The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 100,000 dining spots have closed nationwide, with a harsh winter leading many to expect that number to only go up over time.
That being said, group efforts have come about to help get restaurants in some areas the support they need. Of course, stimulus funding and federal/state aid is the optimal solution, but for those that choose to stay open, getting the word out is crucial to making enough money to keep selling food.
In Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, one can attribute a movement called "SGV Eats" as one of the primary reasons the restaurant industry is able to keep going. Originally a group created by friends Alan An, Megan Lam, and Brian Ngoy, their movement has now exploded into over 32,000 people on Facebook, spreading the word on restaurants all over the region.
"When we saw that restaurants were struggling during the pandemic, it ignited something in us to help out," An told Foodbeast. He, Lam, and Ngoy together started the original group, called "SGV Restaurants Open During COVID-19" at first, as a way to bring light to those restaurants looking to get help.
Lam told Foodbeast that the group started as just the three of them telling their friends, which led to a cascading influx of invitations that saw the group grow to the size it is now. All of the members are locals and restaurateurs who promote and provide support to eateries beyond just their own or their favorites. It's what Ngoy described as a "phenomenal response" that helped elevate the entire restaurant scene and keep it afloat.
Thanks to their efforts, restaurants who were maybe seeing a few orders a day would sell out close to opening, helping keep many restaurant owners going through the pandemic.
It's also allowed the innovative food scene in the San Gabriel Valley to flourish. For those not in the know, San Gabriel Valley is an incredibly diverse community: over 44% of the population is Latino and a quarter of residents are of some sort of Asian descent, according to data from the Los Angeles Times.
The SGV is known as a hub for many Asian restaurants, but An, Lam, and Ngoy also surprised even themselves by discovering a large, diverse set of unique restaurants through all of the owners and customers that shared photos and stories of the food. From Filipino food in West Covina to the storied seafood banquet restaurants of San Gabriel, there's a lot of history and flavor from many parts of the world that reside in the SGV.
You'll also find a lot of unique restaurants offering creative takes on dishes, often inspired by the meshing of cultures that happens in this region. Mexican and Asian-inspired pizzas, birria loaded burgers, and even Sichuan peppercorn-infused queso are just some examples of the unique dishes the region has to offer.
The team behind SGV Eats is making sure that these restaurants continue to get support for the unique creations they're making. Outside of the regular daily support the group offers, SGV Eats is also launching a dining event that will spread across the entire valley. Called Eat SGV Week, it features nearly two dozen restaurants that are a part of the group, all of which are providing unique specials and offers to encourage people to order food.
Viral pizza spot Rose City Pizza, for example, is creating a Korean Popcorn Chicken pizza, a spin-off of one of their more recent mouthwatering menu creations. Other options from headliners include a combo meat plate from 38 Degrees Alehouse, a combo pack of obanyaki (stuffed Japanese pancakes) and ube horchata from Mr. Obanyaki, and a meal platter from Hummus Labs, arguably one of the most popular restaurants in the SGV to date.
The Eat SGV Week runs from December 7th to 13th, although you can preorder for pickup on any of those days already on their website.
Going from support group to organizing a dining event that brings together multiple restaurants feels like a large leap. For the SGV Eats team, though, it was just another way to bring assistance and unite the local dining community to help keep it thriving.
Beyond just the Eat SGV week, SGV Eats hopes to find more ways to encourage the community and get folks to discover and explore more local restaurants.
As a bullhorn for one of the more innovative dining regions in the country, they're definitely a group anybody should join, follow, and be a part of to learn about some of the most creative culinary eats the San Gabriel Valley has to offer.