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Morning Brief: 2020's Best Of Food

The sweet and spicy mango gelatina from GeLATINX comes doused in Chamoy and topped with a small bottle of Tajin and tamarind candy.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Good Morning, L.A.

This week, we’ll be looking back at our coverage of 2020, one of the strangest, most difficult years through which many of us have ever lived. Reporting on it was hard, and at times painful. But amid the tragedy of the coronavirus, there were some bright spots. Today, we’ll take a look at our coverage of L.A.’s food world, which was flipped upside down by the pandemic.

2020 was a wild year for food coverage — and not in a good way. It was, by far, the strangest, hardest and saddest year I've ever experienced as a journalist.

We don't yet have any precise data on restaurant closures and job losses, but some industry experts think that fully one-third of Southern California restaurants and bars might close permanently before life returns to normal. Whatever the exact numbers, they don't tell the stories of the thousands of servers, line cooks, dishwashers, general managers and restaurant owners who have — and are still — struggling to scrape by, waiting for the light at the end of an impossibly long tunnel. Reporting on that has been heartbreaking, but not as hard, I have no doubt, as living it firsthand.

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Amid the economic and personal devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, I have seen hope. I have seen creativity. I have seen hustle. I have seen people doing wonderful and generous things to feed themselves and the people around them. That's the spirit I'm carrying with me into 2021.

Full shelves at a corner store in Boyle Heights.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

How Carnicerias, Liquor Stores, Tienditas And Latino Supermarkets Are Feeding Their Neighborhoods

By Erick Galindo
While some Californians flocked to Costco, local mom and pop shops in places like Eastside Long Beach, HiFi, West Adams and Exposition Park played a key role keeping their shelves stocked and neighborhoods fed during the pandemic. (Read the story)

Day Hernandez stands in front of the community fridge she helped start in Boyle Heights, outside Mexican restaurant Milpa Grille.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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Officials Are Not Chill About The Community Fridges Popping Up Around LA

By Lil Kalish
A fridge on at Lincoln Heights sidewalk is just one of more than a dozen that have sprung up around L.A. since July, part of Southern California's homegrown response to the pandemic. (Read the story)

A farm operations associate tends to plants in the grow space at Plenty's vertical farming facility in South San Francisco.
(Spencer Lowell/Courtesy of Plenty)

The Farm Of The Future Might Be In Compton. Inside A Warehouse. And Run Partly By Robots

By Stefan Slater
From the outside, the gray and white warehouse near the corner of Oris Street and Mona Boulevard seems like a thousand other mundane Southern California buildings. But the interior, once completed, will resemble a sketch from a futurist's daydreams. (Read the story)

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Myra Vasquez runs GeLATINX out of her home where she makes elaborate, custom-made gelatinas.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The Gelatina Gets A Pop Culture Glow-Up

By Cynthia Rebolledo
While other desserts — Mexican character cakes, pan dulce and bizcochitos (cinnamon and anise sugar cookies) — have undergone glow-ups in recent years, most young Latinx pastry chefs have ignored the gelatina. Myra Vasquez wants to change that. (Read the story)

Fried chicken and waffles at Soul Restaurant & Bar in Hollywood.
(Jay Connor for LAist)

How You Can Support LA's Black-Owned Restaurants

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By Elina Shatkin
Will this list solve racial injustice, police brutality, economic oppression and deep-seeded systemic racism? No, it will not. But it is one small way you can help businesses in your community. (Read the story)

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)

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

By Fiona Ng
From a Monterey hot pot restaurant to a reopening boba shop to a legend of Sichuan cuisine, Fiona Ng, a senior producer at our newsroom's tktk, did a deep dive into the ripple effects of the coronavirus on some of the SGV's favorite eateries. (Read the story)

There's plenty of beer at the Arcadia location of H Mart, a Korean grocery chain; March 2020.
(Dakota Kim for LAist)

Asian Grocery Stores In The Time Of Coronavirus

By Dakota Kim
Maybe you can't — or just don't want to — pick over jalapeno chips, banana-flavored cereal and whatever items other shoppers have left behind at Whole Foods. What do you do? Drive 15 minutes east to the San Gabriel Valley where you'll find grocery stores with full shelves, short lines and, yes, plenty of beans. (Read the story)

A courier delivers food by bike for UberEats.
(Robert Anasch/Unsplash)

For Restaurants Trying To Ditch Delivery Apps, The Struggle Is Real

By Gina Pollack
Restaurants complained about delivery apps that commonly take between 15% and 30% commission on every order long before coronavirus, but the pandemic has intensified their issues. (Read the story)

Deysi Serrano, Luis Octavio and Donaji Esparza pose inside Noa Noa Place.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

How Noa Noa Place Turned A Boyle Heights Sports Bar Into A Queer Latinx Hub — In The Middle Of A Pandemic

By Caitlin Hernandez
If you think opening a bar at the peak of a pandemic sounds like a terrible idea, you're not alone. Yet the owners of Noa Noa Place, the newest queer space in Boyle Heights, did just that — and the venture isn't merely scraping by, it's thriving. (Read the story)

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