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 most interesting, exciting, or straight-up infuriating trends in LA dining culture.
Brian Addison, founder, Longbeachize
Smashburgers. Please, for the love of the food gods, bring back a thick patty and eliminate lengthy cocktail names. “Get out of the rain and step into a dry…negroni” is cute on paper and a play on an old phrase, but I am just going to say, “The negroni, please.”
Cathy Chaplin, Senior Editor, Eater LA
Excited to see grocery glow-ups like Suá Superette in Larchmont Village, Mar Vista’s Fatty Mart, and Carla’s in Highland Park.
Farley Elliott, SoCal Bureau Chief, SFGate
Small restaurants are good! Scaling back down from the city’s giant 300-seat behemoths is nice for diners and neighborhoods alike.
Bill Esparza, contributor, Eater LA
The most exciting trend of 2023 was the growth of high-end Mexican seafood from the new Holbox, Del Mar Ostioneria, Muelle 8, and Loreto.
Kristie Hang, contributor Eater LA
I disliked all these “wagyu” yakiniku or Korean barbecue places that keep opening up, claiming they serve “wagyu.” It’s such a marketing ploy to use the name, and I feel like your average consumer may not be that familiar with the term. It cheapens what wagyu is.
Alison Herman, TV Critic, Variety
The return of full-throated French cooking to the upper crust of LA’s food scene. After years of (rightly) championing other food cultures as equally deserving of institutional reverence, French may have circled back to being underrated — which makes concepts like Camphor and Pasjoli especially exciting.
Mona Holmes, Reporter, Eater LA
Exciting: wine bars, plus the new laws that help restaurants expand outdoor dining.
Infuriating: Tinned fish. I would rather eat that at home.
And New York: scooped bagels aren’t really a thing in LA. All my life, I’ve been watching you take regular shots at my city. But this time, you made a mountain out of something that isn’t a trend in LA.
Matthew Kang, Lead Editor, Eater LA
TikTok-famous restaurants. Most of the time they are not good, and most of the recommendations on TikTok are disappointing because these influencers lack experience and knowledge. (Wait, did I just describe myself, a former food blogger from the Aughts with no formal journalism training?) I’m glad for places that do well because of TikTok and social media hype, but just because something looks good on a phone doesn’t mean it tastes good on the plate.
Evan Lovett, Founder, L.A. in a Minute
I think it’s hilarious when I see big-name restaurants and chefs from different cities think their reputation will be enough to thrive in Los Angeles. We are fiercely proud of our cuisine and while there are certainly amazing restaurants throughout the world, it is a very difficult proposition to just drop in on LA and have a smash-hit restaurant. I admit I laugh each time I see a hot spot in DC, New York, or otherwise open in LA, and fizzle out after a month.
Joshua Lurie, founder, FoodGPS.com
Outdoor dining was long overdue given our unmatched weather. It took the pandemic to kick al fresco dining into overdrive. Hopefully, local governments stop putting the squeeze on patios and parklets and give restaurants their best chance to survive and thrive and for diners to live their best lives.
Elina Shatkin, KCRW
The most infuriating trend is the added charges at the bottom of receipts. It’s unclear where those charges go. I am extremely dubious that the money actually goes to the staff to pay for their health care or wherever these restaurants claim the money goes. Then these restaurants expect us to tip on top of these tacked-on 18 percent service charges. Enough already. Just charge more upfront for the food and explain that you’re doing it so you can pay for X, Y, and Z while avoiding extra service charges. Tipping culture has gotten out of hand and needs to die. But then again, the entire hospitality business model is profoundly messed up to begin with.
Nicole Adlman, Cities Editor, Eater
Starting to feel like upscale red sauce joints (think Donna’s, La Dolce Vita) are sort of Vegasifying the staples of the old-school red sauce joint. (Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.) I’m a little tired of the conversation surrounding Los Angeles’s bagels, too. We have some good bagels, and you don’t have to wait in two-hour lines for many of them.
Memo Torres, L.A. Taco and Apple Maps
It’s been sad to see a rise in hostile attitudes toward street vendors this year from restaurants, police, thieves, and civilians. As the economy gets more challenging for everyone, people turn against themselves rather than the corporations that control the food supply, raking in record profits as the rest of us deal with inflation.
There is a false narrative that vendors have it easier than restaurants that follow stringent scrutiny from different regulatory bodies. The truth is each type of business, from pop-up lunch trucks to restaurateurs faces various hurdles and struggles, and comparing them is complicated and filled with nuances. But criminalizing folks who are selling food in the streets, attacking them, and vilifying them is a sad trend I’ve seen developing when everyone is feeling the pinch. It’s scary to be a street vendor right now, and it’s also incredibly challenging to own a restaurant right now. Everyone is struggling, but don’t fall into the trap of blaming each other. We should all be supportive.