With 2023 coming to a rapid close, Eater LA is taking a look back at the stories and headlines that resonated with readers the most. From an amusement park restaurant that hit all the nostalgic notes to a massive Orange County food hall as vibrant as the mercados in Mexico, these top stories celebrated the diversity, deliciousness, and pure joy of dining in the Southland this year. Thank you for reading and sharing Eater’s work across social media platforms, texting friends and family, and showing up every day to see what’s new, what’s shuttered, and what’s trending in LA. Eater wouldn’t be the same without its loyal readers. Here are the 10 most popular stories in 2023.
The most-read story of 2023 was an inside look at the eye-popping Super Mario Brothers-themed restaurant inside Universal Studios Hollywood by Eater LA senior editor Cathy Chaplin. The executives at Nintendo and Universal Studios didn’t cut corners when it came to designing the Italian American restaurant. From power-up icons to bright green Warp Pipes and mustachioed hamburger buns, Toadstool Cafe captured the imagination of Mario and Luigi fans across the Southland and beyond.
Eater contributor Lynn Q. Yu’s report on the down-home restaurant serving American classics to weary travelers resonated in a big way with readers. First built in 1929, the Outpost Cafe in Oak Hills near Hesperia started as a gas station and six-seat diner. Today, the diner sits at the intersection of the 15 and 395 freeways and serves a steady crowd of truckers craving chicken-fried steak and ribeyes served with loaded baked potatoes.
Trung Nguyên Legend Cafe, which operates 110 hundred stores in Vietnam, opened its first U.S. location in Little Saigon in September, reports senior editor Cathy Chaplin. Located in Westminster on Bolsa Avenue, the 1,300-square-foot store serves phin- and espresso-based coffee drinks using 100-percent Vietnamese-grown Robusta and Arabica beans from Buôn Ma Thuột, a city in the Central Highlands. On the menu are popular Vietnamese coffee drinks like cà phê trứng (Vietnamese egg coffee) and cà phê chồn (civet coffee).
A pair of opening reports on Mercado Gonzalez by lead editor Matthew Kang and Eater contributor Bill Esparza caused a frenzy. The massive Mexican food hall located in Costa Mesa comes from the Mexican supermarket chain Northgate, which was founded by Don Miguel and Doña Teresa González, who have grown the business into a behemoth with 43 locations across four Southern California counties. The Mercado Gonzalez complex includes a panaderia, tortilleria, dulceria, the full-service restaurant Maizano, and more.
LA’s ultimate chocolate croissant can be found at the corner of Catalina Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena at CAR Artisan Chocolate, reports senior editor Cathy Chaplin. Self-taught baker Haris Car’s creation is meticulously made using high-gluten, organic flour from Central Milling, French butter from Normandy, and chocolate made in-house from bean to baton.
Opened in November 2022 by Felina and Moises Simbulan, Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride in Artesia is a Filipino food paradise on Wednesday nights, reports Eater contributor Judith Rontal. The weekly dinner buffet pulls in over 200 diners and includes dishes like steamed lobster, guisado noodles, beef kare-kare, lechon kawali, and more. It’s a feast for formidable appetites and worth seeking out in 2024 and beyond.
Eater contributor Melody Barooni shares the story of how twin sisters Darya and Sadaf Salout maintain and grow their father and uncle’s group of four Persian restaurants in Southern California. “When I was little, [my father] worked 72-hour shifts, so we wouldn’t see him for three days, and then he’d come home and sleep 24 hours,” Sadaf says. “My sister and I were little and we’d climb on him and try to wake him by pouring water on his face, but he was so tired that he’d just sleep for 24 hours straight.”
Lead editor Matthew Kang spilled the beans on the fabulous sandwiches stacked sky-high with pastrami, sauerkraut, and Swiss found at New York Deli in Torrance, which the Temory family opened in 1985. In addition to the expertly constructed sandwiches, don’t miss the deli’s matzo ball soup that’s large enough to feed two or even three people. Every serving contains a “fist-sized globe of glorious soaked carbohydrates surrounded by a deeply rich chicken broth,” writes Kang.
Eater LA’s Highly Opinionated column explores one specific, oft-debated food in Los Angeles including New York-style pizza, Korean barbecue, breakfast burritos, beef phở, and bánh mì đặc biệt. The trio of Italian deli sandwiches picked by lead editor Matthew Kang included Cosa Buona’s Stepmother, Heroic Italian’s OMG Sandwich, and the classics at Italia Deli in Agoura Hills.
Lisa Vanderpump’s namesake West Hollywood restaurant Pump closed in July after a respectable decade-long run, reports Farley Elliott, Eater LA’s former senior editor. Vanderpump says that she could not settle on lease renewal terms with the landlord.