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Industry Experts on LA’s Biggest Dining Grievances in 2019

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

A dark photo of a man in a Russian shirt looking out over a tray of burgers inside a restaurant.
Black Star Burger
Black Star Burger
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.

Welcome to Year in Eater, an annual review of some of the best and notable openings and restaurant news that took place in Los Angeles over the past year. Eater LA asks writers, editors, and food luminaries to pitch in to help summarize the incredible year in dining that was 2019. Here now, LA food writers and editors discuss their biggest complaints and dining grievances of the past year.

Gary Baum, features writer and restaurant critic for The Hollywood Reporter

Same as last year. Likely same as next year. Enough with the communal tables.

Andrea Chang, LA Times Food Section deputy editor

The California foie gras ban going back into effect.

Kristie Hang, Eater LA contributor

Cannabis/CBD infused drinks, menus, and dining experiences. Make it stop. Also, added service charges to help pay for staff written on the bottom on the check. I’d much rather you add on the extra money to the prices of my food. Impossible meat.

Andy Wang, writer, Food & Wine

There is a lot of mediocre hot chicken in LA right now.

Hadley Tomicki, LA Times contributor

It was frustrating to watch Black Star Burger waltz into West Hollywood to a warm reception despite homophobic and pro-Kremlin lyrics made by its Russian rapper co-owner. But I might be more offended by the pair of black rubber gloves doled out to every diner, which feels outright hostile towards the environment.

Oren Peleg, LA food writer

All the restaurant closures. Car culture remains one of the biggest hurdles to a robust dining scene in LA with stalwart neighborhood restaurants. Get out of your car, explore your neighborhood on foot, and become a regular at somewhere you want to support!

Joshua Lurie, FoodGPS founder

Automatically providing a plastic cup with a plastic straw to kids may seem like good hospitality, but it’s not. Most parents pack a cup, since babies and toddlers spill and break regular cups so easily, and larger kids can just drink from regular cups. Some restaurants provide reusable cups and straws, which helps, but what a waste of plastic.

Euno Lee, Eater LA contributor

You mean besides the Michelin Guide?

Bill Esparza, Eater LA contributor

Birria-mania. I can’t read another story about it nor can I be lured to try another mediocre birria de res spot. I was actually in Jalisco having amazing goat and pig birria and got trolled by friends in a DM as I posted to my stories—that’s how bad it is.

Esther Tseng, LA food writer

This is the grievance of the dining privileged, but I haven’t been able to keep up with all the new restaurants opening up, whether because of time and/or budget. This is to say, though, that Los Angeles is offering more high-end dining.

Service-wise, I think servers are having a hard time striking the right balance on the frequency with which they check in with their diners. Either they’re too zealous with seeing “how everything is tasting” when I’ve barely had a chance to take a bite and busing dishes before I’m ready for them to be taken away (just ask!), or there are a lot of empty shared plates on the table that are taking up room and I have to flag them down for fresh plates to eat from.

Stephanie Breijo, Time Out LA editor

Great restaurants opening in neighborhoods with little to no parking to accommodate, but this is an evergreen gripe.

Mona Holmes, Eater LA reporter

My primary complaint remains the same as 2018. Restaurants with tons of hype, names, money, and/or clout that serve average expensive food.

Cathy Chaplin, Eater LA associate editor

Nada. I was a very happy diner in 2019.

Farley Elliott, Eater LA Senior Editor

Tone deafness. From cannabis restaurants that aren’t talking about bigger issues to developers co-opting the names of restaurants they actively closed (see the Cha Cha Cha in Virgil Village) it seems that some of the city’s big players are fully sprinting for the next buck instead of thinking inclusively about what this city actually deserves.

Matthew Kang, Eater LA Editor

Restaurant surcharges. Just raise prices. I’ve now seen multiple establishments tack on charges, not in the name of healthcare or staff, but to counter “increasing costs.” I miss traveling through Europe and Asia where the price on the menu is the price you see on the bill.

I went to a few restaurants that were in “soft opening” mode this year. Never again. If you’re charging full menu prices, you’re fully open to me.