax Avenue between Oakwood and Rosewood Avenues) is open only from dusk until midnight. I don't know much about art, certainly not enough to even pretend to be an art critic, but I can say that the artist Harry Blitzstein is very warm and welcoming of visitors and has painted so much in his lifetime that you can keep yourself happily occupied in the Blitzstein Museum for at least an hour. The art in and of itself is abstract, eerie, and often serves as socio-political commentary. You can take home a little piece of art for as little as $15.
Photo by Terry Stamatis.
First you buy yourself a ticket. Then you sit down and arrange the velour pillows on your seat until you have reached the desired level of comfortability. Next you admire the shiny gold screen curtain. Then you glance at the old-timey movie star head shots that surround the theater. Then you gesture towards a giant photograph of Fatty Arbuckle and say to your friend "is it just me or does it seem like Fatty Arbuckle's eyes are following us?" At which your friend will shrug his/her shoulders and say "wasn't he that guy who smothered some passed-out girl during sex until she died?" And then you shrug your shoulders. Following that, you turn your attention to the stage where you see that the movie has a host. You listen to the host nervously tell a few jokes, give the movie line-up for the evening, and introduce the pianist. Sometimes the pianist scheduled to accompany the film is an elderly man who used to play for silent movie theaters when he was a child way back in the day before talkies even existed. That is your cue to clap and whistle in appreciation and wish that the pianist was your grandpa because he is so damned awesome. After all that, the lights go off and you watch a silent film short. And then you watch another silent film short. And after that you watch a silent feature-length film. As you are watching, be sure to occassionally check out the pianist as he is watching the film and fluidly adjusting his piano playing to suit the scenes of the movie. Many of the old silent films were made in our own Los Angeles, so for extra fun you should try to discern exactly where each scene was shot and marvel at how very different Los Angeles used to be in the 1920s. When you have completed all of that, you should clap, and clap, and clap, and then proceed to the exit. And that is how you attend a screening at the Silent Movie Theatre (611 N. Fairfax Avenue between Clinton Street and Melrose Avenue). Repeat as necessary.
Photo by Puff's Daddy via Flickr.
Awesome poster in the window of Solomon's on Fairfax Avenue.
Sunday rug sale on La Cienega.
The Shalom Retirement Hotel as viewed from Fairfax Avenue between Rosewood Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.
Furry-looking Max Azria store (8026 Melrose Avenue between Edinburgh and Laurel Avenues).
I bought this vintage Israeli 1960s psychedelic plate from a yard sale in the Fairfax District for $15.
Etched-in glass-fiti on Fairfax Avenue.
Pastel mural above Family Bookstore. Photo by Terry Stamatis.
Sidewalk art on the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.
Photos by Mialka Bonadonna for LAist unless otherwise noted.