Los Angeles

How Lien Ta Created a Legacy of Supporting Women-Owned Businesses with RE:Her

The RE:Her co-founder and Here's Looking at You co-owner saved her restaurant from COVID closure, and now she's helping other women-owned businesses around LA and beyond.

Photo by Joyce Kim
Photo by Joyce Kim
Photo by Joyce Kim

In a city that’s sometimes too cool to smile, restaurateur Lien Ta reminds us of the importance of celebration. Co-owner of All Day Baby and Here’s Looking At You, two of LA’s most convivial restaurants and one of which was almost a COVID casualty-Ta understands how much better we are, well, together. After all, it was online fundraising that brought her Koreatown restaurant Here’s Looking At You back to life.

“It was a really difficult decision and a vulnerable position to decide to launch that GoFundMe campaign,” Ta admits. “But what I learned throughout that last year was that Here’s Looking At You was enormously impactful, not just to me. So many people came up to us to say how much they missed that restaurant or ask why wouldn’t we bring it back? So I was like, well, maybe I should just ask for help.”

Five weeks after launching the campaign, against all odds, the restaurant reopened.

“It’s amazing,” Ta says. “It’s truly, truly amazing to be reopened again, to meet every single guest, mostly old, but many new too. It’s a lot of love and it’s very powerful and validating and scary. We’re in this still fragile place. It’s a lot of money that we owe. It’s a lot of money to just run a restaurant normally.”

What was already a difficult industry became even more challenging during the pandemic, which brought months-long closures to restaurants and bars. Family-, women-, and BIPOC-owned restaurants that already faced additional hurdles were especially hard hit, with many passed over for pandemic loans. Out of necessity, Ta, alongside other LA-based women restaurateurs, founded Regarding Her Food (RE:Her), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting women-owned food businesses in LA at the end of 2020. The organization launched its first virtual 10-day festival on January 20, 2021, kicking off on the anniversary of the historic Women’s March. Despite soaring COVID numbers and a citywide shutdown, the festival was a success, allowing restaurant owners to collaborate across neighborhoods and cuisines to introduce their offerings to new diners.

“I think everybody needed some way to still celebrate during a really uncertain time,” Ta reflects. “And when you see a woman-owned restaurant partnering with another restaurant to offer something special and unique, how can you not be inspired?”

Photo by Shelley Som, courtesy of Here's Looking at You
Photo by Shelley Som, courtesy of Here’s Looking at You
Photo by Shelley Som, courtesy of Here’s Looking at You

RE:Her didn’t slow down after the festival ended-within the same year, it was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as an organization of resilience and partnered with DoorDash to award 15 $10,000 grants to women restaurateurs. The grants went to recipients like Chef Marilyn, who’s been a fixture in South LA’s dining scene for 34 years.

“It came at just the right time,” Chef Marilyn says. “We were applying for a few other grants and opportunities, and they all fell through, except for RE:Her. The grant made it possible to keep our doors open last year.”

For Lucy Haro, owner of Qusqo and another RE:Her grant recipient, the award offered hope. “The pandemic had been taking a mental toll,” she says. “It was so empowering to have a group of successful women in the restaurant industry say, ‘We believe in your art, your vision, your restaurant and we want to give you funds to keep you going.'”

It was a no-brainer that the festival would return this year, though the Omicron variant thwarted their original plan to host the festival in January. Instead, they debuted their first in-person, 10-day festival from March 4 through March 13, during Women’s History Month and overlapping with International Women’s Day. This year, there are even more participating restaurants and all are given free range to join in a way that works for their individual businesses, whether that’s collaborating on a special dish with another restaurant, offering a limited prix-fixe menu, or breaking the world record for the longest grazing board. Participants can print a festival passport and earn stickers for each RE:Her special they take advantage of-a completed passport with 10 stickers earns a RE:Her gift bag at the end of the festival.

Smorgasburg Los Angeles
Smorgasburg Los Angeles
Smorgasburg Los Angeles

On Saturday, the fest is celebrating women restaurateurs and chefs with a benefit concert at Vintage Records and Tapes Store, starring musicians Miya Folick and Kathleen and with all proceeds going to RE:Her. One easy way to support the fest is to stop by one of the RE:Her Mini Marts that have popped up in various LA neighborhoods and are stocked with specialty pantry items, merch, and more.

The festival ends with a RE:Her celebration at Smorgasburg this Sunday, March 13, featuring a pop-up RE:Her Mini Mart and the opportunity to redeem your passport for RE:Her swag, as well as a special “She-Shandy” drink courtesy of Three Weavers and Boomtown Brewery in the Beer Garden.

Though RE:Her was originally created to support women restaurateurs and chefs in LA, it’s since expanded across the coast. After the LA fest ends, RE:Her will kick off a two-week festival in Washington, D.C. from March 14 through March 27.

