When The Park’s Finest, a Filipino BBQ restaurant located in the titular Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, had to close down during a recent heat wave, the owner, Johneric Concordia, turned to the local community for help. And to facilitate that help, Johneric turned to Linktree’s GoFundMe Link App. Sure enough, the local community stepped up to assist the beloved restaurant, a neighborhood institution for more than a decade.
The Park’s Finest’s began when Concordia and his childhood friends created a business plan and started catering BBQ to large parties in 2009. Within months, The Park’s Finest received several rave reviews on Yelp!
“People were trying to find us, and, eventually we opened a location down the street from where we grew up,” Concordia explains, before admitting humbly that he and his partners were no experts at the restaurant business. But what they lacked in expertise, they made up for with community support earned by offering meals to nonprofit organizations, local artists, and neighborhood events. Concordia went even further, ensuring that he “hired locally, so that—especially in the face of gentrification, people wouldn’t have to commute so far and could serve the community they belonged to.“
Concordia and his friends generated so much positive sentiment (and delicious BBQ) in the community that their January 13, 2012 brick-and-mortar restaurant opening menu sold out in four hours.
Knowing the ups and downs associated with restaurant ownership, Concordia invested the early financial groundswell back into the restaurant. A wise decision but not one borne of desperation, as the restaurant maintained that opening day momentum, with a feature on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in 2013 boosting their reputation in the neighborhood and around the world.
Authentic and delicious
Los Angeles is known for its food scene, so a restaurant has to offer something special to thrive. Fortunately, The Park’s Finest’s imaginative fusion of Filipino-American flavors—with meat cuts similar to American BBQ covered in distinctly Filipino flavors and dipping sauces—fit the bill.
One of those dipping sauces, Sawsaw, deliciously combines vinegar, salt, soy sauce, garlic, and yellow chilies for a distinct flavor. When mixed in with other signature recipes, the result is a unique blend of tastes that keeps locals coming back. Concordia explains, “One thing about Filipino cuisine is we don’t get upset when you customize your flavors as soon as your plate is full—each spoonful can be different.”
After nearly a decade of adding to the character of Echo Park, Concordia, like many restaurateurs, had to shut down for 18 months during the lockdown. But not even the lockdown could stop efforts to serve the community. The Park’s Finest quickly pivoted to involvement with Feed the Frontliners, using donations to fund and prepare more than 100,000 meals for first responders, nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers during one of the darkest periods in modern history.
Fortunately, as the world began to move on from lockdowns, Concordia was able to reopen the restaurant in September 2021. But just as The Park’s Finest recovered from one setback, another appeared. In September 2022, Southern California experienced a record-breaking heat wave, resulting in a nearly week-long blackout for the restaurant. “We lost product—and had to reimburse tons of catering we had to cancel at the last minute.”
That’s when Concordia used Linktree’s GoFundMe Link App for a GoFundMe to raise money for their heat wave relief fund.
Community to the rescue
Concordia admits to having no expectations when he first used the GoFundMe Link App that allowed visitors to see and donate to the restaurant’s GoFundMe directly on their Linktree. He set the GoFundMe goal to $1 and was elated when, within a week, supporters donated more than $25k, allowing him to clear payroll for his team. Concordia describes this feeling of utang ng loob, or heart debt, sharing, “To really see the people’s response…I’m deeply indebted to the community—there was an element of kahihiyan, a little bit of shame about having to put out the bat signal. The place looked like Gotham at night, but the troops came out, the community came out.”
Linktree and GoFundMe helped
At a tough time, Concordia says that technology helped him endure a setback, “Linktree helped guide people through our Instagram to our GoFundMe. People are not typing URLs anymore. And the fact that their thumb can click on somebody’s bio and see multiple links and references to educate the consumer—directly linking them to our restaurant review videos, press, funding opportunities, sales—was crucial in helping us get through.”
According to Concordia’s calculations, The Park’s Finest has an estimated $50K of debt. “We’re making things work. One way people can help is to show up and eat,” he says. “If you just let us work, allow us to be able to serve you and give you the product that we’ve been working so hard on, it goes a long way.”
Keep the support going
The Park’s Finest is a product of its community—and the Asian American movement. As Concordia says, “We’re the fruit of the hard work of activists and organizers before us—we’re a lighthouse, a headquarters for the community to convene, to celebrate, to get nourished and then move forward.”
After a moment of reflection, he adds, “We should not be the only, and we can’t die.”
You can support The Park’s Finest by donating to their GoFundMe, or, when in Los Angeles, dropping by for a comforting meal at the restaurant.