National News

Angelenos Mourn the Loss of Their Trusted Restaurant Guide

Posted July 23, 2018 7:13 p.m. EDT
Updated July 23, 2018 7:19 p.m. EDT

The police briefing on a hostage-taking at a Trader Joe's in Silver Lake that gripped Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon had just ended. But as Mayor Eric M. Garcetti started walking away, reporters stopped him for one more question.

What did Garcetti have to say about the death of Jonathan Gold?

Gold, 57, was the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times. For anyone outside Los Angeles, it is difficult to appreciate what kind of an outsize figure Gold was in the fabric of the city he called home: much more than just another restaurant reviewer or hometown institution.

It was not at all surprising that Gold’s death merited a question to the mayor, followed by an official tribute from City Hall. Or that it inspired a day of tributes from shocked admirers. (He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early July.)

“We are all so heartbroken,” Roy Choi, the chef behind Kogi, a Korean taco food truck, said on Instagram.

For many people, the joy of Saturday mornings was turning — even before coffee — to Gold’s latest inside the Saturday section. The more devout of his fans plucked the reviews off the internet the night before.

His reviews sent people scurrying to all corners, and produced lines-out-the-door waits at what otherwise might be unknown restaurants, like Jitlada or Chengdu Taste. You could tell they were Jonathan Gold patrons by the way they peered at their phones, consulting his review before ordering.

His annual list of the best 101 restaurants was a road map: Working through it (or claiming you did) was a competitive rite of passage. (And so was arguing over some of his rulings: Was Vespertine in Culver City the best restaurant of the year?) In a world of anonymity, Gold was unmissable: A friend described him as “a combo of Falstaff and Custer.” He was a celebrity, but he was warm, engaging and lacking pretension.

Saturday mornings are going to feel a little empty now.