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LA Restaurants and Chefs That Stepped Up for Their Communities in 2020

Restaurants were an essential part of helping communities this past year

Los Angeles Unified School District plans to distribute 1.5 million meals the day before Thanksgiving,
Women load up a shopping cart of free meals before Thanksgiving in South Gate, California
Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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 about restaurants they thought stepped up for their communities and stakeholders.

Mona Holmes, Eater LA Reporter

Post & Beam’s chef/owner John Cleveland — and numerous South LA restaurants — worked with Councilman Marqueece Harris Dawson to prepare meals for seniors from March until June. The program ended June 12, but Clevelend extended the program by fundraising within the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw community. I can’t think of another restaurant so committed to its community like Post & Beam, which also comes with Cleveland’s friendly demeanor.

Danielle Dorsey, LA editor, Thrillist

I’ve been really impressed with South LA Cafe. To not only launch in 2020, but center the community in how they operate their business and encouraging that community, good-neighbor mindset in others. They made and delivered fresh vegan meals as part of Councilmember Marqueece Dawson’s Senior Meals Program, they gave away toys for the holidays, they host grocery giveaways and other fundraisers, they allow customers to sponsor produce boxes, and give away at least 150 produce boxes per week.

Euno Lee, Eater LA writer

To paraphrase Dave Chappelle: Every restaurant that operated to bring people food during this pandemic is my god damn hero.

Jim Thurman, freelance writer

Even with the “in particular”, I truly can’t single one out. So many deserve credit for what they’ve done or pivoted to under terrible conditions.

Farley Elliott, Eater LA senior editor

It’s been amazing, and heart-warming, to see what the Hippo/Highland Park Wine/Go Get Em Tiger/Triple Beam Pizza complex has done over the course of the pandemic, from reconfiguring its physical space to still finding ways to put out new menu items, sell boatloads of wine, and keep the Eastside stocked in pizza.

Oren Peleg, Eater LA contributor, freelance writer

The team behind Vala Hospitality set up a much-need nonprofit in No Us Without You LA (@nouswithoutyou) to help feed the industry’s undocumented workers who have gone largely overlooked during this period. Likewise, downtown’s Barcito partnered with High Road Kitchens to feed low-wage workers and others in need.

Hadley Tomicki, L.A. Taco

Seeing a large swath of restaurants quickly organize to donate profits to social justice organizations or promote chefs and winemakers from traditionally disenfranchised backgrounds was a beautiful reminder that we can all do something positive with whatever we’re working with when we take the focus off of ourselves.

Matthew Kang, Eater LA editor

Josef Centeno was one of the city’s tireless workers, as well as Barb Batiste at B Sweet. Both were incredibly generous. Another one was John Sungkamee of Emporium Thai, who has been quietly donating meals to front line workers. Also No Us Without You, and numerous other organizations who mobilized to help feed and support undocumented workers.

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