Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and friends of the site to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to the annual Year in Eater survey will be revealed in several posts. Next up, the dining experts talk about changes that restaurants made that they hope stick around in 2020.
What new pivots or innovative ideas have you seen emerge from the events of 2020 that you hope continue into 2021?
Rob Kachelriess, Las Vegas writer at Thrillist: It was fascinating to see ghost kitchens like Gemma Gemma’s Square Pies, Pizza Anonymous, To Be Frank, and Underground Burgers emerge this year. We may see more of those as the economy struggles to rebound in 2021. I’m also happy to see BYOB is finally beginning to take hold in Vegas. I know Sparrow + Wolf tried it out and The Legends Oyster Bar have been encouraging it in place of a bar license. In the past, I thought of BYOB as little more than a corkage fee situation, but now I get what it’s all about. There’s something fun about stopping somewhere to pick out a bottle of wine while on the way to dinner and sharing it with friends. Not to mention, it saves a lot of money.
Sonja Swanson, food and culture writer: I think we’re seeing an interesting convergence of home cooking and restaurant dining experiences (like meal kits, upscale pantry offerings, and cooking classes). It would be nice to have those options post-pandemic, though of course I can’t wait to sit down for a nice long meal inside a restaurant again soon!
Louiie Victa, Eater Vegas photographer and co-host of Two Sharp Chefs and a Microphone: Restaurant pantry markets are exciting! Like I said earlier, 2020 forced a good majority of us to cook at home, and it’s great to have access to amazing and well sourced ingredients apart from what is readily available at grocery stores. Also, food trucks have been showing up strong in the local scene as well as pop-ups, so I’m excited to see every creative concept come out in 2021.
Lorraine Moss, co-host of Two Sharp Chefs and a Microphone: Ghost kitchens — they may be the only way for some of our small businesses to survive. It takes the pressure off of filling a restaurant, and it encourages friendly collaborations.
Nina King, Las Vegas Magazine managing editor: Honestly, being able to take out from restaurants that didn’t traditionally provide that service.
Melinda Sheckells, editor OffTheStrip.com, OnTheStrip.com: More sophisticated takeout efforts and delivery services. I think outdoor dining is very cool and I hope that it increases in versatility into the new year and I really love reservations because I don’t like to wait.
Diana Edelman, founder Vegans, Baby: I’m loving the pop-up pick-ups. I did a few with some chefs when the shutdown happened and love how they’ve grown. I also love the chef cooking videos. I think both are awesome.
Scott Roeben, Vital Vegas: I think the struggles faced by restaurants have raised awareness about how thin the profit margins of many restaurants are. Restaurants have had to get clever about sourcing, due to disruptions in the supply chain, and they’ve had to be nimble as regulations have been a moving target (with changes sometimes required with just a couple of days notice). I have gotten used to using QR codes rather than traditional menus, and I suspect that will be the norm moving forward. Beyond the move toward more touchless elements of dining, it’s also most cost-efficient for restaurants. They just need to avoid falling into the trap of using digital menus for surge pricing. If they do it, I’ll be Tweeting about it, fair warning.
Melanie Lee, Eater Vegas: I love the digital menus! I really hope restaurants continue with these. I’ve never been very comfortable with the regular menus because they always felt a bit gross so the introduction of QR codes on tables has been refreshing!
Bob Barnes, editor of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional and Las Vegas writer for Gayot: Lots of virtual Zoom events/tastings came out of necessity, but I still prefer in person events once it is prudent to do so again.
Ken Miller, editor of Las Vegas Magazine: As I mentioned earlier, masks and social distancing.
Philip Tzeng, food blogger at Las Vegas Fill: There is a slew of great local food TikTok accounts that have emerged exclusively on that platform creating awesome and unique content. They are making a huge impact on the city with their rabid audiences yet are still flying under the radar of “Marketing and PR professionals” and will only get more popular. Every restaurant should have a TikTok account up and running and the notion that it is just for teens that dance is ignorant and ridiculous.
Krista Diamond, freelance writer at Eater Vegas: I know we’re all sick of Zoom at this point, but I have to say, I’ve been to some really great virtual restaurant events this year. I really liked the anniversary party/tasting that CraftHaus did. It was a lot of fun picking up the beer from the brewery and then hanging out at home and tasting it while hearing the stories behind everything. Of course, I hope that one day soon we’ll be able to switch back to actual events, but it would be great if restaurants and bars still offered a virtual option for those who can’t be there in person.
Susan Stapleton, editor of Eater Vegas: I think takeout and delivery are here to stay for 2021, even as more people get vaccinated. Marc Marrone at Graffiti Bao is really thinking about how his food travels, whether customers order his dumplings, bao buns, and lo mein or pizza at Gemma Gemma’s Square Pies. I like how Every Grain from Sheridan Su and Jenny Wong opened their restaurant at night for To Be Frank hot dogs to run a ghost kitchen, and Saint Honoré and Cafe Lola brought their Pizza Anonymous at night. I love what Gina Marinelli did at La Strega to bring takeout only paidine for lunch. And Jolene Mannina’s switch to takeout meals and videos with chefs cooking alongside customers at Secret Burger should stick around in 2021. Pick up ingredients and make it at home appeals to the home cook in me.
• All Year in Eater Coverage [ELV]