On Our LA Radar: Winsome in Echo Park, Where Wu Tang Meets Seasonal Plates

Photo via Sierra Prescott

Moving to a new city is weird. Relocating to another town when you’re a die-hard native New Yorker is VERY bizarre. You anticipate multiple hardships and get stressed about what you’ll miss before you’ve even found a place to live, but do you ever really think about the actual stressful part of moving 3000 miles away from home? I’m not talking about leaving your friends and family behind or even giving up (hopefully subletting) that incredible rent-stabilized apartment you thought you’d never leave — I’m talking about one of the hardest tasks in life, the issues that keep you up at night, something that has driven couples to go from 0-100 with anger real quick. I’m talking about where to eat out.

Thankfully, we have Yelp, Zagat and numerous food blogs to tell us which restaurants have the best service, taste and ambiance — but what about the reviews that tell us where we’ll feel most at home? Well, fear not LA expats of NYC (or anyone else thinking about joining the mass exodus to the land of hikes and green juice) I am here to help you find the best places in LA when you’re a New Yorker. 

My first “this could totally be NYC but it’s sunny” dining experience came from the good people at newly opened Echo Park breakfast and lunch spot, Winsome.

Photo via Kim Mahair

Photo via Sierra Prescott

I arrived at Winsome mid-afternoon on opening day to probably one of the most delightful welcoming songs I could have ever imagined — C.R.E.A.M. by my precious Wu Tang Clan. My day had been going well but this, this was just a gem sent from the rap gods.

Wu Tang paired with the gorgeous open air format layout proved to be the perfect combo of NYC and LA, which makes sense because the owners/investors are my people — Native New Yorkers.

What I love the most about Winsome is that you can get classics like a corned beef sandwich or potato rosti and for dessert (if youre bout it, bout it) sample something innovative like their Matcha Concha (traditional Mexican pastry) which actually drove me wild with excitement. Winsome felt like an updated diner where all the smart cool kids go to hang out with their friends. Winsome definitely keeps it real.

After having a come-to-Jesus moment over their blood orange/beet juice, shaved cauliflower salad and the burger, the juiciest burger Ive had in a while, I knew Winsome needed to be shared with my fellow foodies stat. Check out our chat with Med Abrous and Marc Rose, the owners of Echo Parks Winsome and make sure to visit them from 8AM – 3PM. The baked goods are always fresh and the music on point.

Photo via Kim Mahair

Photo via Skandia Shafer

What is the concept behind Winsome?
We wanted to open a great neighborhood restaurant that offers exceptional service and really good food in a comfortable environment.  We created Winsome to be a place where you can swing by for a coffee on your way to work, take a business lunch, go on a date later in the evening, and return on the weekend for brunch with friends.  

Did you think of a diner while designing the layout?
We were definitely inspired by the classic lunch counters we grew up going to in NY, as well as the incredible mid-century coffee shop designs associated with Southern California.  Those places are all about comfort, and that’s the vibe you’ll get at Winsome.  Our food and drinks are not at all reminiscent of a greasy spoon, but you’ll get the same homey, comfortable feeling.  We also paid particular attention to creating a layout that could transition from day to night seamlessly.  

How important is the music? Is rap close to your heart?
Music is important in everything we do. We grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s in New York City, so hip hop is and was a big part of our lives.  We were also exposed to new music on a daily basis — that’s the beauty of NY.  We wanted our restaurant playlists to reflect that feeling of discovery; some days you might hear ska or reggae, on others, you may hear a punk song that we may have skateboarded to when we were teenagers, and depending on the day, we may go from Otis Redding to Mobb Deep in one sitting.

Was it difficult to decide Winsome would have fresh baked goods every day? Who is your pastry chef and where has he or she worked in the past?
Not at all, we wanted the people in The Elysian and on the street to be able to smell our baked goods first thing in the morning. There is nothing more welcoming than some fresh-from-the-oven banana bread and a cup of coffee. Our pastry chef, Leslie Mialma, came to us fresh from a stint at Republique. We love Leslie for many reasons, but there are two things about her we adore: she can bake her ass off, and she lives just blocks from the restaurant. It was important to us to open a neighborhood restaurant with a neighborhood chef.  Not to mention the fact it makes it easier for her to get to work at 4AM to start baking! Leslie takes inspiration from the rich cultural history of the neighborhood, her Matcha Concha is a great example.

Photo via Kim Mahair

Photo via Kim Mahair

How does everyone involved in the restaurant know each other?
The staff is a mix of people we’ve known or have worked with in the past, as well as new people we met through industry friends. In the restaurant business, you often spend more time with your colleagues than your own family, so we always keep that in mind when building our teams.  We respect the people we work with at Winsome on a professional level, but we also enjoy spending time with them personally. That is the culture we try instill that sets the tone for the guest experience. 

Were you friends before opening Winsome? If so, what is it like working with friends?
We grew up in NYC together, and 5 1/2 years ago we opened a bar together — and we are still friends. There are times when it’s difficult, owning a business together is much more personal, but you can still find us hanging together socially on most nights. Go figure…

What is your dining philosophy?
For Winsome, it was important that our food, service, and overall vibe wasn’t fussy, high concept, or overwrought; there’s a time and a place for that, but we want everything we do to be approachable while having an undeniable sense of quality.

Can you describe how the menus are conceptualized?
We had a very specific vibe we wanted for the restaurant, from the food to the design. We expressed our thoughts and ideas to our chef Jeremy Strubel, and he presented us with his interpretation of that. Jeremy created dishes that were inspired by his own childhood – he’s a native Angeleno – as well as some of our favorites from when we were growing up.  We love the story and variety our menu presents.

What does New York meets LA mean to you?
Red eye flights.  And bringing a sensibility that is rooted in densely populated lifestyle to a more spread-out, laid-back environment.  

What did you miss the most (food wise) when you moved from NYC to LA?
Our mom’s cooking. Bagels. Pizza. Bodegas. Variety. Late night dining options.

Do you plan on expanding to dinner service/getting a liquor license?
Yes, we do. It has always been the plan to be a three-meal-a-day neighborhood place. We’re excited to introduce a full bar with great cocktails and a whoop-ass wine list. 

What are your favorite LA restaurants?
Dan Tana’s, Nate and Al’s, Genghis Cohen, Night + Market, Angelini, Bestia, Marouch, Langer’s, Bay Cities, Jinpachi, Speranza, Jitlada, Asanebo.

Photo via Skandia Shafer

Photo via Skandia Shafer

3 tips/rules for migrating from NYC to LA?

–  Move to a neighborhood that encourages walking.

–  Learn to drive.

–  Stock your fridge (see comment above re: late night dining in LA).

–  Be patient.

–  Leave your winter clothes in NY.

(Ok, that was more than 3.)

Winsome is open from 7:30am – 3:30pm (bakery and coffee) and 8:30am -2:30pm (kitchen).  No dinner just yet, but they are planning on coming out with that very soon.

Address: 1115 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90012

Also, just for the heck of it, we figured it might be a good idea to include a playlist that you can listen to while you’re checking out Winsome.

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