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Merkato Restaurant - 18 Reviews - 1036 1/2 Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA - Local Favorite Reviews - Phone (323) 935-1775

Merkato Restaurant

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1036 1/2 Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019
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(323) 935-1775
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Merkato Restaurant - Los Angeles, CA

Reviews

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Best

It was our first time eating Ethiopian food and we were somewhat apprehensive lest we got something too spicey for our taste. The waitress was warm and friendly and very helpful i...

Worst

I got the #6 last night and it was terrible. Chewy, poor quality, weird tasting meat (supposedly beef). I took 3 bites and threw it away. Maybe I am a spoiled American but I do...

Merkato - because sometimes “shady” can surprise you. 4/6/2011

While I have taken the time to write about more extravagant cuisine, there are a few dives in Los Angeles that are among my favorite indulgences. In LA, you can find any kind of food imaginable. There are varying degrees from fancy to the local hole-in-the-wall place and that is the sheer beauty (and often stomach churning) adventure of dining anywhere in the Los Angeles area. So one day, about 12 years ago, I came upon what’s known as the “Fairfax District”. Located at 3rd and Fairfax, this street is filled with textile stores and Ethiopian dining. There are some well known and more upscale restaurants, however they are not among the more tasty. Amidst them all, there is an Ethiopian gem —- Merkato: both market and restaurant. Before delving into it’s offbeat yet endearing qualities, here is a bit they have posted on their home page: Ethiopian food is like the Ethiopians themselves: spicy, subtle, piquant and most of all, unforgettable. When you peer through the window you laugh and most likely would run far, far away. The seats near the window are bridle saddles painted in bright colors. Yes, I’m serious. There are tables against the walls that look “sturdy” at best and some booths dressed in African fabric BUT do not let the questionable and shady decor deter you. This is probably the most tasty, heavy, wonderfully filling Ethiopian food I’ve ever tasted. It’s not light and healthy, it is saturated in fat and flavor and once in a while it is an indulgence I welcome. However the real wonder (and genius) is that Merkato offers cuisine for Vegetarians and Carnivores alike. Onto the food. I think my favorite part is the mystery spongy-tortilla-like bread they bring that looks like a tortilla and a sea sponge mated and then upon tasting it, you feel like you’ve just eaten sourdough bread (don’t knock it til’ you try it). The kicker? You will use this as both a utensil and side dish. I love it! As for what I cannot do without, I tend to gravitate towards the same things on the menu because years might go by and I find myself craving it and I inevitably come back. My menu picks are: #14 Combo plate: Yebeg Sega Wot (Strips of beef braised in red pepper sauce and spices) and Yebeg Alicha (Mild lamb stew delicately spices with garlic, ginger, and other spices) #30 Veggie Plate: Combo of Special Shiro, Lentils, Collard Greens, Yatklt Alicha, Yekeke Alicha, and Timatim Fit-Fit I top it off with Honey wine. No idea if it’s cheap or bad because in truth it is entirely unique to this restaurant and when you take a sip, you run your tongue across your lips and you get remnants of honey. It is part of the experience and experience, in my book, is why any food should be ingested. So when you’re down in LA and you want something different, go to Merkato. The staff is always really friendly, the food is unforgettable, and while this is “out of the norm”, this is still my LA pick and will remain on my list of favorites until they either: change management or just stop being so deliciously unexpected. Written by Dawn Garcia For more, please visit us on the web at: A taste of Dawn, where writer/screenwriter Dawn Garcia takes us on an extraordinary journey in he world of fare more

Well priced ethiopian food 3/25/2009

Merkato serves homely ethiopian cuisine at reasonable prices. The restaurant doesn't try to impress with... more

Well priced ethiopian food 3/25/2009

Alex Provided by Partner
Merkato serves homely ethiopian cuisine at reasonable prices. The restaurant doesn't try to impress with frills or exotic looking decor. It's jus... more

Favorably Impressed - Will Return! 1/3/2009

It was our first time eating Ethiopian food and we were somewhat apprehensive lest we got something too spicey for our taste. The waitress was warm and friendly and very helpful in her recommendations. We ordered a fish plate with injera and an assortment of veggies. The fish was a trout, cooked whole, and absolutely delicious. Nothing on the veggie assortment was too spicy for our pallet. Bottom line, we loved the whole experience - the food was great and we ate every bit of it. We did order only one fish plate with veggies, but we ordered 'extra veggies' at the advice of the waitress. It was more than enough for two people. The price was very reasonable. With two sodas and tax, the meal came to approximately $22.00.\r We hope we will be able to vist the Mercato on our next trip to Los Angeles. Pros: Casual, friendly Atmosphere. Terrific Food! Fun to eat with your hands. more

Horrible 3/27/2008

I got the #6 last night and it was terrible. Chewy, poor quality, weird tasting meat (supposedly beef). I took 3 bites and threw it away. Maybe I am a spoiled American but I don't see how any human could find that edible. Cons: Bad food more

best ethiopian food on fairfax 3/10/2008

delicious, friendly and welcoming. i have eaten here many times and have never been disappointed. a fun scene and the best ethiopian food in little ethiopia. i have sent all of my friends there and they have all loved it. and don't be scared...the waitstaff is very eager to recommend and help you decipher the menu. SO GREAT! more

