A visit to Botanica is a bit like walking through your computer screen into a perfectly curated Pinterest board. It’s positively idyllic: glassware sparkles in a flood of afternoon sun, dreamy florals bring pops of color to patinaed wooden shelving, crusty loaves of Bub & Grandma’s bread beckon from a table loaded with take-home treats, all while impossibly chic Eastsiders catch up with friends over matcha lattes and glasses of rose. As the details within the space unfurl, the impressiveness of this operation sinks in - every object has been carefully curated, from the cluster of glass orb lamps above the bar to the clean, unfussy font on the menus. And just when you think the experience cannot possibly be more beautiful, your food arrives, and there are flowers on it. If the thought of Instagramming this place doesn’t cross your mind at least once, you’ve got to be dead inside.
What is perhaps most impressive about Botanica, however, is that its impeccable aesthetic is backed up with serious substance. Founded by former food writers Heather Sperling and Emily Fiffer, Botanica is not just another vegetable-forward, hip Silverlake hangout (though both “vegetable-forward” and “hip” could be counted among its descriptors); it is a thoughtful, multi-faceted operation that aims to nourish, support, and give back to its community. By partnering with organizations like Empower LA and offering employees benefits like healthcare and maternity leave, Sperling and Fiffer are making a positive impact in both their neighborhood and in the restaurant industry. Through their online magazine, they're able to break the confines of geography by offering Botanica's own recipes to readers all over the world. And by sourcing the highest-quality ingredients possible for their dishes and their small, curated market, they're able to offer remarkably delicious, healthful cuisine to their patrons, while simultaneously supporting local farms and small businesses in their community.
Following a “no rules” food philosophy, Botanica’s menu highlights fresh, seasonal vegetables accented with organic dairy products and sustainably raised meats. There are nods to Sperling’s Lebanese heritage in the form of middle eastern flavors like za’atar and labneh, and dishes that make vegetables sing like only a truly passionate healthy-eater (like Fiffer) could. During the day, options range from sweet fruit and granola dishes to savory eggs and salads, with a tempting list of coffee drinks made with Coffee Manufactory beans. At night, things get more romantic as the candles are lit, and the menu is flipped over to feature heartier, more substantial dishes, complimented by a thoughtfully constructed list of natural wines - not to mention a healthy list of whiskies to choose from.
On a recent quiet weekday, we made the pilgrimage to Silver Lake to visit Botanica - a trip that had felt like a long time coming, even though the restaurant's grand opening was in May. The space was pleasantly full and lively, with enough seats to choose from in both the cool, airy restaurant and on the charming outdoor patio. The waitstaff were friendly and attentive, welcoming us within moments of our arrival with warm conversation. It's no surprise that in the short months since Botanica's opening, a loyal base of regulars has already formed - a few were seated near us during our meal, and their servers had already memorized their favorite dishes.
To begin, we enjoyed some cold drinks, obligatory on a warm July day. The iced latte made with their house-made cashew-date milk is a perfect way to caffeinate without heating up, and the delicate, lightly sweetened nut milk is creamy and satisfying. For something even more refreshing, there is the Cucumber Lemon Ginger Spritzer, a vibrant green concoction that is tart, fizzy, and downright fun to drink.
When a menu boasts something as delightfully alluring as "Cake for Breakfast!," we have little choice but to order it - because who hasn't wanted to indulge in a little bit of cake for breakfast on occasion? This version, a gluten-free, almond-orange-honey cake, is topped with mounds of vibrant roasted fruit, a generous dollop of cream, and a dusting of orange zest. It is the perfect compromise between having your cake and eating breakfast, too - sweet and decadent enough to qualify as cake, nourishing and healthful enough to qualify as a proper breakfast. The fruit is especially delicious when soaked into the coarse crumbs of the cake - a perfect bite was a mixture of both apricots and berries, a touch of cream and a generous bite of cake.
Eggs and vegetables are the most essential building blocks of a perfect brunch, and fortunately the team at Botanica are adept with both. Their "Our Favorite Romesco" dish offers heaps of perfectly cooked seasonal vegetables stacked atop a thick smear of nutty, peppery romesco sauce, dusted with sprigs of fresh herbs and flowers, and crowned with a crispy fried egg. The vegetables, a melange of summer squash, leeks, cauliflower, and potatoes, are roasted to perfection with just a touch of char. The potatoes, especially, are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, offering a burst of flavor with each bite, while that runny egg yolk brings creamy richness to the party.
Finally, to meet our ever-important leafy-greens quota, the fulfilling and flavorful "Niçoise-ish Salad." A work of art in a bowl, this salad came loaded with fresh, crisp greens, tender green beans, savory tomatoes, briny olives, and creamy potatoes. A scoop of hardwood-smoked Blis tuna and a delicate six-minute egg supply a healthy dose of protein, while a coating of delicate mustard-tarragon vinaigrette helps to marry the flavors together. And true to form, the whole ensemble is studded with happy little microgreens and tiny purple flowers.
No trip to Botanica is complete without a stroll through the market, where many of the ingredients from your meal can be purchased to take home with you. The refrigerator is stocked with fresh dairy and eggs and a vibrant rainbow of produce, while long shelves boast organic wines, jars of oils and spices, and house-made coconut cacao granola (which, be warned, is impossible to resist - our little container disappeared in just a day or two). All the components for a Botanica meal are here, and with a quick visit to the recipes section of their online magazine, you're invited to re-create the magic at home.
With both style and substance, and some undeniably delicious food, it's impossible to deny Botanica's allure. The icing on the breakfast-cake? The owners and staff are genuinely kind, wonderful human beings who are happy you've come, and are quick to invite you to their community - a community that we'd be honored to be a part of.
1620 Silver Lake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026