2012 San Gabriel Valley Food Trends

Shen Jian Bao, Shang Ming, San Gabriel
Shen Jian Bao, Shang Ming, San Gabriel
Jim Thurman

The end of the year marks a time to re-evaluate, a time to step back and try to figure out exactly what the heck it was all about. Take for example, the food trends of 2012 in the San Gabriel Valley. We got word out through social media, message boards and e-mail asking those familiar with goings on in the SGV for their thoughts on trends, notable openings and notable closings for the year. With a big thanks to Kristie Hang of the (626) Foodettes website for throwing the net even wider, here is what folks came up with:

Chili skewers, Sweethome Grill, San Gabriel
Chili skewers, Sweethome Grill, San Gabriel
Jim Thurman

5. Northern, Dongbei, Xibei:

A number of Northern Chinese and Dongbei style restaurants opened this year. Northern style fare seems to be gaining a lot of momentum, while the area might have more Dongbei (Northeast) places than anywhere in the country. The year also saw further opening of places featuring Northwest (Xibei) style - think skewers and handmade noodles -- like Sweethome Grill.

Yukhwe Bibimbap at Oo-Kook, coming soon to San Gabriel
Yukhwe Bibimbap at Oo-Kook, coming soon to San Gabriel
Sarah Park

4. Korean BBQ:

Korean BBQ also made further inroads with one BBQ chain opening their first SGV branch this past Saturday while a second chain will follow in January. If anything, as of this writing, this appears to be the upcoming trend of 2013. Aside from a few tofu houses, Korean cuisine has been in short supply in the western SGV. That looks to be rapidly changing.

Beef hot soup, Boiling Point
Beef hot soup, Boiling Point
bpgroupusa.com

3. Hot Pots:

Hot pot places also gained traction, with Chinese mega-chain Little Sheep opening their first location in the western San Gabriel Valley and Taiwanese chain Boiling Point expanding. Hot pots are popular no matter the temperature or season, although Winter often sees lines stretching to curbside. And who could say no to a bubbling cauldron of broth with meats, veggies and spices?

Almond Milk Boba Tea, Honey Black Tea
Almond Milk Boba Tea, Honey Black Tea
Jim Thurman

2. Teahouses and Boba:

The wave of teahouses/boba joints continued unabated, with nearly three times as many opening than closing. All of which once again proves that the tapioca ceiling hasn't yet been hit. What the malt shoppe was to American teens in the 1950's, the teahouse/boba shop is to Asian-American teens in this millennium. Perhaps more significantly, the boba/teahouse wave made further inroads into Pasadena in 2012.

 

Shoyu Ramen, TonChan Ramen, San Gabriel
Shoyu Ramen, TonChan Ramen, San Gabriel
T. Nguyen

1. Ramen:

The subtitle, 2012: The Year Ramen Broke. The SGV might not rival the concentration in Little Osaka, but ramen places popped up with regularity from Monterey Park to Rowland Heights and points in-between. The historical Japanese influence exterted over Taiwan makes this a natural phenomenon and one somewhat overdue.

Openings and Closings: Most felt this year had no standout openings when compared to last year's debuts of Shanghai No. 1 and Shaanxi Gourmet. 2012 did see restaurants featuring Wuhan and Dalian style cuisine open and the introduction of British style Indian cuisine. Among noteworthy closures were three former L.A. Times Finds: Bon Marché Bistro, Taste of Chong Qing and OShan Island/Hainan Chicken, the Jonathan Gold reviwed Lao Bian Dumpling and long time area spots Lee Kam Kee and Won Won Kitchen.

The Future?: As Tony Chen pointed out at Eater LA, competition for space is heating up between Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese restaurateurs. This, along with further migration, has many speculating about a time in the not too distant future when the epicenter of area Chinese cuisines will move significantly to the East. That's right Westsiders, if you think the drive for quality authentic Chinese food is long now, just wait a few years. Our advice?, do it now, while you can.


Follow Jim Thurman on Twitter @JThur01.

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