It’s easy to make fun of Silver Lake. There are more doulas here than anywhere else in the country, and if you wanted to buy a homemade quilt woven with rare goat hair, we suspect there’s no place better place to get it. And while it seems like every great restaurant in the past 12 months has opened in this part of town, Botanica is absolute peak Silver Lake.
Sitting in the big and bright space on Silver Lake Blvd., you feel like you’re inside a very well curated social media feed. The walls are painted pink, there’s a market up front with perfectly styled arrangements of vegetables and expensive yogurt, and the string light-covered patio is ready for your girls’ night out needs. But aside from all the photo opportunities, Botanica is also a quality neighborhood restaurant - albeit one with hibiscus strawberry orange ginger spritzers, an advanced wine list, and giant piles of fresh greens on every plate.
Botanica is open for all three meals, but it’s at its best during the day. You can walk right in and get a table, the patio is cool and shaded, and most importantly, this is when the food is most impressive. It’s rare that we want to eat a bunch of salad for breakfast, but when it comes on their excellent Turkish eggs dish, we’ll happily eat our greens in the morning. At dinner, the emphasis on health (nothing on the menu involves refined sugars or processed foods) is a little more obvious. And while nothing is bad, all those mounds of good-for-you-foods can start to feel pretty similar, even with a protein or two added in. Especially if you’ve had too many of the beet cocktails. Which you should - the drinks are one of the best parts of the place.
Botanica manages to be pure, undistilled Silver Lake without being annoying, and without alienating those of us who have no idea what a doula does. The food is good for you, but they don’t wave this fact in your face. The staff is friendly and helpful, and every second person who walks in the door seems to be a regular. And if you live in the area, like to eat lots of plants, and can list the multiple beneficial properties of coconut oil, you’re probably about to be too.
Eggs and yogurt don’t really seem like they should be hanging out together. But like Bert & Ernie, these things turn out to be better as a pair, especially at Botanica. Make sure you get a side order of the insanely good bacon, and now is also not the time to start avoiding carbs - the focaccia is outrageously good.
If Botanica is all about giant piles of green things on plates, then this is the most Botanica dish of them all. Along with those greens, you’ll find an ever-changing roster of vegetables, a lot of labne, and more focaccia.
Smoked salmon with tomatoes, a soft-boiled egg, and more dill than we previously thought we could handle. It’s good, although the salmon to greens ratio leans too much in favor of health, not fish.
A noodle salad with a general Vietnamese feel. If you discount the presence of beets.
This red pepper dip comes with brussels sprouts, potatoes, and charred leeks for pushing around in the sauce. It’s a good thing to share to start, but also not our favorite thing here.
If you came to Botanica and sat at the bar for cocktails and these dips, you’d be doing something right. It might just seem like some vegetables and dips, but the beet muhammara, lemony labne, and pesto make this so much better than the half-assed spread of things you put out when you’re pretending to be a good host.
Larb - the Thai ‘salad’ that’s really just a lot of chopped up meat with a few herbs and a lot of spice thrown in - is one of our favorite things, but this version doesn’t do it justice. They skip the meat in favor of mushrooms, and all the punch from the spice is missing. This is really just an herby salad, and one you don’t need to be ordering.
Our favorite thing on the dinner menu: an enormous bowl of saucy clams, grains, and chorizo, it’s the perfect amount of spicy, but also not too rich.