How to navigate the restaurant scene in the yellow tier

Three men in front of a restaurant
Holy Basil co-owners Methawee Greebmalai, left, Wedchayan Arpapornnopparat, center, and Tongkamal Yuon in Downtown Los Angeles.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

It’s hard to imagine that anyone could have lived through the last 14 months without changing their dining and cooking routines. The pandemic brought high rates of unemployment and misery, higher food prices and, for many, a fear of human contact — at the grocery store and elsewhere.

Some of our favorite restaurants closed and reopened on a limited basis, only to repeat the pattern. Some of them closed their doors forever.

We embraced takeout as we waited for government agencies to issue new protocols. Some of us vowed to eschew delivery in support of restaurants that could not afford the steep fees charged by the big-name apps. And we journeyed across the city to pick up magnificent meals from pop-ups.

So what happens now as we in Los Angeles County navigate the yellow tier and perhaps imagine a future without any tiers at all? Are you eager to dine on a patio? Searching for new takeout possibilities? Are you curious about L.A.’s hottest restaurants and wondering how long it may take you to score a reservation? Tell us.


Fortunately, the food writers at The Times continue to spotlight their discoveries and longtime favorites, all in an effort to help us enjoy what restaurant critic Bill Addison refers to as “the boundless pluralism of Los Angeles.”

Read Bill’s list of “new pop-ups, cherished institutions and restaurants that fall somewhere in the middle,” destinations that will “keep your body and mind nourished as we all squint at the pinhead of light we’re glimpsing at the end of the tunnel.” Among them are Barsha in Hermosa Beach, where owners Adnen and Lenora Marouani entwine “Tunisian flavors into their Cal-Med menu,” and Holy Basil, where an order of tom yum goong soup might revive those senses that have been “deadened from isolation.”

Jenn Harris has a guide to fried-fish sandwiches — the “food of the moment” — and Lucas Kwan Peterson keeps us up to date on frozen yogurt.

Grilled steak with guacamole from Jonathan Melendez.
(Jonathan Melendez / For the Times)

Cooking has changed as well during the last 14 months, in part because so many people decided they had to learn how. A few weeks ago, Times cooking columnist Ben Mims reminded us: “Suddenly, the audience for cooking magazines and newspaper sections like our own — primarily adventurous and experienced home cooks who enjoy perusing the gourmet aisle of grocery stores or leisurely strolling the paths of farmers markets — swelled with novice cooks.”

It’s possible some of those novices will give it all up as businesses continue to reopen, but our monthly “Week of Meals” series gives home cooks a reason to spend time in the kitchen. In our most recent installment, food blogger and author Jonathan Melendez shares his easy-to-make recipes for dishes like paella fried rice and grilled steak with chunky guacamole salad.

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Pancakes in bed for Mother's Day? Consider a Bloody Mary instead.
Pancakes in bed for Mother’s Day? Consider a Bloody Mary instead.
(Ben Mims/Los Angeles Times)

— Sunday is Mother’s Day, and rather than pancakes in bed, what Mom might really appreciate is a well-constructed Bloody Mary. As Ben Mims writes: “Inspired by bars in New Orleans like Shimmy Shack, Cafe Lafitte in Exile and Atchafalaya — places that take Bloody Mary garnishes to new heights by piling on everything in sight — I arrange every pickled thing I can on a skewer next to that celery stick: pearl onions, pimiento-stuffed green olives, pepperoncini, asparagus, green beans, cornichons and a dill pickle spear.” (Ben, rest assured that mothers everywhere will thank you.)

— Ifrah F. Ahmed writes about the sambuus, a triangular fried dumpling filled with meat, seafood or vegetables that is eaten throughout East Africa and the Middle East. It’s a celebration food, she writes, “consumed during special occasions like weddings, Ramadan or Eid celebrations.”

— Lucas Kwan Peterson talks to Rashida Holmes of Bridgetown Roti, a Caribbean food pop-up in downtown L.A., in the latest installment of our “Off Menu” video series.

— Jean Trinh introduces us to Sesame LA, a new mini mart (of sorts) in Chinatown that is focusing on longtime Asian pantry staples as well as new, small-batch and local goods from pan-Asian makers.

The sambuus is a celebration food.
The sambuus is a celebration food.
(Ifrah Ahmed)