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E Stretto deli sandwich shop with wine in Bar Clacson Downtown Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie BreijoE Stretto's ILL PAPA

Some of L.A.’s best restaurants and bars are feeding industry workers with free meals

Written by
Stephanie Breijo

With thousands already out of work across California—including a number of L.A.’s best bartenders, servers and chefs—the statewide restaurant and bar shutdowns, while necessary to stop the coronavirus spread, are proving catastrophic for the dining industry.

But a number of Los Angeles restaurants are still open for takeout and delivery, and a few of them are putting even more of the “service” in “service industry” by offering free, daily meals for restaurant and bar workers who’ve recently been let go or seen a significant reduction in their work hours. Others are extending their free meals to healthcare professionals, too. 

Restaurant Industry:

DTLA’s 9th St. Ramen only just opened—one of a few concepts unfortunate enough to launch right before the coronavirus pandemic—but it’s commendably already opening its kitchen to members of the imperiled restaurant industry. The ramen shop is handing out 10 “top ramen” kits per day, a to-go package of noodles, vegetables, pork and all the accoutrements. Call ahead at 213-628-3404 to reserve yours, and call early. 

Downtown sandwich shop E Stretto is giving out deli sandwiches to industry colleagues, including their massive, meat-stacked flagship, the Ill Papa sandwich. Thanks to a rotating cast of sponsors such as Campari and bar-industry mag Collectif 1806, team Stretto has been giving out roughly 20 sandwiches each day, with more on the way. Stay tuned to their Instagram page for daily updates. 

Employees Only is taking its “staff meal” industry-wide. Each night for the foreseeable future, the West Hollywood cocktail bar and restaurant is giving out 100 meals per night, starting at 5pm, making “staff meal” kits or doling out Elio’s Wood Fired Pizza (who’s also offering delivery out of the space). Bring proof of recent restaurant employment, such as a pay stub. 

UPDATE: Jessica Koslow's Sqirl has taken over the Mozza initiative, and is now offering free meals from her Virgil Village restaurant; you can read more on that here. Last week Nancy Silverton repurposed her Mozza complex, flipping the chi SPACCA dining room into an aid center for industry workers in need. Together with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Silverton and her team make 300 meals to-go per day, beginning at 5:30pm, and are also handing out supplies such as canned foods, diapers and Tylenol. Bring proof of recent restaurant employment, such as a pay stub. 

Atwater's cool, wine-savvy neighborhood pizzeria Hail Mary was already an industry favorite, and now it's giving even more reason to be: Owner David Wilcox and his team are giving away what it calls "industry pies": free cheese pizzas—usually 50 per day—on a first-come, first-served basis.

One of our best new bars of 2019 is proving there’s much more to love about Thunderbolt than its bright cocktails and Southern-inspired BBQ: It’s also feeding colleagues every night. Thanks to anonymous sponsors and liquor brands such as Glenfiddich and Maker’s Mark, Thunderbolt’s been giving out free dinners that feed anywhere from 10 to 40 industry professionals a night with dishes like BBQ brisket plates and their fried chicken biscuit sandwich. Keep your eyes on the Thunderbolt Instagram account for daily updates.

Healthcare Industry:

Beverly Grove and DTLA sandwich shop Uncle Paulie’s is packing up some of its popular Italian-inspired deli sandwiches and salads for workers in the healthcare industry, a move inspired by co-owner Paul James’s own Aunt Karen, an RN working the ICU floor of a Queens hospital. If you work in healthcare, stop by either location for a free lunch, and be sure to bring some form of proof of employment. 

And lastly, Bar Amá / Orsa & Winston / Bäco Mercat and Amácita chef Josef Centeno has been whipping up meals for the staff of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, including this gorgeous tray of enchiladas. If you would like to donate or volunteer to help feed this staff as well, he asks that you DM him via his Instagram.

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