Marc Rose and Med Abrous had one goal when conceiving their latest restaurant venture in L.A.’s vibrant Echo Park neighborhood: to create a trusted local staple that people would visit not just on occasion, but daily. The New York City expats—who have a slew of Los Angeles nightlife establishments under their belts—knew a thing or two about true neighborhood haunts. With their first restaurant venture, the duo wanted to open a place people would visit for coffee, groceries, and lunch meetings as much as date nights and family brunches. Enter Winsome—an instantly classic restaurant already making waves on the city’s culinary scene. Far from pretentious, the space is welcoming and inviting yet elevated and refined.
Executive chef Jeremy Strubel—of Rustic Canyon, Quince, and Bastide—helms the kitchen, bringing the clean flavors of Southern California to the heart of Echo Park. The cocktails by Edwin Cruz are refined, fresh, and inventive—a testament to the owners’ nightlife background at The Spare Room and Genghis Cohen. Pastry chef Leslie Mialma (of République fame) lures passersby with a fresh array of delicious and inventive baked goods while the La Colombe coffee bar ensures that return visitors get their morning fix. The restaurant, located on the ground floor of a midcentury apartment building, also serves an array of curated local pantry essentials—should a resident need a pinch of salt or a can of tomatoes. Yes, in every sense of the word, Winsome is the neighborhood’s friendliest new neighbor—and its design, executed by Los Angeles–based design firm Wendy Haworth Design, known for Gracias Madre and Cafe Gratitude—is just as welcoming and classic. Owners Rose and Abrous took us on a tour of this new local haunt. Step inside L.A.’s newest brunch darling, already named one of Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants.
The restaurant sits at the base of a beautiful apartment building called The Elysian, designed by renowned modernist architect William Pereira. “The building’s design reflects Southern California’s midcentury architecture, so we knew we wanted to honor that style and take our cues from there,” explains Rose. “We also wanted a warm and inviting place that is beautiful at all hours and, most importantly, comfortable.”
Winsome quickly became a hot spot for regulars, who can get their morning coffee at the bar and even grocery items from their market shelves. “The coffee bar needed to be welcoming but also beautiful as it sets the stage as soon as you walk in,” says Rose. “Aside from the beautiful La Marzocco espresso machine, the vintage Italian pendant lights that our designer Wendy Haworth found really make the entire area.”
Los Angeles may have lacked in the bodega department before, but these NYC expats knew just how to add convenience to quality. In addition to the restaurant’s already varied menu, the owners curated a small market section to highlight the heirloom products used in the kitchen.
“We have a curated retail area of products that we love—both from local friends and from around the country,” says Rose. “You can also take home our Winsome granola and, during the holidays, a beautiful fresh bouquet from Valleybrink Road. We think a lot about what our neighbors upstairs may need, and stock our retail shelves with essentials that they can also use in their homes.”
If locals are already flocking to the young restaurant on the regular, it’s in part due to the mouthwatering baked goods by pastry chef Leslie Mialma. “She creates some incredibly delicious baked goods,” says Rose, “and people come in just to pick up boxes of them. They are great takeaway items.”
Winsome already has all the hallmarks to become a true neighborhood staple: inviting, even enticing décor; a varied quality seasonal menu; and the comforts that everyone wants from a neighborhood haunt. To achieve this, the space also needed a décor to match.
“We talk a lot about comfort, but we also put a lot of thought into the materials we use,” says Rose. “We think about how the finishes will age and patina over time. The counter is white oak, and we can’t wait to look it five years from now. We want the wear and tear to tell the story of time. It is always our intention to be around for years to come, and we hope that our restaurants stand the test of time to become staples for the neighborhood and the city at large.”
By using tried-and-trusted durable materials and timeless finishes, the restaurateur duo was able to create a versatile space that can go from day to night and stand the test of time. “One of our biggest goals was to make the place feel great for both day and night,” says Rose. “We recognize that you can be sexy and special without looking like a nightclub or even a white-tablecloth establishment.”
When drawing inspiration for the space, the owners turned to their favorite L.A. staples. “Although we do not consider ourselves a coffee shop or a diner, many of the googie-style restaurants of Southern California had design elements that are absolutely perfect for the type of place we wanted to build. We knew we wanted an open kitchen, so we looked at L.A. institutions like the Apple Pan and Beverly Hills Hotel Fountain Room to create a welcoming vibe.”
