They say when one door closes another opens, and in the case of Lady Byrd Cafe, open is the operative word. The Echo Park eatery was slated for grand opening the week of pandemic lockdown in L.A. and like many, owner Misty Mansouri decided her dream business would have to adapt. Since the space she chose was in a residential area, she shifted gears and created a marketplace, and offered an inspired take out menu for the neighborhood.
When restaurants re-opened at 50% capacity, she followed the path presented once again, with an outdoor pivot. But she did more than throw some tables and chairs on a sidewalk like others did. She created a garden-esque oasis in the space’s parking lot, complete with trees, plants, stringed lights and private dining tables placed inside of transparent glass structures she calls “secluded greenhouses.”
“We want to go the extra mile to provide safety, and give people an extra special experience,” Mansouri explains of the private but so private dining set-up. It does feel special, too, like something out of Alice in Wonderland’s tea party but with a funky twist. It’s hip, but casual and intimate, making Lady Byrd the perfect place for a lolsy ladies lunch or a romantic date (especially at night) in L.A.
There’s such a whimsical vibe here, the fact that it’s one of the safest dining options in town thanks to private dining pods is almost beside the point. There’s also an airy indoor area with hanging lanterns and homey touches. But if you still haven’t had Covid-19, and want to avoid too much contact with others, the patio is the place to do it with charm and style.
Mansouri clearly knows a thing or two about hospitality. With more than two decades of experience in nightlife and experiential marketing, she has had a hand in several L.A. venues and events, from Club Lingerie to The Palm. She worked with the massive dance club space the Vanguard for nine years, helping make it a hotspot. Years of marketing and events work later (including soirees for the Grammys, Oscars, Amazon and HBO), her keen eye and enthusiasm for people and places came together.
The L.A. born and bred business woman focused on her goal of opening a restaurant when a space opened up just down the street from the home in Echo Park where she lived for 15 years. Covid could’ve put a dark cloud on her success but her idea to encase most of the tables didn’t just protected her diners, it protected her business. Beyond the safety barriers, they look really cool from the inside and on the outside.
Growing up in restaurants (her father was a restaurateur and her step-father was an executive chef) has given Mansouri an intuitive gift for knowing what works environment-wise. Atmosphere, food and drink can come together to create a magical experience and that’s what she aims for.
Speaking of food, Lady Byrd’s focus is farm-to-table, fresh, organic ingredients, with options for vegans and meat eaters. Chef Fred Reyes’ mix of international flavors makes for a diverse menu. Served on colorful mis-matched plates, the unique presentation highlights a well-balanced execution of contrasts– savory and sweet, smooth and crunchy, bringing to mind comfort foods and nostalgia but with a novel and fresh feel.
“Our culinary experience is new American, with European and Mediterranean influences,” Mansouri says of the menu. “We are very well-known for our brunch. Some of our menu favorites are Lemon poppyseed pancakes, our vegan bowl, shrimp pasta and hummus is always a staple go-to.”
The food is tasty enough to make your take-out list, but that’s sort of a waste when you can soak up the lush and lovely environment Mansouri has created. Social distancing and dining haven’t always meshed well, but at Lady Byrd they do, pulling off the owner’s vision for “an authentic experience with a feeling of community,” with as much privacy as patrons might desire.
Lady Byrd Café, 2100 Echo Park Ave., Echo Park. https://ladybyrdcafe.com/