Welcome to the Year in Eater 2021 — an annual tradition that looks back at the highs, lows, and in-betweens of Los Angeles’s restaurant scene. Today, LA’s finest food writers, editors, and reporters highlight the changes that emerged from the pandemic that they hope will continue into the new year.
Caroline Pardilla, Freelance Writer and Eater LA Contributor
Cocktails to-go! I love having that option of taking cocktails home. Back in 2020, it was especially important in that it helped bars and restaurants generate income while allowing us to still enjoy our favorite cocktails at home. Nowadays I’m liking the option to take something home for later when you just can’t drink one more cocktail at the bar. Also love that bars and restaurants were allowed to take over sidewalks and parking lots and even create parklets to offer outdoor seating. Hope that’s extended into the new year and beyond. No better place to drink al fresco than LA.
Danielle Dorsey, Thrillist LA Editor
I want 2022 to continue to be the year of the pop-up! I really appreciate all of the innovative ways that people committed to sharing their food with us in 2021 – like Calabama delivering breakfast sandwiches via a bucket drop from her fire escape — and I look forward to more of that in the new year.
Esther Tseng, Freelance Food Writer
Non-profit organizations like No Us Without You and Another Round Another Rally arose in order to provide for the food insecure in the hospitality industry. Even though we are all tired of this pandemic, the most vulnerable in our industry are still at risk. There are still people facing back rent and mounting bills in the face of reduced hours worked—especially our undocumented. They still need food for their families, to make their car and cell phone payments and therefore these non-profits still need our donations. My hope is that we don’t forget them amid our pandemic fatigue, because they’re still out there facing these challenges.
Evan Kleiman, Good Food host
The nimbleness that created a thriving food scene beyond the walls of a conventional brick and mortar. And outdoor dining.
Farley Elliott, Eater LA Senior Editor
I’m fine with fast-casual lunch service (say, ordering from the counter) and more robust dinner service, should just about every place take up that model. I’m also impressed with Zef BBQ’s hybrid model, offering staple dishes and whatever else the heck they feel like — while also changing locations, doing one-off burger (and other stuff) days, and whatever feels right. It’s hard to innovate week after week in the pop-up space, and that team makes it look seamless.
Hillary Dixler Canavan
Please let outdoor dining be more prevalent forever. We live in one of few cities in this country that can comfortably dine outside nearly year-round. It’s a godsend for parents of young children, especially.
Josh Lurie, FoodGPS.com Founder
Shutting down supplemental outdoor dining would be premature and short-sighted. Cities across L.A. County need to stick with this pro-business, pandemic-friendly idea. Long live parklets!
Matthew Kang, Eater LA Editor
Making everything from the permit process to outdoor dining to takeout cocktails and all the other things that helped make restaurants stay afloat and eventually thrive are all things we should keep. Continue to adopt these dining trends that are prevalent everywhere around the world, from more street food to more flexible ways to enjoy a meal or drink. When LA’s food and drink culture rises, it helps everyone.
Lesley Suter, Eater Travel Editor
As a parent who can’t always get a sitter, I still love the fact I can get amazing food and drink via takeout from so many of my favorite spots. Also more places taking reservations. Ditto (to) outdoor seating, I love the fact this city is finally embracing its incredible weather.
Mona Holmes, Eater LA Reporter
Why did it take a pandemic for LA to eliminate the lengthy and expensive permit process surrounding outdoor dining? We have the perfect weather for it and diners crave outdoor tables. Would be lovely to make it permanent — along with less cars — so restaurants can get creative when building out parklets, parking lots, and sidewalks.
Nicole Adlman, Eater Cities Manager
Will join the chorus of citing outdoor dining as one of the most important industry lifelines in 2021; I hope that in 2022 we start seeing some design innovation outdoors, much like in the way the now-permanent parklet scene had its glow-up in San Francisco.