Every year in L.A. dining feels more action-packed than the last, but this year felt especially grueling. Somehow, our city kept up a rapidfire pace of Michelin stars, new food halls, more food fests, an entirely new onslaught of food-themed Instagram traps… er, “museums”, and openings—and near-immediate closures—from some of the country’s biggest chefs all within a few months.
Join us as we look back on 2019 by revisiting our biggest restaurants and bars stories—ranked in ascending order of reader popularity—and look ahead to a few restaurants headed our way in 2020.
Take a walk down memory lane—then visit these spots:
2019 was a year of new pop-ups, and it was also a year for pop-ups finding permanent homes. In the case of Broad Street Oyster Company, it was both. The Smorgasburg and Hollywood Night Market regular launched a new residency within the Malibu Village shopping center over the summer, announcing a run through the start of November. The residency was such a perfect fit—and seafood-hungry Angelenos from all over the map swarmed the sunny space for lobster rolls—that the team agreed to stayed on through the end of the year. Now, the Broad Street team tells us they’ll be spinning their residency into a permanent home in 2020 and beyond. We love it when one of our favorite pop-ups lands a full restaurant, and apparently, so do you.
L.A. is already full of phenomenal dim sum and—we’ll get to it later on this list—we’ve also got Michelin-starred restaurants. But the allure of one of the world’s most famous Michelin-starred dim sum spots was enough to push Tim Ho Wan’s first California location toward the top of our stories. For a time, Tim Ho Wan was Michelin’s cheapest starred restaurant in the world, drawing thousands of diners to its Hong Kong locations; over the last decade, the famous BBQ pork buns and dumplings spread to roughly 50 locations worldwide, now including an outpost in Irvine. We trekked down and ate our way through the menu to tell you the five must-order items if you’re making the journey, too, and especially dove into the OC-only dishes you’ll find there.
Who doesn’t love a new brunch spot? Let us elaborate: Who doesn’t love a new brunch spot that whips up churro pancakes, French-toast flights, egg-topped mac and cheese, and a rainbow of bloody Marys? One of San Diego’s most popular local chains announced its expansion into L.A., and the breakfast-all-day restaurant that can draw lines out the door is coming to WeHo next year. Breakfast Republic won’t land in L.A. until May, but it’s never too late to start planning your visit.
We’re of course partial to our own pastrami scene—see also: Langer’s and Ugly Drum especially—but it’s hard to argue that Katz’s Delicatessen makes some of the best we’ve ever tasted. The New York deli institution rarely makes it out to this coast, so when they announced a one-weekend partnership with L.A. butcher shop Belcampo Meat Co., everyone went nuts. They went so nuts, in fact, that delivery and pickup and execution of the DIY Katz’s sandwich kit went haywire for a day or so as Katz’s-crazy Angelenos clammored for a taste of the seasoning-crusted classic.
It finally happened: After years of speculation, the world’s premier restaurant rating system returned to Los Angeles after what felt like a decade of snubbing. (And let’s not forget the very real snubbing wherein former Michelin Guide director Jean-Luc Naret told Esquire that “the people in Los Angeles are not real foodies.”) We covered every phase of Michelin’s L.A. return, but this Bib Gourmands reveal garnered the most activity, probably because it arrived first, but also because these—more so than the starred spots—capture how Angelenos dine. Here we shared the news and wondered how, exactly, Michelin attempted to cover the diversity in our dining scene, a collection of restaurants whose taco stands are just as worthy of a star as our lauded full-service operations, and how it managed to incorrectly label so many neighborhoods in L.A. It isn’t every day that Michelin (oddly) returns to a city it spurned, and as part of a large and vaguely explored statewide guide, to boot, and if anything, this story—and the return at large—shows us the Guides have a bit more to comprehend about Los Angeles before their 2020 list goes live.
Don’t get it twisted: L.A.’s own pizza scene is thriving, and while we’re already home to quality deep-dish outlets like Masa, there’s no denying Chicago’s reign of the cheesy, skillet-baked pies. As we saw earlier with the news of Katz’s, Breakfast Republic and Tim Ho Wan, our city can’t wait for a taste of some of the world’s most-hyped restaurants, and Midwesterners and native Angelenos alike flipped to hear that one of Chicago’s best deep-dish pizzerias was heading to Sherman Oaks. If you happened to be one of those hypebeasts, you’re in for some good news: L.A.’s Gino’s East just opened over the weekend, bringing its signature deep-dish pies with plenty of cheese pulls to the Valley.
Come on, like one of the country’s first cannabis cafés wasn’t going to make this list? Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe, ideally concepted as a restaurant serving CBD- and THC-infused cuisine, was always going to be one of the most curious and exciting openings of the year. Of course, as it happens with L.A.’s mercurial restaurant scene—and equally volatile cannabis regulations—plans can quickly change. This story gave us a bit more info on what to expect at the café, which scrapped its original business plan and now seperately sells food and marijuana, which, of course, you can smoke on-site. As if the verdant patio restaurant didn’t see enough changes this year, it’s since swapped out its name, now going by Original Cannabis Cafe.
Take one part cheap eats and another part L.A. history and you’ve got this piece, the announcement that one of the city’s longest-running diners turned 70 and was doing it up with 70-cent breakfasts. Diners have deep roots in Los Angeles, and there’s almost no diner as iconic as Norm’s, whose bright orange penant flags serve as beacons for a very Angeleno brand of Mid-Century Americana. It’s heartening to think that readers don’t just love a cheap meal, but that they respect the pancake-slinging, late-night loving, Googie-architecture landmark, too.
We kicked off 2019 with one of the biggest openings imaginable, in nearly every sense of the word “biggest”: A few of the country’s most notable culinary powerhouses teamed up for a 40,000-square-foot complex that would bring Tartine’s world-renowned baked goods down from San Francisco and marry them with Phoenix pizza phenomenon Chris Bianco’s Italian cooking. This story was our guide to it all, including the marketplace, the wine bar, the Tartine-leaning restaurant, the Bianco-forward restaurant, the 6,000-square-foot coffee roastery and partnership with retail giants Califia Farms, as well as the coffee lab for cupping, barista training and other caffeine-focused events. Heavenly, right? Well, remember how mercurial L.A.’s restaurant scene is? Just this week Eater reported that the Manufactory is effectively closed—with the exception of its gargantuan bakery for satellite locations. That’s nearly 40,000 square feet of buildout sitting empty. Bianco’s famed Pizzeria Bianco is slated to open in the space sometime next year, as is a trattoria, but as of now, the rest of the footprint is unaccounted for.
He finally snapped, and the globe took note: With this soft-serve shot heard round the world, Joe Nicchi took on influencers in 2019 and for a few weeks, it felt as if every country on Earth stopped to applaud him. The CVT Soft Serve owner finally grew tired enough of influencers asking to trade a cup of his ice cream—or even more ballsy, entire catered events for hundreds of guests—in exchange for photos posted to their Instagram accounts, that Nicchi decided to up the ante: If you ask for free ice cream, you’ll be charged double. Here we caught up with Nicchi and were one of the first outlets to cover his “INFLUENCERS PAY DOUBLE” policy—and word of that policy spread to Russia, Argentina, China, Morocco, Japan, England, Brazil, the Netherlands and beyond. The soft-serve king struck a chord, drumming up global support, plus ire from those in support of Instagram collaborations (also seen as marketing and targeted-advertising deals). Our story addressed not only how influencers try to make money in the Instagram economy, but also how their partnerships impact small businesses who can’t afford to hand out product; of course according to Nicchi, it’s always been much simpler than all that: “I just have no time for difficult people.”