Welcome to the Year in Eater 2022 — 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, reporters, and a few select others with strong opinions share the most interesting, exciting, or straight-up infuriating trends in LA’s dining culture.
Farley Elliott, Senior Editor, Eater LA
I’m excited for an influx of Spanish food to hit Los Angeles, and enamored with the idea that restaurants are once again going big, messy, filling, and unfussy. There’s room for it all in LA!
Kristie Hang, Freelance Writer, Eater LA
I loved the home cooks that were selling out of their cars or homes using social media.
Oren Peleg, Freelance Writer
When the industry collapsed at the start of the pandemic, there was so much talk of fixing the labor and wage models. Fortunately, restaurants and bars are rebuilding, and those who survived are returning to pre-pandemic levels. Yet, while some individual restaurants have implemented changes, the industry as a whole appears to have abandoned these goals and is even opposing unionization efforts. This has been a real blow to restaurant workers who sacrificed (and continue to sacrifice) so much during these last three years, yet are still waiting for protection and their fair share.
Sharon Lee, Content Creator, @helloimsharon (TikTok)
Infusing Korean ingredients for the sake of the trend instead of properly DOING IT JUSTICE.
Matthew Kang, Lead Editor, Eater LA
I’m becoming more and more annoyed with the service charges of 18 percent on menus that also have a tip line. I understand service charges without the acceptance of additional gratuity, but a lot of places have this service charge but then expect an additional tip. It’s confusing for diners and upsetting to staff as a result. I understand it’s there to bolster wages, but if that’s the case then just raise menu prices. Given the level of inflation, I think everyone’s just used to higher prices of dining out these days.
As for good trends, I’m particularly excited about LA’s up-and-coming modern Korean food scene. I think places like Kinn, Corridor 109, Yangban Society, Shiku, Hanchic, and Perilla represent the future of LA’s Korean food. On there whole I think there’s a lot left to develop, but the first chapter has been wonderful to behold.
Baxter Holmes, Senior Writer, ESPN
I prefer when restaurants are upfront about built-in gratuity service charges for staff. I saw some, but not a ton. I wish more did that.
Danielle Dorsey, Senior West Coast Editor, Thrillist
Tasting menus and the proliferation of shareable menus! It can be frustrating when you know what you want and don’t want to share, but I think the trend speaks to a dining populace that is eager to embrace excess (Roaring ’20s re-do, anyone?) and is by-and-large more adventurous compared to pre-pandemic.
Jenn Tanaka, Contributor, Eater LA
Milk bread and karaage chicken were everywhere. Places such as Ardor in WeHo take the starter to the next level with roasted heirloom tomatoes baked on top of the loaf. There was also a lot of bad karaage chicken, so that was infuriating. But the stellar versions at places such as Ototo in Echo Park made the dish an exciting local trend.
Dave Holmes, Editor-at-Large, Esquire
I’m still giddy that we can be outside. My main beef with Los Angeles was that it’s beautiful here 360 days of the year, yet almost no restaurants had outdoor seating. (By contrast, in Chicago you can be comfortable outside for about 45 minutes in May, yet every other place has a biergarten.) The pandemic made places get crafty with their parking lots and sidewalk spaces, and I’m so glad we’re just keeping it as is. I still feel like we’re getting away with something that some prissy old city councilman will shut down any minute, but I’m going with it while it’s here.
Gary Baum, Senior Writer, The Hollywood Reporter
The apparently permanent loss of the physical menu at many restaurants in favor of the QR code digital version. It’s unfortunate. Dining is about tactile experiences.
Alison Herman, Staff Writer, The Ringer
If QR code menus are here to stay, we can at least standardize how they work. Are they for browsing, or ordering? Do we pay on our phones or do we wait for a server? Given the staffing shortage of the last few years, lots of restaurants are stuck with awkward service models that are confusing to the customer. I hope the new year brings some consistency.
Bill Esparza, Contributor, Eater LA
Carajillos. My favorite Mexican yuppie drink is here to stay.
Hadley Tomicki, Deputy Editor, L.A. TACO
Bathroom faucets that only dispense hot water. And they become exponentially infuriating the longer you have to wave your hands to get them to work.
Josh Lurie, Founder, FoodGPS.com
It’s hard to find too much to get upset about with LA dining these days. We’ve never had more talent, depth, and variety. I’m not sure where you live, but I guarantee your neighborhood dining options are historically great, so stop complaining.
Andy Wang, Contributor, Robb Report and Food & Wine
Cross-cultural barbecue, led by the incomparable Moo’s Craft Barbecue, getting the attention it deserves. Truly exciting.
Jean Trinh, LA Editor, Eater
Dry-aged fish was the most exciting! I may be biased because I wrote a story about it — and I know aging fish, in general, isn’t new — but I really think Liwei Liao from the Joint is dry-aging fish in his own unique way so well that his name keeps getting dropped by seafood chefs everywhere in LA.
Alissa Walker, Senior Writer, Curbed
As many of the al fresco-permitted outdoor dining spaces closed across the city, 2022 saw a double whammy of restaurants losing what little slivers of space they’d salvaged — some because their landlords made them give up their patios for a single parking spot — renewing the frustrations of balancing many needs on our too-narrow sidewalks. Less space for driving, more space for eating, please.
Mona Holmes, Reporter, Eater LA
Restaurants/corner stores/pop-ups will never, ever be referred to as “bodegas” in Los Angeles. But plenty of East Coasters/newcomers/trend chasers will keep trying, and as a SoCal native, I will enthusiastically call them out every single time.
Lesley Suter, Special Projects Editor, Eater
So many of my plans this year were crushed by a restaurant’s limited hours! Mondays were always a wash, but now it’s Tuesdays and sometimes Wednesdays too. And forget lunch service — it’s dinner or nothing.
Meghan McCarron, Special Correspondent, Eater
Please don’t make me order through an app while seated at my table.
Nicole Adlman, Eater Cities Manager
I wouldn’t call it infuriating, but the blossoming of sameness in the Italian restaurant space is getting a little tiring. Everything is vaguely “Roman” or “Coastal Italian.” Nothing feels specific enough, or different enough, to excite me. Do I still want to go to Mother Wolf and eat lightly battered, ricotta-plumped squash blossoms (a dish commonly shared in Los Angeles’s best Italian restaurants)? Yes. But it’s not helping me learn something new about Italian regionality. Might have to wait until 2023 for that.