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 discuss the most exciting restaurant openings of the year.
Brian Addison, founder, Longbeachize
This isn’t fair, nor necessarily even answering the damn question, but Sonoratown is opening in Downtown Long Beach and that means it’s walkable for me. Y’all, I can walk to Sonoratown in 2024. There was no opening in 2023 that compares to that reality next year.
Gary Baum, Senior Writer, The Hollywood Reporter
Queen St. in Eagle Rock, which possesses a sharp sense of itself.
Cathy Chaplin, Senior Editor, Eater LA
The wild and wooly meals at Poltergeist were some of my favorites of the year, while Joyce Soul and Sea dazzled with warm hospitality and well-prepared Southern comforts. The hot catfish is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Virali Dave, food writer
When you do so much eating, all your meals tend to blur together. Poltergeist stands out in an exciting and awe-inspiring way. I’m also excited and hopeful about what Baar Baar entering the LA dining scene means for Indian dining in the city.
Farley Elliott, SoCal Bureau Chief, SFGate
Liu’s Cafe has hit just the right tone and Hong Kong-Shanghai-Taiwanese menu, but Poltergeist in Echo Park has raised more LA eyebrows than anyone else.
Bill Esparza, contributor, Eater LA
Del Mar Ostioneria is outstanding, serving fresh, spicy upscale Sinaloan seafood from a food truck. It brings contempo Sinaloan cuisine to Los Angeles from a seasoned chef who serves mariscos with a sense of place while rivaling the best seafood restaurants in LA.
Alison Herman, TV Critic, Variety
A bittersweet one: Yum S’Lut, the remarkable Lao concept working out of half the Chinatown communal space Lokels Only. In a city saturated with Thai options, Yum S’Lut felt truly unique. But it also announced its indefinite closure this month, proving how hard it is for even great restaurants to thrive. Here’s hoping they find a more permanent space in 2024.
Mona Holmes, Reporter, Eater LA
Poltergeist was as supernatural as the name implies, and chef Diego Argoti is a friendly madman/genius in the best way. Been following Amiga Amore for years and loved dining there. It’s slightly over a year old, but I loved sitting at the bar while eating at West LA’s Wine House Kitchen. Ruby Fruit. And who knew that the city’s best food would come from my hometown of Pasadena at Bar Chelou?
Matthew Kang, Lead Editor, Eater LA
There are more than a few, but Hibi was a real surprise in Koreatown, and I have high hopes it’ll get more attention next year. Baroo met my very lofty expectations and I can’t wait to go back for another beautiful tasting. Sushi Sonagi also met my high expectations and was my favorite overall new restaurant of the year that wasn’t Bar Chelou (which technically opened in late 2022, and was my favorite opening of the past 12-14 months). If I had more money I’d probably make Funke my monthly Italian dinner. I’m also a big fan of Xuntos, which might be the best overall Spanish restaurant in town. Loreto and Mariscos Za Za Zá are two places I’d visit more frequently if I were closer, but they were terrific too.
Evan Lovett, founder, LA in a Minute
Loreto in FrogTown was absolutely wonderful. I loved the rustic patio nestled between a warehouse and the river and the food was divine: the ceviche to the botanas to the tostada. Dare I say, it was a magical experience!
Joshua Lurie, founder, FoodGPS.com
I’m glad that Barra Santos and Loreto both opened within striking distance. Barra Santos is a great neighborhood bar in Cypress Park. Melissa López switches up her menu seasonally, but they always have an endive salad with electric tang. We liked their head-on prawn cazuela so much that my wife and I ordered it twice during the same dinner, which rarely happens. Loreto is my favorite new dinner option in Frogtown. Seasonal ceviches and raw bar items are always fun, and I always order their pescado zarandeado, a delicious whole branzino served with blue corn tortillas and quesadillas, rice, beans, and salsa. Mariscos Za Za Zá is a fun option for seafood-fueled lunches in the back.
Memo Torres, L.A. Taco and Apple Maps
It may sound silly, but can someone be excited for churros? This place isn’t exactly a newcomer, Churreria El Moro has been around Mexico City since 1935, but Northgate’s new immersive Mercado González down in Costa Mesa has brought these legends to our backyard. My little town of Juchipila, Zacatecas, Mexico, is known for its great churros. But I’m sorry to say to mi gente, El Moro might be the best in all of Mexico if not at least the best I’ve ever tasted. I’m taking my kids, nieces, and nephews just for these churros.
Elina Shatkin, KCRW
Best Bet in Culver City (RIP). Queen Street in Highland Park. Dear Jane’s in MDR.
Nicole Adlman, Cities Manager, Eater
The restaurant that would take over 26-year-old Venice icon James Beach could have been something expected, but instead, it’s Si! Mon, a Panamanian seafood restaurant that pulls no punches in its approach to Central American food. It brings something truly fun (indoor-outdoor vibe in a sexy sepia-tinted room?), unexpected (gluten-free, “chicken salt”-dusted fried chicken?), and wholly new to a sliver of Venice more known for its boardwalk restaurant stalls and cult coffee shops than destination dining. The double-fried green banana patacones are a wonderful foil to dishes like juicy jerk prawns, tuna carpaccio tinged with smoked achiote oil, and rum-spiked clams nestled in rice porridge.
Other than Si! Mon, I was very excited to see Woodland Hills’s Modern Bread and Bagel take up where Breadblok, which closed all its locations abruptly in May, left off — the gluten-free deli and bakery recently opened in the former Breadblok location on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.
Lesley Suter, Interim Editorial Lead/Special Projects Editor, Eater
I’ve been really impressed with Array 36. The meal was perfectly executed and on par with fine dining in Asia. I believe you have to know what to order, but every dish I tried was excellent, especially the “Buddha Jumping over the Wall” soup.
Jean Trinh, Freelance Reporter
I love how exciting and chaotic Poltergeist is. You can be eating a boundaries-pushing meal of a Thai Caesar salad, mapo tofu-stuffed cabbage, and yellow curry bucatino, while kids are running around playing arcade games and punk music is blaring in the background. Even the menu design is amazing, with the Poltergeist logo written in death metal font. The flavors of the dishes are bold, nostalgic, and surprising all at once.