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How Hard Is Coronavirus Hitting San Gabriel Valley's Restaurants?

LEFT: Chongqing special flavor boiled fish at Yun Chuan Garden in Monterey Park. (Ron Dollette/Facebook Creative Commons). MIDDLE: A trio of frothy boba drinks at Bubble Republic, a boba and snack shop in the city of San Gabriel. (Courtesy of Bubble Republic). RIGHT: Assorted hummus and dips at Hummus Labs in Pasadena. (Courtesy of Hummus Labs). (Photo collage by Elina Shatkin)
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When Fiona Ng, the head producer at KPCC's AirTalk, asked me early in the coronavirus pandemic if she could write a story about a Monterey Park hot pot restaurant offering a crazy deal — giving away a pot to anyone who ordered takeout — I jumped at the chance.

Every week, she would pitch me new ideas. She didn't go hunting for these stories. She discovered most of them while she was out and about, living her daily life.

A native of Hong Kong, Fiona has lived on and off in the SGV for more than a decade. She's fluent in Cantonese and speaks Mandarin well enough to get by. And since she doesn't cook, she eats out... a lot. That kind of unique perspective and boots-on-the-ground experience is rare, and it can't be taught.

Fiona's initial story evolved into a short series about COVID-19's impact on the San Gabriel Valley dining scene — old school restaurants pivoting to stay afloat, new ones struggling to establish themselves, diners banding together to show their support. These stories only scratch the surface of the 626's vast and diverse restaurant culture but we hope they offer a glimpse into an ecosystem that doesn't always get enough attention.

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—Elina Shatkin

A takeout hot pot from Uniboil, a hot pot restaurant in Monterey Park.

Order A Hot Pot — Get The Stove And Pot For Free

While some restaurants have been able to adapt to the brave new world of takeout and delivery, that's not so easy for hot pot joints. They involve groups of people sitting together at tables with embedded stoves, cooking meals in bubbling pots and sharing the same ladle to dispense broth. Alan Pun, who owns Uniboil in Monterey Park, knows this better than anybody. So he's trying something unique — throwing in the stove, the pot, the ladles and the fuel with every takeout order. READ MORE

How Does A Boba Shop Revamp And Reopen During Quarantine?

Competition among the San Gabriel Valley's boba vendors is fierce. That's why Michael Tu decided more than a year ago that Bubble Republic, his cheery San Gabriel shop, needed a facelift. On February 24, he closed the cafe for what he thought would be a four-week remodel. He reopened in late March to a changed world. READ MORE

Chengdu Taste, LA's Premier Sichuan Restaurant, Fights To Survive

You can't talk about Sichuan cuisine in Southern California without name-checking Chengdu Taste. Since opening in 2013, the Alhambra restaurant has won heaps of praise and cultivated a diehard fanbase. Co-owner Sean Xie figured 2020 was the year to expand. Like many of us, he's rethinking his expectations. READ MORE

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When Life Gives Your Restaurant Lemons, Use Them To... Make Hummus?

Joseph Badaro was raised in Temple City but he likes to say he grew up in his mom's kitchen. Standing at her side, he learned how to roll grape leaves and soak, boil and blend garbanzo beans. He knew that one day, he would open a restaurant. He didn't expect it would be in the middle of a pandemic. READ MORE

How Facebook Foodies Are Fighting To Save San Gabriel Valley Restaurants

For San Gabriel Valley lifers Alan An and Brian Ngoy, food is much more than a hobby -- it's its own culture. When stay-at-home orders required restaurants to close their dining rooms, the hungry duo started a Facebook group so friends and family could share intel. Three weeks later, they had 7,000 members and the group has become an indispensable resource for matching hungry San Gabriel Valley residents to nearby restaurants. READ MORE

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