The time is drawing near for LA Weekly's biggest food event of the year. The Essentials will return to the California Market Center on Sunday, March 26, at 2 p.m., featuring the city's best chefs and restaurants. The ticket presale begins today at 10 a.m., and runs through Sunday, Jan. 15, at 10 p.m. General ticket sales will begin Monday, Jan 16, at 10 a.m.

The Essentials event is thrown each year to celebrate our 99 Essential Restaurants in L.A. issue, and it's one of the most comprehensive food events in the city. We go less for high ticket prices, glam locations and splashy entertainment, and instead focus on the food. This year, more than 50 restaurants are participating, including Animal, A.O.C., Baroo, Bestia, Burritos La Palma, Chengdu Taste, Guisados, Maude, Mélisse, Night + Market, Providence, République, Sotto, Spago, Szechuan Impression, Trois Mec, Union and Wexler's Deli. You can see a full list of participating restaurants on the event site.

This year also brings a big change to the VIP hour portion of the Essentials event, and to the 99 Essential Restaurants issue. Because the list is not a “best” list but rather an “essentials” list, we've decided that restaurants must have been open for a year in order to qualify for that essential restaurant designation. But we didn't want to leave out all the new restaurants we love, so we've added another component to the issue: The Freshmen 15. These are 15 places that have opened in the past year, and they represent the exciting new flavors L.A. has to offer.

The Freshmen 15 will be the main component of the VIP hour this year. As always, VIP ticket holders will get in an hour ahead of general admission ticket holders, but the majority of that hour will be dedicated to a special VIP reception featuring restaurants that have opened in the past year.

Food samples at last year's Essentials event; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Food samples at last year's Essentials event; Credit: Anne Fishbein

We've worked hard to address some glitches in the events of years past. We'll be selling fewer tickets, which ought to mitigate crowds, long lines to get in, and restaurants running out of food. Speaking of lines, this year people will line up in a new inside wing of the building, not around the block as in years past.

General admission tickets are $60, and VIP tickets are $100 each. You can buy them on the event website using the presale code: THE99BLOG.

LA Weekly