The space is a testament to timeless design deeply rooted in a fresh, quintessentially Californian midcentury history. Every material and finish was chosen in line with the building’s rich history. “We wanted to keep the floors very simple. The space already had this cool looking saw-cut concrete, so we chose to highlight it rather than trying to hide it. The cement was sanded down to show some the aggregate. It’s beautiful to see all the rock that the floor is made up of.”
In the back, a dining room extends to serve both as a family-friendly brunch spot and a sexy date-night spot—the carefully executed décor seamlessly transitioning from day to night. “We wanted to open an all-day neighborhood restaurant, similar to the kinds of places we frequented while growing up in NYC,” says Rose. “We wanted the kind of place that you can go to with friends, with family, on a romantic night out, or even for business meetings. It’s the type of place you can rely on.”
The family-friendly angle was important to the owners who wanted a space that will grow with families for generations—without falling into the clichés of family restaurants: “We are happy to see that many of our friends who are also parents feel comfortable enough to bring their young children without worrying too much about what they touch, how they sit, or what they may spill or throw.”
The restaurant is a result of painstaking attention to detail from both Rose and Abrous, who made sure that every inch of the space was perfected and every aspect of the experience was curated: “This was a from-scratch build and the first restaurant for us, as we come from the bar and nightlife world,” explains Rose. “We agonized over every detail, down to the way that ice melts in the glasses that we chose.”
The true Instagrammable moment of the restaurant comes with the dining room décor, which mixes brass pendant with Josef Hoffmann cane chairs, blue-gray banquettes, and showstopping custom-made wallpaper. “The wallpaper is very special to us,” says Rose.
“We wanted to reflect as much of the history and culture of Echo Park in our design as we opened the restaurant for our neighbors at the Elysian and for the neighborhood at large. In our research, we came across a beautiful watercolor painting from 1938, entitled “Sunshine in Echo Park,” by Phil Dike. The painting depicts everyday life around the lake and the park, which was just recently restored to its original beauty by the city. We weren’t originally planning to feature the painting as a wallpaper, just as a small framed print, but we fell more and more in love with the colors, the scene, and all it stood for. It took a few months, but we were able to speak with the family of the artist, and they granted us the rights to use the image for our back wall. The wall has become somewhat of an Instagram favorite and has become an anchor to our restaurant by paying respect to those who call Echo Park home.”
On the menu side, things are no less impressive: “Our inspiration behind the menu is the same as our inspiration for Winsome as a whole—we wanted to make simple, gorgeous, and delicious food that feels like home. The menu marries L.A. cuisine with some of our favorites from when we were growing up.”
Breakfast starts with signature dishes like the buckwheat and semolina pancakes—already a favorite—and extends all the way to innovative dishes like the duck egg toast with nduja, raclette, and oregano.
Chef Strubel’s playful menu features flavor combinations that draw on the diverse culinary traditions and cultures of Los Angeles. From baby carrots and root vegetables with al pastor spice, cilantro, and yogurt to shared plates including a charred escarole chicken soup with rustic bread, the menu marries comfort with refinement and attention to detail.
“Many dishes and cocktails pull in inspiration from all the different types of cuisine L.A. has to offer,” says Rose. “You can see this in the way we add al pastor spice to baby carrots and make a killer speck and comte grilled cheese, pairing thai basil with mostarda.”
Beverage director Edwin Cruz’s colorful cocktails are equally attention-grabbing. From Tiki-Novelas—featuring mezcal, Plantation pineapple rum, chicha morada syrup, and fresh falernum served with a flaming tiki garnish—to the At Last—a delightful concoction of pisco, matcha tea, lemon juice, egg white, and angostura bitters-soaked finger limes—the flavours are innovative and elevated.
For dinner, guests can enjoy favorites like the whole roasted branzino served with preserved orange, or an Aspen Ridge rib-eye with confit magic. For dessert, Leslie Mialma's Faloodeh and almond milk slushy with rose water and rice noodle granita is already a staple.
But perhaps the one dishes that speak volumes about the owners’ NYC roots are the grilled corned beef sandwich—served with Niman Ranch brisket, black garlic, cabbage slaw, and aged provolone on rustic bread—and the burger with gjusta seeded pain de mie, grassfed beef, hooks ages white cheddar, pickled shallots, and mustard frills. These lunchtime favorites alone are guaranteed to make New York expats and Angelinos alike return to this friendly Echo Park haunt.