Welcome to the Year in Eater 2023 — our 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 restaurants that stepped up in small and big ways for their community over the past year.
Brian Addison, founder, Longbeachize
Lola’s Mexican Cuisine. They provided hot meals to college students and filled their dry goods pantries. It was beautiful to see a kid appreciate something warm.
Virali Dave, food writer
The Ruby Fruit! It’s a lesbian wine bar, a community space, and then some. It’s been incredible to see its growth and the way it’s established itself as a community mainstay. Plus the food is truly special.
Farley Elliott, SoCal Bureau Chief, SFGate
Greg Dulan does not get the credit he deserves as a cultural and culinary ambassador for Los Angeles. He knows everyone, he connects everyone together, and even as he goes through his own restaurant ownership challenges, he continues to lift up all of Inglewood and South LA.
Alison Herman, TV Critic, Variety
A tie between Swingers and Bob’s Big Boy, who provided free meals to striking workers courtesy of Drew Carey.
Mona Holmes, Reporter, Eater LA
Joe and Celia Ward-Wallace from South LA Cafe do so much for the community, that I don’t have room to list all they do for Los Angeles. Their business model is all about community building, they give away groceries and are a community hub, I can keep going. LA is better because of this husband-wife team. Greg Dulan too. He shows his love of Los Angeles through his business and community work.
Some folks do tons of quiet work behind the scenes: Ronan’s Caitlin Cutler, Civil Coffee’s brother-owners Alan and Alex Morales, and All Day Baby’s Lien Ta, who hosts a regular LA restaurant trivia night that celebrates local eateries while being an ambassador for World Central Kitchen.
Evan Lovett, founder, L.A. in a Minute
Christy Vega at the historic Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks is integral to the restaurant community for her support of mom-and-pop restaurants and their businesses. A great example is her impact on the continuation of al fresco and the recent parking mandate amendment. Equally important, Casa Vega participates in many aspects of the community, sponsoring schools, little leagues, and community events.
Joshua Lurie, FoodGPS.com founder
It’s impressive to see so many restaurants and people contribute to charitable dinners and events. It’s tough enough to run a restaurant. Participating in events like Alex’s Lemonade or Taste of the Nation is extra special. So is the AGBU x World Central Kitchen chefs for Armenia dinner hosted by Rossoblu to raise money for humanitarian efforts in Armenia or one of many local charitable dinners.
Memo Torres, L.A. Taco and Apple Maps
I immediately think of South LA Cafe and Homegirl Cafe as places that do so much for their community. But I was also surprised by Jonathan Perez of Macheen. He and Distrito Catorce in Boyle Heights quietly participated in fundraisers this year for their communities locally and abroad. Most notably, connecting Boyle Heights partners to support an orphanage for migrant children in Tijuana.