2020 will be the year that upended the restaurant industry. It’s difficult to talk about the year in review when everything changed, when people and businesses suffered during the pandemic. In light of the challenging year for everyone in Los Angeles, we asked food writers and industry folks discuss the most exciting new restaurants and food places that opened this past year, because places continued to open and serve incredible things to eat.
Mona Holmes, Eater LA Reporter
When the following words jump out at you “LA’s first Afro-Mexican restaurant,” it’s on. Tamales Elena y Antojitos is the restaurant that hits all the right flavor notes for me: family-run, family recipes, regional Mexican food, the owners are true Angelenos and immigrants who have worked in some of LA’s best restaurants over the years. And the food is solid. Tamales Elena even has an ideal built-in for a pandemic: a drive-thru. It’s wonderful to see all of Los Angeles respond to this business. And I hope they will be around for years to come.
Hillary Dixler Canavan, Eater restaurant editor
Scrolling through my Instagram reminded me of how much fun the beginning of 2020 was, food-wise. It also reminded me of the amazing meal I had when Xiang La Hui was a new arrival in January. Sadly, the twin pressures of pandemic life and newborn life mean I haven’t been back to test my hypothesis that Xiang La Hui deserves the title “best toothpick lamb in the SGV.”
Joshua Lurie, FoodGPS.com founder
It’s not a restaurant, yet, but chef Lord Maynard Llera’s Filipino comfort food pick-up Kuya Lord was pretty incredible. Fully loaded trays of wood-grilled chicken legs, crisp-skinned lechon kawali and prawn-topped pancit dazzled us for days.
Danielle Dorsey, LA editor, Thrillist
South LA Cafe. I’m so impressed with this husband-and-wife team who are also South LA natives. Not only did they launch their cafe and community center during a pandemic, but they quickly pivoted to center their community’s needs by donating ~150 fresh produce boxes weekly to neighbors in need. Not only that, but their cafe menu is delicious and their outdoor patio provides a welcoming atmosphere, with “Clean” and “Dirty” table signs that expedite cleanup in between guests.
Esther Tseng, freelance writer
Considering it’s been a weird market for restaurant openings with people hopefully trying to stay safe yet support the ones trying to stay in business, it was hard to get excited about newcomers thus year. But I’m thankful for All Day Baby and their take-out window.
Jim Thurman, freelance writer
Medan Kitchen; Tamales Elenas y Antojitos; Hui Lau Shan arriving in the SGV
Farley Elliott, Eater LA senior editor
Little Coyote has been a Long Beach blessing, and I’ve been really heartened to see the Sightglass team in Hollywood continue to work so hard to give its immediate community what it needs. Talk about changing directions in 2020.
Oren Peleg, Eater LA contributor, freelance writer
Found Oyster, which is not only a delicious and lively place, but which represents a move away from the blockbuster restaurant to the idiosyncratic, neighborhood joint.
Cathy Chaplin, Eater LA associate editor
A&J Seafood Shack - Long Beach, Medan Kitchen - Rosemead, Today Starts Here - Chinatown
Hadley Tomicki, L.A. Taco
Josh Gil’s Mírame in Beverly Hills blew me away. Sitting on the patio, watching the fireplace with a tepache—and-rum cocktail in hand, it just felt like the restaurant I’ve always wanted to be at.
Matthew Kang, Eater LA editor
Mírame, for a new take on modern Mexican in the heart of Beverly Hills. Sushi Tama was a terrific new addition to West Hollywood, and I can’t wait to sit down for a full omakase meal there when it’s safe. Tamales Elena had the best tamales I’ve ever had in my life. Damian will likely go down as an LA classic, but my outdoor preview meal I had there was very good. Xiang La Hui was an incredible new find in SGV’s Sichuan scene. Ospi was my favorite new Italian restaurant, with stellar pizzas and memorable pastas. Little Coyote brings the best New York City-style pizza maybe ever in LA.