Table at Third & Fairfax: Magee’s Kitchen and Local Ice


Table at Third & Fairfax: Magee’s Kitchen and Local Ice

Table at Third & Fairfax is a weekly dining column where Food and Drink editor Patricia Kelly Yeo will eat her way through the Original Farmers Market in 2023. Each column will drop on Thursday for a week-by-week recap of her journey through the classic L.A. tourist attraction. Last week, Kelly tried Singapore’s Banana Leaf and Bennett’s Ice Cream.

Both the sun and tour buses are in full force on my most recent visit to the Farmers Market, where I wander in on an early Thursday afternoon bedraggled, sleep-deprived and suffering from seasonal allergies. It’s an unseasonably warm 78 degrees, and for the first time since starting this series, my visit runs on the later side of lunch. People in shorts, dresses and T-shirts lounge comfortably on the West Patio, and the Lunar New Year decorations have been replaced with signs for the upcoming Mardi Gras festivities, which start the weekend before and culminate with a live band on Fat Tuesday. 

Today, my destination is Magee’s Kitchen, the market’s oldest restaurant (est. 1917). In the late 1800s, the family-run enterprise first began selling horseradish and peanut butter at Downtown’s Grand Central Market, and later moved to selling food to the first few vendors that brought their wares to 3rd and Fairfax. After putting in their own water and electricity, original owners Blanche and Raymond Magee officially opened in October 1934—five months after the market first opened. Their other stall, Magee’s Nuts, is the main reason I thought about starting this column in the first place, where staff still use the original peanut butter machine that dates back to Magee’s days at GCM. 

The menu is large but simple, with a focus on the restaurant’s self-proclaimed famous corned beef, plus roast beef, turkey and ham. All meats can be made into sandwiches, including a French dip, or served with simple sides like steamed cabbage, parsley potatoes and macaroni and cheese. There’s also a few hot dogs and a section of Mexican dishes that include enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos and a crunchy tostada bowl piled high with guacamole and sour cream. (For slightly less Americanized Mexican fare, the market also has Trejo’s Tacos and El Granjero Cantina.)

Still, I’m a little indecisive. If I’m being honest, sandwiches aren’t really my thing, though I did appreciate a good banh mi while researching our Vietnamese restaurant guide. Rather than a French dip or Reuben, I opt for a plate of corned beef with parsley potatoes and creamed spinach ($20.95), plus an all-American hot dog ($6.95) and a side of creamed corn ($4). Within a few minutes, a staff member is already slicing my corned beef and scooping pre-made sides onto my plate, with the hot dog ready shortly thereafter. This cafeteria-style speed is perfect for lunch, though the thickened surfaces of most side dishes and some of the Mexican items after a few hours under the heat lamps isn't exactly appetizing to look at.

Magee’s hot dog sadly, is rather lacking. Though the Nathan’s Famous all-beef frankfurter is steamed well enough, the bread that encases it is hard and unforgiving, unlike the softer buns you might find at Pink’s Hot Dogs, the newly revived Tail o’ the Pup or even Costco. After a few bites, I give up and move on to the plate of corned beef, which I season with horseradish and mustard. Soft and tender, the meat is perfect in between bites of the buttery parsley potatoes and delicious creamed spinach. Magee’s creamed corn, however, quite literally tastes like cream and steamed corn mixed together—nothing like the creamy variety I've enjoyed at steakhouses.

Local Ice sundae
Photograph: Time Out/Patricia Kelly Yeo

Taking the rest of my plate to go, and ditching the hot dog, I wander over to the much quieter West Patio. It’s still quite sunny and warm, so I decide to try the market’s other ice cream stand, Local Ice (est. 2017), which has been closed the last few times I’ve arrived. Unlike Bennett’s, Local Ice offers more unique seasonal flavors like matcha, horchata and black raspberry. You can also order frozen Italian ices and hard-to-find egg creams (which, despite the misleading name, consists of seltzer, milk and your choice of syrup). After scanning the menu, I decide on building my own sundae ($10), choosing vanilla and matcha flavors along with hot fudge, whipped cream and mini M&M’s.

On their own, both flavors taste fine enough, but I’m disappointed to find out that the “hot fudge” is merely chocolate sauce (there is a difference, folks). The mini M&M’s add a welcome sweet crunch to the sundae. For ice cream in and of itself, I’m still more partial to Bennett’s, but I wouldn’t mind coming back to Local Ice to try the Italian ice and maybe even a milkshake. 

Meals from Table at Third & Fairfax fall into three categories: Skip It, Worth Trying and Must Have. 

Vendor: Magee’s Kitchen 
Order: Corned beef with parsley potatoes and creamed spinach; an all-American hot dog; a side of creamed corn.
Verdict: Worth Trying. The market’s oldest restaurant has stuck around for a reason, though I wouldn’t recommend the hot dogs. 

Vendor: Local Ice
Order: Build-your-own sundae with matcha and vanilla ice cream
Verdict: Worth Trying. Bennett’s still takes the top spot for ice cream within the Farmers Market, but Local Ice’s larger menu includes non-dairy options, drinks and more unique flavors.

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