By Christina Najjar | April 17, 2019 | Food & Drink
The eternal west versus east coast debate will likely rage on until the end of time, but in the interim, restaurateur and native Angeleno, Camilla Marcus, has carved out a little Californian slice of heaven right in SoHo. West~bourne has a decidedly LA vibe to it. Camilla describes it as “accidentally vegetarian” (what could be more LA than that!) but it is the mindful nature of the food, emphasis on giving back to the community and extremely chill vibe that really set wb apart.
Before starting her own venture, Camilla helped bring to life some of New York’s beloved neighborhood restaurants, including dell’anima, Riverpark, and the reopened Union Square Café. Formerly the Director of Business Development for Union Square Hospitality Group, Camilla has also worked in real estate investing for Colony Capital and CIM Group. With west~bourne, she is now both the investor and the entrepreneur, committed to rethinking what it means to be a good neighbor through the lens of hospitality. We chatted to Camilla about her amazing restaurant and giving back to the community.
What was the inspiration behind west~bourne?
CAMILLA MARCUS: I’ve always felt that my generation is motivated intrinsically to make a difference and believes in the power of the individual to have an impact on our communities. What I noticed over time working in the hospitality industry was that there was a white space of integrating that new model of philanthropy launched by conscious capitalist retail brands like Tom’s and Warby Parker in the food and beverage space in a way that genuinely touched and included guests. We all make more decisions about what we eat and drink than almost anything else in our daily lives, so it got me thinking about how hospitality could harness that collective and compound impact and drive it toward improving the lives of our neighbors in our local communities in a real, tangible, and connected way. That was why I felt compelled to create and launch west~bourne.
Why did you pick the location?
CM: I knew I wanted to start in a neighborhood I knew well. I live very close to the restaurant and have always lived in the area for the past ten years since I moved to NYC. Our location is on the cusp of a few neighborhoods, Greenwich Village, Soho, Tribeca, Washington Square Park, Nolita, etc., so it’s a very unique mix of people, places, and culture. Knowing we were doing an all-day concept meant that there needed to be a real 24/7 vibrancy to our location in an area filled with locals and visitors alike day to night. We have sort of the ideal sweet spot for that, as we are close to an immense amount of interesting, creative offices like Warby Parker and Glossier, proximate to galleries and retail stores of Soho, flanked by a handful of boutique hotels, integrated into a close-knit community of residents, and surrounding a number of schools like NYU. It’s eclectic, buzzing, and interconnected in a way that I always dreamed we would be part of and it’s proven to be the perfect fit for our launch location.
What's your favorite thing on the menu?
CM: That’s like choosing amongst your children. My favorite thing is that there’s something for every mood and every time of day, and it’s exciting to watch the menu evolve through the seasons proving that craveable food can be vibrant, enriching, wholesome, and balanced even in the middle of winter. Right now I’m in a big sweet potato smash phase, and I love it paired with a glass of our new Martha Stouman Honeymoon.
What's the biggest difference between California and New York?
CM: I think New York is all about work hard, play hard, whereas I think LA is more focused on balance. I think both cities have a deep sense of community and collective belonging as well as an innate passion for making the most out of life. I always say I wish I could have my days in LA and my nights in NYC… I’m still working on making that happen.
What's the hardest thing about having a restaurant?
CM: There are never enough hours in the day. I always want more, that’s for sure. One of the most unique and rewarding elements of west~bourne is being an all-day concept, open from 8 am to 10 pm every day of the week. In fact, we opened full hours all days right out of the gate which is pretty unheard of in our business. Being able to welcome guests and be such an integrated part of their daily journeys so fully is a real gift. However, it, of course, makes it a bit tricky to manage all that we want to accomplish each day. We never really know how a day is going to flow so it keeps us on our toes to plan but also be flexible, all while pretty much being on stage so to speak all the time. For me personally, someone who resists routine and lives for spontaneity, it makes for a fun and dynamic experience.
What are you most excited about for the rest of this year?
CM: We have built an incredible team and a thoughtful foundation in our community, and we can’t wait to forge new and innovative pathways to enhance our impact.
Photography Courtesy of west bourne