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How to Spend a Day in Los Angeles' Little Ethiopia

How to Spend a Day in Los Angeles' Little Ethiopia

A trip to the ethnic enclave can easily turn into a full-day affair—just make sure to go there on an empty stomach.

Roubina Al Abashian


4 min read

October 26, 2021

Despite being the smallest of Los Angeles’ 18 ethnic enclaves, Little Ethiopia is home to the second-largest concentration of Ethiopian emigres in the country after Washington, D.C. The stretch between Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive is a vibrant hub with a number of art galleries and antique shops. And you probably guessed that this is where people come to indulge in mouthwatering ethnic cuisine that reminds them of the delectable meal they once shared with friends and family in Addis Ababa. 

Nobody knows Little Ethiopia, Los Angeles better than the locals, which is why you should totally make a habit of asking people to guide you to the hidden gems of the neighborhood. A trip to the ethnic enclave can easily turn into a full-day affair—just make sure to go there on an empty stomach.  

Little Ethiopia is L.A.’s smallest ethnic enclave but it is the only one to recognize a culture from the African continent.

8:00 a.m.

As you make your way to the Mid-Wilshire District of Central Los Angeles, prepare yourself to get a taste of Africa while exploring one of the coolest places in the City of Angels. Los Angeles’ Little Ethiopia is within walking distance from many many attractions in the city such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and La Brea Tar Pits and Museum—you won’t have a hard time finding or navigating in the neighborhood. 

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10:00 a.m.

If there’s one thing to know about Ethiopians is that they take their coffee very seriously—that’s the least you can expect from the people who undoubtedly produce the most delicious coffee in the world. Brewing coffee in this unique ethnic neighborhood is a formality you have to enjoy, so head to Messob for your early cup of joe with an Ethiopian touch and flavor. One sip of their coffee will change the way you view the brewed drink; no more Starbucks for us! 

Later, head towards another Little Ethiopia restaurantLalibela—for a hearty breakfast. Order the ful, which is prepared with crushed fava beans, garnished with diced tomatoes, jalapenos, freshly ground black pepper, white onion, and sour cream (it’s to die for). But if your idea of breakfast doesn’t involve beans, try the chechebsa; it’s prepared with shredded pieces of flatbread sauteed in berbere spices and Ethiopian spiced butter, topped with honey or butter… yum.

There's an ample selection of Ethiopian restaurants, as well as thrift shops selling antiques, vintage clothing, handbags, handmade jewelry, and more.

12:00 p.m.

Now that you have a stomach full of deliciousness, it’s time to hit up Little Ethiopia’s shops. Your first stop is Helping Hand Thrift Shop. Opened in 1996, the store’s collection of vintage pieces is as unique as it gets—you’ll also see collectibles available at this thrift shop. From furniture and clothing to books and jewelry, one can spend hours browsing the items. Oh, and if Helping Hand Thrift Shop seems familiar to you, the store has been used as a filming location for many films and shows such as the 2006 TV series What About Brian and the 2018 movie Burning Shadows.

2:00 p.m.

All the shopping should be making your stomach growl, and for a satisfying lunch, we recommend heading to Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine, one of the best vegan restaurants in Los Angeles. The only 100-percent vegan Ethiopian cuisine takes pride in each of its appetizing dishes—they add enough seasoning to their meals to spice up your life. Order their traditional chickpea stew to entice your taste buds and enjoy it with a side of siff, which is a sunflower seed drink; you’ll be good to go to your next destination.

Little Ethiopia itself is an allusion to Ethiopian cuisine, a collection of vibrant restaurants and tribes gathered together on a communal plate.

4:00 p.m.

If you thought you’re done eating, think again—next up on your Little Ethiopia food tour is Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant and Market. This is where residents of the neighborhood gather to share meals, catch up with each other, and enjoy good company with great food. Merkato caters to people of different diets and allergies. Vegetarians and vegans indulge in flavorful plant-based dishes, and the rest can try the best kitfo (raw minced beef) they’ll have in their lives. Did we mention you should totally order the dulet? It’s chopped lamb spiced with dried red chilies with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and cumin. Before you leave the restaurant, talk to the friendly staff and have them help you buy the best spices and ingredients—we all know you’re going to try to make the meals on your own.  

In the 1990s, the neighborhood was called "Little Addis", referring to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

6:00 p.m.

Little Ethiopia L.A. has more shops in store for you (pun intended). Vintage concept store Cannonball and Tilly Vintage was established by designer Laura Kranitz, who has been purchasing high-quality, timeless pieces for more than 22 years. You’ll find hats, headpieces, jewelry, lingerie, gowns, tops, and even bridalwear at the store. If you see Laura there, do take her advice—her works have been featured in Vogue, and her list of clientele includes Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Dita Von Teese. You’ll come out of the store looking like a celebrity and feeling like a million bucks.

8:00 p.m.

You can’t leave Little Ethiopia without having one last meal, and we saved the best for last. Rosalind’s Ethiopian Cuisine exposes you to the traditional and authentic taste of Ethiopian dishes. Start off with ordering lentil sambusas with shiro and get the yedoro tibs for the main dish. Vegans can try the gomen, which is collard greens sauteed with onion, pepper, and garlic. Better yet, opt for the fassolia—string beans and carrots cooked with tumeric, jalapeno, ginger, and onion truly sounds like a treat. And if you really want to have the injera, you’ll be glad to know that it’s gluten-free.

10:00 p.m.

Once you wrap up dinner, sadly, it’s time to head home. It’s been a blast—exploring Little Ethiopia is truly one of the most exciting things you'll ever do in Los Angeles. We’re sure you took plenty of photos to post on Instagram; the kitfo looks too good to be true. And as you make your way back home, you’ll see the Urban Lights installation at LACMA illuminated and you’ll realize that one of the best views in L.A. is right here in this vibrant ethnic enclave.

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