Los Angeles continues to be a boom town filled with high-rise construction and out-of-town money. That’s certainly true in the restaurant sector, where national names like David Chang, Stephanie Izard of Chicago’s Girl & the Goat, and Cosme’s Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes plot ways to push further into the city’s culinary zeitgeist.
One inevitable result from all this new expansion is contraction. Some of Los Angeles’s oldest and most beloved dining spots disappeared in 2018. Each closure was unique, each reason largely personal, but there’s no denying that Los Angeles los a lot of talent this year. Here are some of the saddest restaurant closures of 2018.
There may be no more haunting image from 2018’s carousel of closures than the sadness of this picture taken outside of Irv’s Burgers on their last night of business. The beloved beef and bun spot faced an uphill battle for most of the past decade after being tossed from their historic Route 66 property and forced to relocate. The new space wasn’t far away but carried much less charm, and with personal issues mounting, the time came to move on after 72 long years.
The business model of Baroo always seemed a little too wonderful to work long term. Run largely by only two men, Kwang Uh and Matthew Kim, the Hollywood strip mall space found its niche with folks looking to take on fermentation and wild reinterpretations of modern Korean food. The price well-under-$20 price point worked for customers too, even if the hours needed to sustain the restaurant did not. Sadly, one of America’s most surprising young restaurants is no more.
While it’s not technically closed yet, Valentino already has an exit strategy. The iconic Santa Monica Italian restaurant from Piero Selvaggio is calling it quits at the end of the month following a 46-year run that cemented the place as one of the city’s most influential Italian restaurants ever.
Roy and Daniel Patterson had big plans for Locol, and they started down in Watts. The do-good fast food spot initially tried to create a sustainable business model that included slightly healthier fare as well as job creation for under-served markets, but slow growth and stiff competition from big corporations led the pair of well-known chefs to close down their physical spaces and retool as a catering and events outlet, for now.
Good Girl Dinette
Diep Tran made the tough decision to close her important Highland Park restaurant Good Girl Dinette in August after a nine-year run. The Vietnamese restaurant was long seen as a staple for the community, even as newcomers moved in all around with fancier cafes, pizza shops, and coffee bars. Next up for the space is Burgerlords.
Tom Bergin’s was long hailed as one of Los Angeles’s most iconic bars. The standalone Irish pub dated to 1935 and held one of the city’s oldest liquor licenses, but a failed sale a few years ago and an aging customer base made the bar hard to sustain. A will-they-won’t-they saga played out over the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, with Bergin’s trying to stick it out through one last St. Patty’s Day. Now the property is fully boarded up, and may be torn down.
Loteria Grill at the Farmers Market
Chef Jimmy Shaw is one of the most important Mexican chefs cooking in Los Angeles. His Loteria Grill mini-chain helped to bring both modern and classic Mexican flavors to the Angeleno masses, starting first with Shaw’s opening location at the Original Farmers Market. The 16-year-old stand finally gave way back in October, and now Trejo’s Tacos has moved in.
There were high hopes for Rinjani to survive when it opened at the end of last year. The restaurant represented the tip of a hopeful Indonesian iceberg that would see more satay skewers and rendang make its way to Los Angeles, but alas the growth was not to be. Rinjani closed quietly in October after just ten months.
Southern California’s barbecue scene continues to grow by leaps and bounds, but one name missing from the list is Bigmista’s out of Long Beach. Once considered to be among the best of the bunch, the husband-wife duo behind the barbecue joint and related sandwich shop up and moved out of the city back in June, citing landlord issues and desire to get out of the restaurant industry altogether. They took no prisoners in their going-away letter to customers.