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The Most Inspiring LA Food Stories to Arise From This Challenging Year

Industry experts discuss their favorite restaurant stories, from charity organizations to generous workers

Josef Centeno plates food to distribute to healthcare workers
Josef Centeno plates food to distribute to healthcare workers
Wonho Frank 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.

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 for one restaurant story that meant the most to them this past year.

Mona Holmes, Eater LA Reporter

The fundraisers for Inglewood’s long standing Serving Spoon and Silver Lake’s Akbar. Both places are near and dear to my heart, and to see the LA community show up in the form of crowdfunding put me into tears. It’s good to know that both will survive this, because of what they bring to Los Angeles. They are more than a breakfast spot or a queer bar. Serving Spoon and Akbar are cultural institutions that help bring color and flavor to our beautiful city.

But if we are truly being honest, the government and banks should be doing more like this to help businesses stay put.

Danielle Dorsey, LA editor, Thrillist

It was really heartening to see LA Rams player Andrew Whitworth and his wife donate $50,000 to Black-owned Inglewood institution the Serving Spoon, to help them stay afloat, especially after owners JC and Angela Johnson went so far as to pay their employees from their personal savings. The Serving Spoon was founded by Angela’s father Harold E. Sparks in 1982, and it’s really inspiring that it’s remained in the family after all these years.

Euno Lee, Eater LA writer

Needle finding a way to survive in Silver Lake means everything to me. It was looking rough for a while there, but seeing chef Ryan get his due (and making the Essential 38!) for elevating Cantonese food and doing it in his assiduous, principled way was one of the only bright spots this year.

Esther Tseng, freelance writer

The people behind No Us Without You distributing food to often-forgotten undocumented restaurant workers. They really stepped up during a really bleak year, providing hope to those who needed it most.

Jim Thurman, freelance writer

Trini Style Cuisine. One woman’s efforts, aided by her daughters, to bring Trinidadian Cuisine to more diners in Greater LA via delivery and food truck.

Farley Elliott, Eater LA senior editor

The Riverside home cooks, because it represents so much about LA’s culinary past, and offers a bright (or, at least not terribly dark) version of its future.

Oren Peleg, Eater LA contributor, freelance writer

Lockdowns and indoor dining bans helped level the playing field for smaller chefs and amateurs. The underground food scene flourished this year with the help of social media and elevated the voices of many who may have otherwise been overshadowed.

Hadley Tomicki, L.A. Taco

It was inspirational to see how the forces behind of Va’La Hospitality stepped way up in creating “No Us Without You” to support undocumented restaurant workers, who this industry as we know it would not exist without. I also was moved by Veteran Tacos, Pico-Union-based taqueros and U.S. Army veterans seeking to change perceptions about combat vets through the powers of fantastic asada.

Matthew Kang, Eater LA editor

The charity of chefs and restaurants to front-line healthcare workers. My wife, who works at a critical care unit at an LA County hospital, was one of many of these workers who helped save lives during the pandemic, so I could palpably feel the generosity and hard work of restaurants for this industry.