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Industry Experts Discuss LA’s Biggest Dining Grievances for 2016

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Friends of Eater talk about the biggest issues they had with the local restaurant world

Ilcha Meats Stan Lee
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Bill Esparza, Food Writer

The lack of a Latino chef presence at our major food festivals.

Oren Peleg, Eater LA Contributor

Los Angeles may be the only global city that goes to bed at 10 p.m. Why can't I find more high-quality late-night and all-night restaurants here? And why do our bars close at 2 a.m.?

Brigham Yen, DTLA Rising

The fact that Shake Shack DTLA is opening in 2017 instead of 2016!​

Lesley Balla, Zagat, Angeleno

The tipping controversy. I get it — I was a server for more than 10 years, and back then we didn't make minimum wage plus tips — and for the most part I don't really think about an automatic gratuity on the bill, as long as it's clear it's added. But I went to one place that the auto gratuity was sadly not deserved, at least not by the service received, which is what we generally think of when it comes to gratuity. We as diners need to adjust our thinking about it; servers need to remember they're connecting with us for their whole staff, not just themselves; and the whole package — the food, service, staff, experience — has to be worth the extra, automatically included charge. Restaurants need to stay in business!

Jeff Miller, Senior City Editor, Thrillist

Too much Italian, not enough really good Italian.

Katherine Spiers, LA Weekly Food Editor

They're not keeping up with their tech — or maybe tech isn't keeping up with humanity. Postmates is a disaster; when dining in, something ALWAYS goes wrong with iPad ordering.

Eddie Lin, Food Writer

The severely overfished bluefin tuna is still found on sushi menus all over town. Diners are loving this fish to extinction.

Caroline Pardilla, Eater LA Contributor

Restaurants that don't have a well-developed bar program. You can still have interesting offerings without having to go all "mixology." And invest in your spirits as much as you do on your wine. If you're in it for the long haul it's worth that investment.

Sarah Gim, The Delicious Life

​Wish there were more diversity of flavors and cultural cuisines (is that PC? or even an understandable phrase?) that actually taste good on the Westish-side. But then again, maybe that's the point of LA, that there is diversity across the entire, expansive landscape, but still not a lot of crossing of neighborhood lines. Someday!

Josh Scherer, Food Writer

Inconsistency. It's not unique to 2016, but it seems like the high restaurant turnover rate and chefs having to focus on multiple projects at once to make ends meet has really exacerbated the problem. It's so depressing when a dish you loved tastes different the next time around.

Jim Thurman, Eater LA Contributor

Less diversity and variety in menu items

Katrina Yentch, Eater LA Contributor

Kush closing down before I got to try it

Nicole Iizuka, POPSUGAR Senior Producer

Lines! What are we — Brooklyn?

Hadley Tomicki, UrbanDaddy

$11 draft beers and that same ol' shitty service

Esther Tseng, Eater LA Contributor

All the restaurant closings of places that don't seem to last even one year. I wonder if we have hit peak hype mode yet here in L.A., but the closings seem to be getting out of control. It seems as though it's a combination of restaurateurs overestimating consumer demand while trying to get in on the ground level of a trend. A successful counterpoint would be Howlin' Ray’s.

Meghan McCarron, Eater Senior Features Editor

I feel like a real rube from the stix for saying this, but many meals I have in LA, especially at Hot New Openings, are too expensive by at least 20% for the quality of what we get. Some of this is just big city living, but I also think the city is missing an essential seam of midrange, quality restaurants where the food is exciting and good, and you're not paying more for the overall experience than the genuine pleasure of eating.

Euno Lee, Eater LA Contributor

All these Korean BBQ restaurants switching up their initial business model in some sort of negative direction after the first few months of opening. I know this has been a thing, but it needs to stop. Starting strong and with unreasonable deliverables or incurring intentional losses to generate a big wave of good press and then filtering out what made your restaurant notable in the first place is a cynical strategy with a high probability of long term failure. In all likelihood, you probably won't even be able to sustain the foot traffic to flip the property.

Why bother opening a restaurant at all if your initial deliverable is financially untenable? Are you counting on your diners to be stupid and not notice when the good stuff stops being delivered? Because that's a horrible thing to count on. Sure, it usually takes press to give your restaurant an initial push — but all it takes is one bad story to get around for your restaurant to become a ghost town. Premium All-You-Can-Eat BBQ Il Cha was practically a caricature of this issue, but it's trickled upward into the practices of actually reputable places like Magal (where changes were more subtle, like the removal of the highly marbled short rib from the combo menu and exclusively offered as an a la carte option) and Hanjip (the mother of all forgettable a la carte-to-AYCE pivots).

Crystal Coser, Eater LA Associate Editor

The cost of operating a restaurant is getting exorbitant, and those prices are getting passed on to the diner.

Farley Elliott, Eater LA Senior Editor

Overly complicated desserts. Pastry chefs have an important job in any kitchen, but sometimes — especially following a big blowout meal — a simplified dessert makes a more lasting final impression than something needlessly technical or uncomfortably complex.

Matthew Kang, Eater LA Editor

I had way too many disappointing cocktails. I’m basically over cocktails unless I know they’re going to be amazing. I think I was upsold more this year than ever, and I’m not OK with that. I get that servers want to up their tips, but I’m sorry —making me feel bad about not order the steak for two at $150 isn’t going to help my experience. Also, L.A. restaurants aren’t delivering from a price to quality standpoint. I’m fine with higher prices, as long as the quality and execution is there.

One last thing: STOP asking if I want either sparking or flat bottled water. I’ll take tap water. Oh, and if you have filtered tap, charging $7 PER bottle is RIDICULOUS.

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