10 Ways Dining Changed in L.A. in 2012
We bade farewell to foie with help from Melisse

Forbidden ingredients, critical shakeups, and restaurants returning from the grave. True to their very nature, dining trends come and go. But some developments signal shifts that will probably stay at the table for years to come. Join us today as we hark back to ten such spreading shifts in our food and restaurant landscape. And if you want to catch up on what’s been happening in other major metropoli under Grub Street’s watch, make sure to check out our sister sites throughout the day for the latest movements in Foodlandia.

As Michael Bloomberg was banning the Big Gulp from Gotham, California was slapped with a ban on the sale and production of foie gras. Activists raged on the street, we stacked up our favorite foie dishes, and chefs defied the ban the best way they knew how: With decadent tasting menus, poignant humor, petitions, and, now that the law is set in stone, flagrant defiance.
Kicking off a massive shakeup, S. Irene Virbila dropped The L.A. Times’ star system shortly before Jonathan Gold left L.A. Weekly and took over the top-spot as restaurant critic for the paper. Besha Rodell decamped from Atlanta to fill his shoes, and Brad A. Johnson turned his attention towards Orange County as the critic for The O.C. Register.
Though tableside service is still the standard, 2012 ushered in a number of new ways to feed ourselves sans human interaction. Sprinkles introduced a cupcake ATM, followed by a luxury version with caviar and truffles from Beverly Hills Caviar. U-Mini ditched servers for a high-tech ordering system, one of the many notables responsible for a rise in iPad ordering.
L.A. can already brag about superior sushi and kaiseki ninjas. This year, Westsiders waited in line, like so many Daikokuya-nuts in Downtown, for the rich bowls of tsukemen-experts Tsujita, leading to a boom of neighborhood noodlers. Elsewhere, Hannosuke exported its tempura donburi to a mini-mall, while the stage is being set for katsu crackerjacks Kimukatsu, Soba specialist Sojibo, and a Nippon-approved cosplay café called MaiDreamin to spread their wares.
Evan Kleiman’s Angeli Caffe closed on Melrose, Campanile was shockingly given the boot on La Brea, Paul Shoemaker shuttered Savory, Palate called it quits, and Micah Wexler’s excellent, artistic Mezze disappeared, along with stalwarts on the scene like King Eddy’s Saloon, Dar Maghreb, Drago, Yujean Kang’s, and Sushi Nozawa.
While Next was recreating El Bulli in Chicago, John Sedlar brought back his esteemed eighties restaurant Saint Estephe for a month at Rivera, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken took a time machine back to their own “Me Decade” restaurant, City, Ludo Lefebvre gave diners a second chance with a greatest hits swan song of his LudoBites, and even Angeli returned to The Charleston for a night.
Adam Fleischman started the customizable, quick-fired traditional pizza ball rolling when he opened 800 Degrees in Westwood, followed quickly, and maybe a little too closely, by the likes of Blaze Pizza, PizzaRev, and Clausi Batusi.
2012 introduced new restaurants like Post & Beam, The Hart & The Hunter, Black Hogg, and Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing bearing distinct and inspired Southern twangs. Hitting more like a sledgehammer, Sassafras set down roots as one of Hollywood’s coolest new destinations, serving fantastic barrel-aged cocktails in a vibe with all the subtlety of a Disney ride, with the debut of Spoonful in North Hollywood hot on its heels.
L&E Oyster Bar offered hope for a stagnant Silver Lake dining scene with its bivalves, chowder, and po’boys, shortly before Cousins Maine set up shop in Pasadena with a focus on lobster rolls, and Downtown’s Water Grill took a more down-to-earth approach with Atlantic cod tacos and Maryland crab cakes. Appetites are now piqued for the arrival of Michael Cimarusti’s Connie & Ted’s and two new seafood-centered restaurant’s from Sunny Spot and A-Frame’s David Reiss.
Even though the term “pop-up” was drained of juice through marketing-speak overuse and interest in food trucks continued to wane, some of our best meals were still to be found outside traditional walls. Wolvesmouth’s Craig Thornton served his starkly bewitching plates in an apartment, Gary Menes offered soul-stirring omakase at his former employer’s shuttered space, ex-Patina chef Kevin Meehan island-hopped through various kitchens with his Kali Dining series, Ari Taymor’s Alma enchanted diners in both fleeting and brick-and-mortar forms, and The Vagracy Project garnered major props at a non-yacht club. Meanwhile, we ate Georgian food in an empty art gallery, Jeremy Fox denied his pop-up was really a pop-up, and Mike D. and Roy Choi united to provide a perfect spring vibe in front of MOCA, while Diplo and James Murphy backed them up.
10 Ways Dining Changed in L.A. in 2012