Los Angeles: An Explosion in Foodie Subculture

This post seems very apropos given that the Gold Standard event is on February 28th. The event celebrates, remember this is according to Jonathan Gold, the best of what LA has to offer in terms of food. Which actually got me thinking about low-end food. I was actually inspired to write about this after I read Mattatouille’s article, “The Greatest Food City in the World” and also the one by Mr. Rotund himself, thejGold, so aptly titled, “The Hungry Metropolis.” I know there’s been a bit of backlash about LA being a food wonderland, and it may very well be a myopic point of view, but really?! It’s an editorial piece. And maybe, just maybe, we feel the need to represent for once. Especially considering that we get so much sh!@ from other critics about being sub par. In other words, perhaps we need to publicly address this so that the rumors that “LA has nothing to offer in terms of food” no longer linger. My purpose for writing this post  are two:

1. To give you a defense for why I (remember I) think that the LA’s food scene is superior:

a. Interesting trends that are almost exclusive to the LA food scene. Most notably, food and its compatibility to mobilization and technology.

b. A powerful subculture of bloggers and Yelpers  that so willingly embrace the foodie niche. (And so do their readers.)

2. Stating that LA is, in fact, a food mecca is just that, an opinion. It’s emotional. Deal with it.

We have an amazing foodie subculture that has exploded in recent years. More specifically, food trucks. Other cities only pale in comparison. The LA Street Food Fest is proof of that. And rather unfortunately, we get no street cred for this. And while NY and SF are indeed the kings of the high-end, LA is king of the low-brow. For LA, much of its culinary color is unburdened by high-brow snobbery, much of which other cities so willingly embrace. So maybe we’re a little low-end, but there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Just to give you an example of how quickly this happened, I remember five years ago when I was in college the only mobile trucks were taco trucks. I was in Highland Park at the time and the only people that dared to eat from such eateries were Latinos. Ok, there were also those half-drunk bar-goers at 2:30 in the morning. (Don’t worry, they didn’t remember eating from the taco trucks the night before anyway so I guess it didn’t count.) As time passed and the rise of Twitter came about, these eateries started to become more and more popular. Suddenly, gourmet taco trucks were appearing everywhere and thousands of followers were now actively seeking these eateries on wheels. I suppose it made sense. Along with the food trucks came the poor man’s food critic, the blogger – and many at that.

Rewind and think about it. SF-based Yelp and its tech-saavy demographic is on the rise and suddenly there’s this group, The Millennials, who have more disposable income than their family-raising elders, love to dine out, and who like to be “in the know.” So much so, that people are vying over Yelp Elite statuses and every foodie wants to know what’s good before the “big time” critics ruin it with a review. The internet empowered these people to write a review and suddenly this group, the “low-end” critics, had a voice. Plus, did you know that the Yelp LA is now the biggest group of Yelpers? We blame/thank Sauce LA for this astonishing feat during her time at Yelp.

Twitter is a popular ad tool for bloggers; it helps them whore out the word about new content. It’s succinct and usually useful. With hundreds of blogs and wannabe writers (UGs included), bloggers inform their audiences about what’s good in their neck of the woods. With none of the pretentiousness that comes along with stuffy food reviews, food bloggers report on the food and their stories at these particular eateries. “It was at THIS particular place at THIS particular time that I had THIS particular experience.” Nothing more and nothing less. All of a sudden LA was equipped with food trucks popping up everywhere, bloggers eager and ready to support them, and a viewing public that is, unlike traditional media, BOTH actively and passively (in the form of news feeds) listening.

Marry bloggers, Twitter, and a relentless passion for food and you have the LA foodie subculture. That’s a powerful phenomenon. If you ask me, that’s pretty fu@!ing cool. Can you call that a competitive edge over NY and SF? I’d say so.

Which brings me to my last point, I’m biased. Maybe I’m just cheerleading because, for me, my love for Los Angeles is inelastic. And obviously, those subtle emotions influence my opinion in the matter. My point is, it’s obvious Angelenos are going to have a predilection towards food in their city. And obviously, our opinions will carry a disproportionate weight. The fact is that we prefer LA’s culinary landscape is merely our opinion – which is deeply rooted in our emotions – and which play a powerful role in evaluating our world, especially when we’ve got experience in that domain.

Conversely, perhaps our need to defend Los Angeles as a great foodie city is a guise which allows us to cope with the unspeakable culinary misery we have…;)  What do you think? Can there even be an even-handed approach to this question?

In the meantime, I’ll see you at the Gold Standard event.



  1. Great post! I love L.A.!!!

    • Holla! And congrats on making Jon’s list of 99 Things… I have a feeling I should get your autograph now.

  2. Oooh, lucky! Have fun at the Gold Standard!

    • Miss. Minty, I am drooling over the hot bartenders I will meet tonight on your crawl. See you tonight.

  3. Great. Another food event with sold-out VIP tickets.

    Wonder what GA will be like for this.
    I really need to start hearing about these things sooner…

    PS. Great post.

    • 1. Thanks for the kudos.

      2. I know, right. Last year the line was pretty dismal. I’d try and get there as early as possible. See you there, my dear.

  4. It’s pretty crucial to your case that you say why you think sf and ny does *not* have (as many, as good, as interesting) twitter users, food bloggers, street carts, and low-brow dining. Dont you think?

    • Stan,

      I am by no means saying that LA has a better caliber of Yelpers, bloggers or Twitter users. In fact, there is no quantitative method of ascribing that. However, what I do know is that a.) the LA Yelp scene surpasses that of any other city b.) The 1st LA Street Food Fest brought in over 25K people – and most notably, that the advertising for this event was overwhelmingly viral. c.) And lastly, my observations over the last 10 years.

      As for low-end dining in other cities – My parents live in Berkeley, and while I know its residents are not above eating from street carts (and in fact, collectively are some of the most humble residents I’ve encountered), its street food supply is sadly limited. Which makes me even wonder if the demand is there…

      All I’m saying is that there’s a major subculture of: 1. “uncouth” eateries in LA and 2. many passionate foodie urbanites. Many of whom, if they like like something, spread the word. Twitter has provided the infrastructure do just that.

      It’s just MY opinion and we can agree to disagree. Thanks for your comments and I look forward to a glowing review of your city. I would expect no less. As Anais Nin said, “We do NOT see things as they are, we see things as WE are”.

      With gusto,

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