In my May article on this blog and in my expanded Menuism article on the same topic, I painted a rather pessimistic picture of the effect of the pandemic on Chinese restaurants in the United States through a combination of xenophobia, what turned out to be prescient caution in the Chinese-American community about dining out, as well as a high concentration of mom and pop operated enterprises.
Things were particularly dark and stark in Los Angeles Chinatown, where during April a good two-thirds of the Chinese restaurants had closed down, and those that remained opened greatly pared their food offerings. Dim sum lovers in Chinatown were especially distraught as only a handful of varieties were available at the two remaining dim sum outlets, Tian's Dim Sum and Keung Kee, likely the two least known dim sum providers in Chinatown. The two large dim sum palaces, Ocean Seafood and Golden Dragon, closed down right off the bat, and eventually were followed by Won Kok Restaurant, Long's Family Pastry, Lucky Deli, CBS Seafood, ABC Seafood (which remained open for steam tray but not dim sum) and others.
Meanwhile in the San Gabriel Valley, things turned out not to be as bleak as feared, with a clear majority of the Chinese restaurants managing to adapt to a takeout model, including, surprisingly, some hotpot restaurants. And in May, many of the Chinese restaurants that had temporarily closed began to reopen, both in the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles Chinatown. This trend continued throughout June, having reached a point where people are lamenting the failure of individual specifically named restaurants to reopen, which while tragic in each such instance, is nothing compared to what we had imagined was going to happen. Not that long ago people were bracing for a closure rate of 50 percent for Chinese restaurants (and indeed, at this point the national permanent closure rate for restaurants in general has been estimated to be 25 percent). But the survival rate among San Gabriel Valley and Chinatown Chinese restaurants at this point in time looks encouraging, despite the permanent loss of some restaurants including the original Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, King Hua in Alhambra and Plum Tree Inn in Chinatown, and the conspicuous failure of some of the other larger size restaurants to reopen as of this date.
Equally interesting is the fact that even though dine-in restaurants have been permitted in Los Angeles for a month now, very few Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley or Chinatown have taken up this option. I only know of a handful of Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley that were open for dine-in on Father's Day, and even now I don't know if the number is more than a dozen and a half. But with the well justified caution that the Chinese American community showed at the start of the pandemic, continued caution at this point in time certainly is not out of hand.