Good, Maybe even Great Inexpensive Ethiopian Food.... 2/9/2008

On a Saturday night, my friend and I were on a quest for a really good Ethiopian restaurant that had a good selection of vegetarian options. So we walked up and down Little Ethiopia on Fairfax going into all the restaurants checking out the vibe and the menu. We started out at Merkato but because it was somewhat busy with a little bit of a wait we decided to walk around check out the other ones in the area. And after checking all of them out we came back to Merkato because it had the friendliest vibe, all the dining patrons seemed to really like the food and were all enjoying themselves. Additionally, Merkato seemed to have very inexpensive prices. And while the service is somewhat erratic and sporadic, the food and the vibe more than make up for this. The portions were generous and it was the best Ethiopian food I had ever had. Ethiopians and non Ethiopians all seemed to really enjoy the food as all were eating with such gusto. So while Merkato may not be the nicest Ethiopian place nor does it have the best service....It is definitely worth fighting LA traffic and the hassle of finding parking on Fairfax to be able to have a scrumptious Ethiopian meal in a jovial atmosphere. Pros: good inexpensive Ethiopian food Cons: service could be better, challenging to find parking in the area more

Very inexpensive, large portions, delicious food, great vegi options 2/6/2008

We've been here a few times and have never been disappointed. Located on Fairfax in ?Little Ethiopia,? just south of the San Vicente/Olympic/Fairfax intersection. Plenty of street parking. Food is very inexpensive ($6 for a large vegetarian sampler that feeds the two of us just fine). The sampler comes with a wide range of 5-7 different dishes ? all very flavorful and totally different. Food is served traditionally on the spongy bread, no utensils. They are generous with extra bread for dipping. The meat entrees look good, but I?m a vegetarian. We typically get 1 sampler and if we still have room, we order a side ($2) of our favorite for that day. The tough part is deciding which is our favorite dish ? they?re all so good! The sambusa and pan fried bread with spices are also excellent, if you have room! Decor inside is interesting ? range from tables to more traditional floor/pillow sitting. Sometimes there is strong incense burning inside. Outdoor seating available so you can bring a pet. Overall, it is very cheep ? rarely does our bill exceed $10. Great flavors, big portions, large variety. Service can be a little slow at lunch. We've been for Ethiopian in DC when we lived in Maryland and have spent $60-$100 dollars for food that is not half as good as Merkato for $6!\r \r Pros: VERY inexpensive, good vegi options, large portions, big variety, delicious food Cons: Service can be slow, street parking only (but that's LA for you) more

Cheep, delicious, large portions, unique flavors. 2/6/2008

We've been here a few times and have never been disappointed. Located on Fairfax in ?Little Ethiopia,? just south of the San Vicente/Olympic/Fairfax intersection. Plenty of street parking. Food is very inexpensive ($6 for a large vegetarian sampler that feeds the two of us just fine). The sampler comes with a wide range of 5-7 different dishes ? all very flavorful and totally different. Food is served traditionally on the spongy bread, no utensils. They are generous with extra bread for dipping. The meat entrees look good, but I?m a vegetarian. We typically get 1 sampler and if we still have room, we order a side ($2) of our favorite for that day. The tough part is deciding which is our favorite dish ? they?re all so good! The sambusa and pan fried bread with spices are also excellent, if you have room! Decor inside is interesting ? range from tables to more traditional floor/pillow sitting. Sometimes there is strong incense burning inside. Outdoor seating available so you can bring a pet. Overall, it is very cheep ? rarely does our bill exceed $10. Great flavors, big portions, large variety. Service can be a little slow at lunch. We've been for Ethiopian in DC when we lived in Maryland and have spent $60-$100 dollars for food that is not half as good as Merkato for $6! Pros: VERY inexpensive, good vegi options, large portions, big variety, delicious food Cons: Service can be slow, street parking only (but that's LA for you) more

A true Ethiopian experience. Injera is made with teff. 11/27/2007

Ethiopian food is rather an addiction for me from my years in east Africa. For a true Ethiopian experience, Merkato fits the bill at an affordable price. Others have complained about slow albeit friendly service but Merkato must be working to improve. Our server was friendly but also prompt and came by often to see if we needed anything. Our food (for 6 people) arrived before I had finished browsing the small market section. Our special requests were granted with real hospitality. The doro wott had two pieces of chicken and was just the right heat (considering we had children. with us. Most of us would have preferred enough spice for a good sweat.) . We were able to buy injera to bring home at a reasonable cost. On the down side, the tibs were a bit burned. Parking was not a problem at 2 in the afternoon on a weekday. If this place were close to where we live, we would eat at the Merkato a couple times a week. Pros: great food, good price, friendly service more