“Looking forward, we’ve got other cities to come, as well as another grant program that will also be an accelerator program,” Ta says. “By getting to know all of these other women that own restaurants in our own vicinity, we’ve got to learn what their needs are. One restaurant or owner may be really great at finances and she’s ready to scale her business all over the world. But then another restaurant may just need help purely with marketing. And one would not know anything about doing third-party delivery apps. So we wanted to provide resources for any and everything.”

But for now, Ta is ready to celebrate.

“We’ve worked so hard to stay open and reopen our restaurants,” Ta says. “This festival is about celebrating that tenacity and resilience and making sure we stick around to keep serving you amazing food and creating memories.”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist.

Los Angeles

Marcus Scribner's Day Off in Crenshaw, LA Is a Tour of BBQ, Fried Chicken & Soul Food

The ‘Blackish' actor takes us to his favorite restaurants in his hometown of Crenshaw.

Thrillist/YouTube
Thrillist/YouTube
Thrillist/YouTube

Without tooting his own horn, Marcus Scribner likes to say that Los Angeles made him into a well-rounded human being. It’s all thanks to the city’s diverse mix of experiences, people, and culture.

“What I love most about LA is I feel like we have so many different biomes and people from different backgrounds,” the Blackish actor said in a recent interview with Thrillist. “I would just hop all around town all the time and get all those different experiences.”

Crenshaw, though, holds a special place in Scribner’s heart. It’s kind of like an oasis of peace and community for him. “It’s still a predominantly Black neighbourhood,” he explained. “Which is pretty dope to see in the centre of Los Angeles.” His dad used to say that getting into the neighbourhood feels peaceful and quiet, but as soon as you step out, it’s like, “Welcome to the jungle!”

Besides the tight-knit community, there’s another main thread in Scribner’s Crenshaw: fried chicken. While guiding us to the discovery of his neighbourhood in our series “Ride With Me,” Scribner realized that every single spot he took us to offers really good fried chicken. “It says something about me, I think,” he said. Scribner knows all the best fried chicken spots around town, and we’re definitely here for it.

The best breakfast spot in the world, Los Angeles staple chicken and waffle joints that even President Obama goes to, and delicious, Black-owned soul food restaurants are only some of the many Crenshaw gems Scribner shares with us.

Get ready to taste the best soul food LA has to offer. We’re going to Crenshaw.

Places to Eat & Drink

Jacks N Joe
Scribner doesn’t care what anyone else says, this is the best breakfast spot “on planet Earth.”

According to Scribner, their pancakes are amazing, and they come with maple butter syrup. But his favourite dish is the hash browns. “You can get the hash browns extra well done,” he suggested. “It’s over, it’s over. You’re having the best meal of your life.”

Roscoe’s House of Chicken N Waffles
President Obama stole Scribner’s special here-or at least that’s what Scribner will tell you.

“I’ve been ordering that, [and] all of a sudden they changed it to Obama Special when he popped out the cut,” Scribner said. No disrespect to Obama, but Scribner’s order has always been the Obama Special, which includes three wings with a waffle (or potato salad or fries). Scribner just adds an extra waffle to the mix, and that’s his all-time favourite order.

Phillips Barbecue
Scribner is aware he’ll get a lot of flack for saying this, but that’s okay. “Phillips Barbecue is hands down my favourite barbecue location,” he said.

“The meats are pretty good quality and the meats themselves are delicious and I love them,” he explained. “But it’s the sides and the sauce that just hit.” Their baked beans and macaroni salad are incredible, and you should put them right on your barbecue sandwich.

Just be careful: Their sauces are spicy, and the highest level is just too hot according to Scribner. His advice? Get the mixed sauce, and you’ll receive mild and hot together.

Alta Adams
This Black-owned soul food restaurant looks amazing, and it tastes even better. The setting is high-end, and their dishes are authentic soul food. They have “the best fried chicken,” according to Scribner.

“I like it because the chicken is moist, but it’s not too moist,” he explained. “This is some real chicken, which has some good moisture and the skin is perfect.” If you’re not in the mood for chicken, their oxtails are also a great choice. You shouldn’t miss out on the cornbread, either.

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
This place is so good that it started in Tennessee and eventually expanded into LA.

“It’s just the bomb,” said Scribner. “The fried chicken is so good and spicy, which I love.” Their collard greens and baked beans are both must-trys as well, and Scribner would be the one to know. “I love baked beans,” he said. “I used to just eat straight up Bush’s baked beans out of the can, bruh. I’m wilding. I’m about that life.”

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Tiana Attride is a former associate editor at Thrillist. She cares a little too much about the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack.

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