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The Year in Eater Longreads

Some things to read as the end (of 2016) looms.

Is it possible that 2016 is nearly over? Yes, if only because everything ends, even the computer simulation that may constitute our reality (unless, of course, the aliens who constructed it exist outside of spacetime, then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). One of the less terrible outcomes of the current simulation is that the Eater features department has published some things over the last year. Maybe you can spend some time with them in the waning hours of 2016, if you haven’t already.

What follows is just a sample of what we’ve run this year — from the final days of New York’s most iconic restaurant to the women-run restaurant economy of a refugee camp in South Sudan to the legend of the Choco Taco — and a preview of the kinds of things we’re going to be up to next year.

"There’s nothing good in cooking, but there are no other options." by Sandra Zhao, Roopa Gogineni, and Trevor Snapp

Sandra Zhao and Roopa Gogineni spent weeks in South Sudan reporting from Yida, the world’s largest refugee settlement, where they found a robust economy of women-run restaurants.

The People’s Cheeseburger by Willy Blackmore

What if we told you that the most important fast-food restaurant in America is located in South Los Angeles, is run by an odd-couple pair of high-flying chefs, and doesn’t even serve all-beef hamburgers? Well, that’s what we’re telling you.

Hot Sauce in Her Bag by Mikki Kendall

Mikki Kendall lays out the socioeconomic, cultural, and personal history of Black women keeping hot sauce in their bag in a vital essay unpacking Beyoncé's "Formation," one of the most riveting cultural works of 2016.

Twilight of the Four Seasons by Gary He

Photographer Gary He practically lived in the Four Seasons during its final weeks, capturing the last few flickers of its glory undimmed before the breaking of the world — or at least whatever isn’t protected by the Four Seasons’ landmark designation during its multi-million-dollar renovation by real estate mogul Aby Rosen and the Major Food Group.

California Dreaming by Marian Bull

Why California, why Los Angeles, why annoying New Yorkers, why now? Marian Bull finds the answers to those questions at Jessica Koslow’s scrappy breakfast citadel, Sqirl.

Photo: Roopa Gogineni

The Legend of the Choco Taco by Jason Cohen

That an ice cream treat as perfect as the Choco Taco was invented by a mere mortal boggles the mind, but the fact remains one Alan Drazen, a greater genius than either you or I, invented it in 1983, and the world was never the same.

Thrill Ride by Vince Dixon, with Mariya Pylayev

Eater data visualization reporter Vince Dixon strapped some Microsoft Band fitness trackers to a handful of New York City bike messengers; the results were predictably exhausting, so please tip your delivery human accordingly.

Escaping the Restaurant Industry's Motherhood Trap by Amanda Kludt

The array of structural impediments keeping women from running restaurants and high-end kitchens are overwhelming in scope and complexity, but total antipathy toward having or taking care of children is among the most pointed, as detailed by Eater’s editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt.

Where the Buffalo (Wings) Roam by Anna Hezel

It might surprise you to learn that National Buffalo Wing Festival is a relatively recent occurrence in the grand history of Buffalo, New York, the birthplace of the Buffalo wing. It would not surprise you to learn that everybody looks absolutely disgusting when they’re eating Buffalo wings, whether it’s one wing or 150 of them.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bodega Bagels (But Were Afraid to Ask) by Serena Dai

Twelve thousand bodegas, 300,000 bagels — you could probably guess what that means for the craft of bagel making, but Eater New York reporter Serena Dai lays out in forensic detail how the basic "it'll do" bagel comes into being.

Detroit's American Dream by Michael Snyder and Ali Saloum

The image of Detroit that most regularly captures the popular imagination is a relatively uncomplicated one, whether it’s of a broken metropolis or a burgeoning haven of gentrification. Michael Snyder and Ali Saloum’s portrait of the food industry in one of its prospering suburbs, built on waves of immigration from the Middle East and beyond, adds some needed layers to that picture.

The 24-Year-Old Coca-Cola Virgin by Jamie Lauren Keiles

Jamie Lauren Keiles managed to avoid Coca-Cola for her entire life. But, after two dozen years of a Cokeless existence, she becomes obsessed with finding The Real Thing™. What she discovers ***spoiler alert*** is something else.

Our Fancy Foods, Ourselves by Malcolm Harris

Before organic microlot black bean brownies landed on the shelves of your local Whole Foods, they were here first — in the bowels of New York City’s Javits Center at the country’s largest annual conglomeration of specialty food purveyors, the Summer Fancy Food Show.

Photo: Gary He

Curtis Stone Wants to Bring the Michelin Guide Back to Los Angeles by Lucas Peterson

Curtis Stone is famous, rich, and runs one of Los Angeles’s most lauded tasting menu restaurants. Why is he risking it all on a no-expense-spared temple of meat?

Garrett Oliver Wants You to Follow Your Dreams by Dion Lee, Meghan McCarron, and Halim Kim

The life of one of America’s most groundbreaking brewmasters, Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver, presented in a slightly untraditional format: the video profile.

Carl's Jr., and the Thing That Happened There by Chris Onstad

Pee. Pee happened.

What Happens When Big-City Chefs Open Small-Town Restaurants by Hillary Dixler

With rents skyrocketing in every major American city, the appeal of chucking it all in to open a small town restaurant has never been greater. But signing a lease on a small, revival-ready main street comes with staffing headaches and a limited dining public as well as country charm.

"I Want Crab. Pure Maryland Crab." by Bill Addison

For Eater’s national critic Bill Addison, the taste of home is Maryland crab in high summer, and nothing else will do.

The Baker and the Bicycle by Samantha Maldonado

A tiny portrait of a tiny bakery with a tiny business plan, a medium-sized bicycle, and an outsized impact in Philadelphia.

Tudor's Biscuit World Is the Best Thing About West Virginia by Lauren Oyler

As reporters tripped over their parachute lines to file dispatches from all the forgotten places in America, West Virginia native Lauren Oyler considered, unanthropologically, one of the true hallmarks of the Mountain State: a biscuit sandwich at Tudor’s Biscuit World.

The Crushing Disappointment of L’Arpège by Ryan Sutton

There are few prizes in the global big-game dining circuit as glorified as Paris’s L’Arpège, feted by Michelin and Netflix alike. But with the soaring expectations set by destination dining comes the potential for a truly epic letdown.

The Fascinating (and Infuriating) Experience of Dining in the Nude by Pelin Keskin

Does dining on raw food in the nude really bring people closer to their natural selves? Pelin Keskin finds a great deal of PR-wholesome naughtiness at London's pop-up "naked" restaurant, but precious little liberation.

There's No Place Like HomeState by Meghan McCarron

How a native Texan brought the breakfast taco to Los Angeles — and how one city’s everyday staple can become another’s object of fascination.

Header image: Natalie Nelson

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