Great place for Ethiopian newbies 11/14/2007

My trip to Merkato was my second venture into the world of Ethiopian cuisine. I was skeptical, because my first experience elsewhere on Fairfax had been somewhat lackluster. But Merkato was a pleasant surprise. The injera (flat bread) that I had feared would be overly-sour, was pleasant and cool. The yebeg sega wot was like a slightly more exotic beef stew, and the yedoro tibs matched well with the diced peppers and tomatoes it was served with. We also had a lentil sambusa (they were out of the beef) which was flaky and substantial, and the hot pepper appetizer which was SUPER spicy. My only regret is that we didn't order the zil zil tibs; the next table ordered it and it came out piping hot and smelling absolutely delicious. I would also recommend the honey wine, though be ready for it to taste very sweet--It reminded me of apple juice, sweetened with honey. \r As far as service goes, things were very very slow in coming out, but it did give us ample time to enjoy each course, though the waitresses were friendly when they did come around. \r Overall, definitely recommended, especially to anyone who wants to try Ethiopian cuisine for the first time (the pictures on the menu are a big help!). Pros: Great food, pictures on the menu Cons: Slow service more

Best Ethiopian in LA! 11/5/2007

The first time I ever even tried Ethiopian was at Merkato's for my sister's birthday. I didn't expect to like it but I ended up loving it. I've probably been back more than my sister (and she's loves it there). Anyways, service can be slow but staff is always very nice. They've increased the price in the last couple years that I've been going but it's not that bad...yet. Our favorite is the Derek Tibbs -- can't go wrong with that choice! Pros: Reasonably priced, great food and ambience Cons: Street parking only, slow service at times more

Best Ethiopian on Fairfax. 12/23/2006

All of the Ethiopian restaurants on Faitfax between Whitworth and Olympic are great. Merkato, however, is the best. When I was a little (obnoxious) kid, I liked to balance the conical table tops on my head and run around. Now I come for the tasty food and low prices. It's best and most economical the get the vegetarian and/or meat combinations ($4.99 and $6.99 pp, respectively). Get one of each per every two people. Everything's good, and the Yebeg Alicha is the best! Also try the beers, the honey wine and the coffee (strong, similar to Turkish, and served with a pungent incense, which makes the environment all the more enjoyable and tent-like). The market next door is excellent as well, and sells some great Ethiopian essentials like spices, and the best Ethiopian cookbook in this country. more

Ethiopian Food = Yum 11/21/2006

If you're up for some super spicy food, served up with some super sour bread, this is the place to go. The food is really good though the service was lacking. Because I went on a weekday, Merkato was pretty empty. There were a few other patrons there but my friends and I took up the bulk of the restaurant. The thing that you MUST try is the Ethiopian honey wine. It's soooooo good! Pros: Great food, yummy wine! Cons: Traffic on Fairfax and not much parking more

A Gem in Little Ethiopia 9/22/2006

A small, unassuming restaurant in Little Ethiopia that serves up some damn good food. Dishes are best shared in a group so that you can sample a little (or lot) of everything. No utensils - it's all about the injera - a giant flat bread that you tear off and use to scoop up the meat and vegetable dishes. Service can be slow but don't let that stop you - just kick back, relax, and enjoy the food at a leisurely pace. more

Great! But is it the best? 2/23/2003

We've dined at several other Ethiopian joints, and although delighted each time, we were told that Merkato was THE absolute best. We found it to be excellent, but no better than Rosalyns next door. The food was outstanding. Delicious tender bits of beef and lamb stewed in an aromatic blend of spices, yummy tomato salad. But the portions seemded smaller at Merkato, and there were none of the delightful accompanying lentils, onions, and whatnot that we enjoyed at other places. The place was quite busy for a Sunday afternoon (while all the other places appeared empty), so the service, while friendly, was painfully slow. On the whole, an outstanding restaurant, but no more outstanding than it's neighbors. Next time I'm craving Ethiopian, I'm more likely to try one of the quieter, less popular establishments down the street. Pros: Food, Friendly, Groovy atmosphere Cons: No parking, slow service more

Coming strong 9/25/2002

You must do Ethiopian food at least once and if you had to choose your first place to try it, then go to Merkato. It is so much fun to get a hugh plate of veg. curry and scoop it up with a sponge-like bread. Drop the forks and spoons and get your grub on. I also recommend that you try the Ethiopian coffee and/ or honey wine. They also have these horse saddle-like seats that you and you friend can sit on and eat around a small table. So if you interested in something new, then go try this place. Pros: sponge bread, atmosphere, the people Cons: parking more

A great ethiopian experience 5/19/2002

Eating at this restaurant is really a great experience. Not only is the food delicious, the prices are super reasonable. oh and if you don't eat with your hands, you'll feel awkward since everyone else does. But trust me, it's a lot of fun. Even if you don't eat there, it's a great place to share an ethiopian style coffee with your friends. They also have a little market attached to the restaurant next door. There you can pick up some yummy spices, incense and the likes... more
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Menu for Merkato Restaurant




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Editorial

  • In Short
    Just beyond the sunwashed entrance of this well-known Little Ethiopia spot lies a moody, dimly lit restaurant conjuring up an East African opium den. Incense wafts through the...

  • 11/7/2007 Provided by Citysearch

Additional information

  • Hours:

    Daily 11am-11pm
  • Payments:

    Master Card, Visa
  • Neighborhoods:

    Mid City, Central LA
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