As the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park continues to grow in popularity, so goes the neighborhood's coffee and dining options. A surge of independent coffee shops and restaurants has attracted even more new businesses along the once-empty stretch of Sunset Boulevard, only a stone's throw from Dodger Stadium.
Winsome, however, is situated on an almost hidden road off Sunset, apart from all that nearby activity. Which means that unless you’re planning on visiting, you’ll most likely zoom past without even noticing it. Located on the ground floor of The Elysian, one of Echo Park’s newest residential developments, Winsome is filling a void in the neighborhood as a sit-down space serving good coffee and quality food.
I spoke to the busy co-owners, Med Abrous and Marc Rose, via e-mail about the inspiration behind their new venture. After successfully entering into the nightlife scene with two LA bars, Abrous and Rose felt “it seemed like a natural progression for us to open a full-service restaurant. We fell in love with the rich history and culture of Echo Park and wanted to give the neighborhood a restaurant to call [its] own.”
Winsome's somewhat unique in its large space: there are booths, tables, indoor and outdoor seating, a coffee bar, and stools where you can watch your food being fired up. To help develop the restaurant's open and fresh layout, Abrous and Rose teamed up with LA-based firm Wendy Haworth Design. Their goal was simply “creating a comfortable space, [that] was really important to us. You walk in and just feel at home.”
Contributing to the homey feeling, next to the coffee counter you’ll find goods and provisions from local vendors, including caterer and gift service Valleybrink Road, bean-to-bar chocolate makers ChocoVivo, and nut-brittle masters Morning Glory Confections, to name a few. The coffee is exclusively from La Colombe Coffee Roasters, and is pulled from a La Marzocco Linea PB two-group espresso machine. Being East Coast natives, Abrous and Rose were familiar with La Colombe from its vast presence in places like New York, DC, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The roaster is only just beginning to make itself known in LA and on the West Coast (a location is soon to open in Silver Lake); Winsome is one of the first to offer La Colombe in the vicinity.
Also at the coffee counter are creative baked goods made by pastry chef Leslie Mialma. The vibrant choices include matcha concha, garam masala monkey bread, and buckwheat ginger oat cookies. LA’s vast and varied culinary scene is the source of Mialma's inspiration, according to Abrous and Rose: “Her matcha concha is a great example of this [diversity], combining the classic pan dulce of Mexican culture with matcha, a flavor distinct to the cuisine served in Little Tokyo and Chinatown down the street.”
The food at Winsome is focused on breakfast and lunch. Head chef Jeremy Strubel draws on classic American favorites, populating his menu with a grilled corned-beef sandwich, a grass-fed beef burger, and a Comté-and-speck grilled-cheese sandwich. Lighter fare is also available, such as the baby gem lettuces salad and crispy-tofu plate. The large, diverse menu is a perfect fit for the food-conscious folk who frequent the cafe and restaurant.
In the very near future, Abrous and Rose plan to expand into dinner, where they’ll add a “full bar with great cocktails and a stellar wine and beer list.” Evening hours are likely to be a hit with the burgeoning young Echo Park community looking for an alternative to the louder, divey-er bars nearby.
Why the name “Winsome?” They point to its meaning: “attractive, appealing, and with childlike charm…We think it sets the stage for your dining experience.” I think perhaps this place sets a similar stage for growth—and maturity—in the Echo Park food & coffee scene.
Tatiana Ernst is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and photographer. Read more Tatiana Ernst on Sprudge.