Innovations and ideas, LA restaurants should be preserved by 2022, according to local food journalists

Welcome to Year in Eater 2021 an annual tradition that looks back on the highs, lows, and midway between Los Angeles’ restaurant scene. Today, LA’s top food writers, editors and journalists highlight the changes that emerged from the pandemic, which they hope will continue into the new year.


Caroline Pardilla, freelance writer and Eater LA contributor

Cocktails to-go! I love having the opportunity to take cocktails home. Back in 2020, it was especially important because it helped bars and restaurants generate revenue while still allowing us to enjoy our favorite cocktails at home. Today I like the opportunity to take something home for later, when you just can not drink a cocktail anymore at the bar. Also love that bars and restaurants were allowed to take over sidewalks and parking lots and even create parquet floors to offer outdoor seating. Hope it will be extended into the new year and beyond. No better place to drink al fresco than LA.

Danielle Dorsey, Thrillist LA editor

I want 2022 to continue to be the year of pop-ups! I really appreciate all the innovative ways that people have committed to sharing their food with us in 2021 – like Calabama delivering breakfast sandwiches via a bucket from her fire escape – and I look forward to more of it in the new year .

Esther Tseng, freelance food writer

Non-profit organizations like No Us Without You and Another Round Another Rally emerged to address food insecurity in the restaurant industry. Although we are all tired of this pandemic, the most vulnerable in our industry are still at risk. There are still people facing rents and rising bills in the face of reduced working hours – especially our undocumented ones. They still need food for their families, to be able to pay for their car and cell phone, and therefore these non-profit organizations still need our donations. My hope is that we do not forget them in the midst of our pandemic fatigue, for they are still out there with these challenges.

Evan Kleiman, great food host

The agility that created a thriving food scene beyond the walls of a conventional brick and mortar. And outdoor dining.

Farley Elliott, senior editor at Eater LA

I’m fine with quick casual lunch service (e.g. ordering from the counter) and more robust dinner service, should take up that model almost everywhere. I’m also impressed with Zef BBQ’s hybrid model, which offers basic dishes and what the hell else they want – while I change location, make one-time burger days (and other things), and what feels right. It’s hard to innovate week after week in the pop-up room, and that team makes it look seamless.

A group works inside a garage to deliver food at Zef BBQ in Simi Valley, California.

Zef BBQ
Wonho Frank Lee

Hillary Dixler Canavan

Please let outdoor dining be more prevalent forever. We live in one of the few cities in this country that can comfortably eat outdoors almost all year round. It is a gift from god to especially parents of young children.

Josh Lurie, FoodGPS.com founder

Shutting down complementary outdoor dining would be premature and short-term. Cities across LA County need to stick to this pro-business, pandemic-friendly idea. Long live parklets!

Matthew Kang, Eater LA editor

Doing everything from the licensing process to outdoor dining to take-away cocktails and all the other things that helped get restaurants to stay afloat and eventually thrive are all things we should keep. Continue to adopt these eating trends, which are widespread throughout the world, from more street food to more flexible ways to enjoy a meal or a drink. When LA’s food and drink culture rises, it helps everyone.

Lesley Suter, Eater Travel Editor

As a parent who can not always get a babysitter, I still love the fact that I can get great food and drink via takeaway from so many of my favorite places. Also several places take reservations. Ditto (for) outdoor seating, I love the fact that this city is finally embracing its incredible weather.

Mona Holmes, Eater LA Reporter

Why did it require a pandemic for LA to remove the lengthy and expensive licensing process around outdoor dining? We have the perfect weather for it and diners feel like outdoor tables. It would be nice to make it permanent – along with fewer cars – so restaurants can get creative when building parcels, parking lots and sidewalks.

Nicole Adlman, Eater Cities Manager

Will join the chorus to cite outdoor dining as one of the industry’s most important lifelines in 2021; I hope that in 2022 we start to see some design innovation outdoors, just like in the way the now permanent parquet scene had its glow-up in San Francisco.

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