In one version of current-day Los Angeles, a burgeoning culinary scene is struggling to stay afloat, with independent restaurants unable to justify reopening their outdoor areas amidst the current Covid-19 dine-in laws. In another, pseudo-upscale chains owned by restaurant groups typically frequented by the Come-to-Dubai crowd are thriving, offering dinner service with a side of maskless photo ops.
So, there is nowhere to go. Especially at night. Meanwhile, influencers are running out of backgrounds in their own homes against which to create content. Those not part of the near 20 per cent of unemployed Americans are looking for places to spend their money in person. And for those antsy to step out and be seen, a particular strain of eateries might be their best bet.
Club-like restaurants have always been a mainstay for those of the reality TV persuasion. Crowds of bodycon dresses, leased Lamborghinis and paparazzi – summoned by the celebs themselves – have been lingering at these hotspots for years. You know the type. Restaurants with one-word names and elaborate Adobe Flash websites. If you’re unfamiliar, head to West Hollywood.
For the TikTok generation, beef is, in fact, what’s for dinner as BOA Steakhouse’s Sunset Strip location has become the official spot for Covid-19 mingling. The Zagat guide tells diners to “go big or go home” (Japanese Snow Beef is available for $50 per ounce). Google Maps calls it a “buzzy chophouse”.
In late July, it hosted a pre-party for Hype House member Larray’s (Larri Merritt) Hollywood Hills party. Film crews from TMZ-style YouTube channel The Hollywood Fix, which exhaustively covers TikTok drama, have been parked outside for months, ready for a post-meal chat with creators, from Jake Paul to 13-year-old Gavin Magnus, the latter quizzed about his relationship status and allegedly being kicked out of the steakhouse for being too wild. (All is well, Magnus returned just the next day. But, spoiler alert, he’s now single.)
“Due to the pandemic, usual events and red carpets are all cancelled,” says Marie Cravens, publicist and LA-based influencer expert. “These influencers’ goal is to transcend to celebrity, which means being constantly photographed. So they head to the restaurants they know paparazzi will be parked in front of. The bonus is they can usually get their entire lavish meal comped for tagging the restaurant on their Instagram story.
“Restaurants want celebrities and influencers to post about going there, not because the food is so good, but so that regular plebeians will go to try to spot celebs. That’s why SUR has been in business so long and the food is horrendous,” she says of the West Hollywood joint whose initials stand for – oh yes – Sexy Unique Restaurant.
In October 2019, The New York Post declared that Millennials Killed The Power Lunch, but here’s what has yet to be killed: the Nightclub Dinner.
Influencers dining at your restaurant “is really annoying. They show up with a camera and are looking for the best light in the restaurant,” says Max Roux, who worked as a server in Hollywood for years. For these social media slaves, flexing an elaborate, picked-at meal via flash videography and ordering shots at a 10pm reservation is an LA rite of passage.
In a city where more than half the population (per the 2019 census) does not eat bread, often a “good” restaurant really just means “expensive”. Boasting four dollar signs, BOA Steakhouse is a place with a cocktail named after LA’s most-hated freeway (that’s the 405, gridlocked-road fans), the secret recipe for Courtney Cox’s favourite steak sauce in their back pocket and new, fast-money-approved sides like $19-$34 truffle or lobster-infused mashed potatoes, mac’n’cheese, cheese fries or gnocchi.
But why BOA? New York Times technology reporter and TikTok whisperer Taylor Lorenz asked her Twitter followers to refrain from pizzagate conspiracy theories about what may or may not be happening behind the scenes at the restaurant. Underage alcohol consumption? Secret backroom cocaine parties? Lax Covid-19 protocol? A press war room to discuss what news to break to the cameras outside? Or, at least, free steak? (Boring.)
Influencers are like cockroaches. For every one you see, there’s a hundred more inside. However BOA got the butts behind hundreds of millions of followers crowded into their gaudy booths, what we do know is influencers are creatures of habit. Even the Kardashians are still eating those same plastic container to-go salads 10 seasons later.
With the current pandemic, it has to be a relief to know that there’s a spot just a hop, skip and a jump from the Hype House, where a space to be annoying with your friends – and media coverage – is guaranteed. Whether it’s for the food, the photo or the chance to run into bad bleep Addison Rae, there are no Open Table dinner reservations available at BOA for us plebes this weekend.
BOA’s Yelp is flooded with verbose reviews from couples spending their anniversaries and last dollars on tomahawk ribeyes and cake with bottle-service-style sparklers. It takes scrolls to get to the first mediocre review.
But even if the steak is somehow good, it’s not the draw for normies or TikTokers. Going to BOA has always been about making a scene. One that’s hard to watch if you aren’t involved. And, like everything in America, aspirational experiences are split between those saving and planning for one #TakeMeBack-worthy night and those with so much access they can’t help but look apathetic over a meal that costs the amount of one government stimulus check.
As Gen‑Z’s hottest continue to swarm the restaurant night after night, BOA promises they are following protocol and checking the temperatures of all guests entering. Now, we’re likely only days away from California Governor Gavin Newsom insisting they check follower count, too.