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The Most Surprising Los Angeles Restaurant News Stories of 2023

Though eyebrow-raising stories ran throughout the year, one caught the attention of most LA food writers, editors, and eaters in 2023

An old dining room with lots of colorful paintings of horses and deep blue walls with wooden ball at the back at Horses in Hollywood.
Wonho Frank Lee

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 reflect on the most surprising restaurant news of the year.

Brian Addison, founder, Longbeachize

Definitively Horses. It was more like a novella and showcased the shockingly unhealthy relationships some of the brightest stars can have.

Matthew Kang, Lead Editor, Eater LA

Horses was the most spectacular story from the LA restaurant world this year, but I’ll also mention the very sad and sudden closures of beloved restaurants across the city. It’s just too hard to run a restaurant right now, and policies need to change to make it easier for operators and workers alike. Diners need to change their perspective too, on the notion of value and price, and the forces that shape the the working environments for those who cook and serve our food.

Gary Baum, Senior Writer, The Hollywood Reporter

Is there an answer that isn’t the Horses situation?

Cathy Chaplin, Senior Editor, Eater LA

Horses drama. Four Washington D.C. concepts are coming to LA in 2024.

Farley Elliott, SoCal Bureau Chief, SFGate

Though it took place in early January 2023 and does not have salacious rumormongering of some other big LA stories, the disappearance of La Brea Bakery from Los Angeles is shocking. Its influence on LA’s modern bread scene cannot be overstated.

La Brea Bakery on La Brea Avenue.
La Brea Bakery on La Brea Avenue.
La Brea Bakery

Bill Esparza, contributor, Eater LA

The closure of Petty Cash Taquería, a place that I thought was such a neighborhood anchor, came as a shock. Very sad to see the mural inspired by Afromexicana cook Maria Elena Alonzo of Tamales Elena painted over, too.

Alison Herman, TV Critic, Variety

The increasing ubiquity of fancy Italian, from reimagined red sauce to California spins in the vein of Nancy Silverton. I’m not arguing with a good plate of pasta, but the scale of the trend — Funke! Antico Nuovo! Bacetti! Cento! La Dolce Vita! Etra! — is staggering.

Mona Holmes, Reporter, Eater LA

The Horses situation was the most talked about and deeply sad. Breadblok closing all four locations overnight was also a shock. But this year’s astounding number of restaurant closings felt different in 2023. It’s not uncommon for restaurant operators to end things this time of year, but why and how did so many LA operators make the heartbreaking decision to close?

Cultural food hubs create the landscape of our city. To see places close like Cafe Tropical, Shabu Shabu House, Petty Cash Taqueria, Swift Cafe, Nickel Diner, Needle, Bar Moruno, and Angler were stunning losses for LA. It also makes me concerned about what types of replacements (ones that can afford high rents) will take their place.

Petty Cash Taqueria in Los Angeles, California.
Petty Cash Taqueria in 2017.
Sierra Prescott

Nicole Adlman, Cities Manager, Eater

I think many of the sudden, end-of-year holiday restaurant closures have become a late-game landmark narrative in Los Angeles. And, of course, the slow build-up to and sudden clash and calamity of the Horses story, which feels like it seeded in 2022 with Farley Elliott’s report on the under-the-table partnership that brought the restaurant to life.

Evan Lovett, founder, L.A. in a Minute

Despite legislative progress, street vending in Los Angeles is still a difficult proposition for many. Street vending is truly a lifeblood of LA going back to our first street vendor, Nicolás Martinez, in the 1870s. Street vendors add so much to our communities, not just culinarily, but culturally and economically.