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A Year of Restaurant Resilience

With Pikunico & Cafe Dulce


One year after the global pandemic blindsided the entire world, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally near. And we are here for it. 

The restaurant industry in particular saw a series of challenges such as shut down orders, furloughs, and shifts to Instagram-based delivery and takeout-only. Restaurants were forced to get creative, some even turning their dining rooms into makeshift markets for grocery staples.

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Yet through it all, restaurant owners have proven their resilience by continuing to pivot and conform to state and local restrictions. They’ve proven yet again that while the restaurant industry can certainly bend, it definitely will not break.

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Café Dulce owner James Choi shares his biggest takeaway from the past year: “COVID-19 definitely had its own problems. But really it magnified problems that have existed in our industry for years. With rising minimum wage and increase in overall cost of goods, it's going to be incredibly hard to survive for many small and independent food establishments. So we really need to be creative with how we run the cafes and figure out how to make our model more efficient and lean, while still being unique and special to our respective neighborhoods.” 

Those in the industry have also been reminded of the importance of community over the past year. When their favorite restaurants were struggling, locals stepped in to see how they could provide support. Restaurant owners weren’t just concerned with getting paying customers in, but in protecting their staff as well. And when the government didn’t provide adequate assistance, other restaurant workers created nonprofit organizations such as the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.

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To help support our restaurants and give back to our community, ROW DTLA launched the Buy A Meal Give A Meal initiative. For every meal purchased at one of ROW’s restaurants between March 20th and April 16th (including Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Go Get ‘Em Tiger, Pikunico and Café Dulce) we’re donating a meal to the frontline workers at Keck Hospital of UCS. We kicked off the initiative with L.A. native Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond and host of Somebody Feed Phil, who came by to get some food and bring awareness to the cause.

In terms of the lasting effects of COVID, Choi believes “People will definitely order more through the gig delivery apps. And there will be more competition with the rise of ghost kitchen only concepts. So I think it's important, now more than ever, that restaurants and cafes focus even more on experience. But an experience cannot be picked up by a delivery driver.”

As the industry starts to open back up, Choi says they’re most looking forward to seeing their regulars once again. “We love seeing our regulars and getting to share in the lives of so many. We've lost that and can't wait to live alongside others again.”

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As one final takeaway, Chef Kuniko adds “We want more people to know that ROW DTLA is the best place to safely hang out outside!” 

While indoor capacity begins to pick up, takeaway is still available for those who need a little more time. Check your favorite restaurant’s hours and plan your next meal at ROW.