You’re in a room, and everything is white, like a lazy screenwriter’s version of heaven. The only furniture is a coffee table covered in brochures - so you pick one up, and it’s full of happy people who look like they’ve never worn anything wrinkled and always have the proper amount of Vitamin B12. “Go to West-Bourne,” it says. And, while a part of you is skeptical, you can’t help but feel a little warm and fuzzy inside. This, in a nutshell, is the West-Bourne experience.
West-Bourne is a California-themed counter-service cafe in Soho where you’ll want to hang out after you finish your food and the majority of things taste like they were designed to make you a better person. It’s entirely vegetarian, and after a meal here, you’ll feel like you took a brief trip to a world where everything is made with care and people smile more often than they should.
Walk inside, and you’ll find a fridge stocked with juice and rosé. Next to that, there are some shelves full of branded t-shirts, tote bags, and napkins made from “reclaimed denim.” The rest of the little space is filled with some communal tables, a counter surrounded by little wooden stools, and a window nook with an excessive number of throw pillows. Factor in the brick walls and wooden ceiling beams, and the whole place makes your average counter-service spot look like a dumpster fire in a field of other dumpster fires.
The first time you see West-Bourne, you might even assume it’s the sort of restaurant where the food is an afterthought. But everything here is fresh and flavorful, and even the healthiest things are worth your time. The “Over The Rainbowl,” for example, is mostly just a bunch of pickled and raw vegetables with lentil falafel - but it’s good and filling, and will help you picture an alternate universe in which you grow your own food. The rest of the menu consists of things like honey-roasted eggplant and shaved cauliflower with sheep’s cheese, as well as some less-healthy options like a mushroom reuben and sweet potatoes that taste like they’re about 50% butter. Those last two items aren’t as healthy as the rest, but all of these dishes are consistently excellent and more ambitious than what you expect from a place where you bus your own table.
As an added bonus, West-Bourne donates 1% of its sales to a nearby nonprofit, which is just one more reason why you should get a quick breakfast or lunch here the next time you’re downtown. Sure, it can get a little crowded, and all the pillows and custom denim napkins might cause you to black out momentarily and have a nightmare about a world in which we live our entire lives on social media. But the service is friendly, the food is great, and you feel happier when you leave. Possibly because you now have the right levels of Vitamin B12.
Once you get past the name, you’ll find this is one of the best things at West-Bourne. It’s a big bowl of vegetables with lentil falafel, pickled and raw cucumbers, radishes, carrots, and a green tahini dressing. It’s filling, and it’ll help you hit several vitamin quotas for the week.
Are you always on the lookout for the next place where you can eat eggplant for lunch? Probably not. But you should still get this. It’s half a honey-roasted eggplant over cashews, peas, and quinoa - and it’ll make you an eggplant person.
You could make the argument that corned beef is the best part of a reuben, and you’d probably be right. But this vegetarian version with mushrooms, swiss cheese, and special sauce is still very, very good. We could see ourselves eating one in bed at 3am. At the very least, you should split one with someone when you come here.
On top of this dish, there are some fresh herbs like mint and parsley. But underneath it’s just a bunch crispy sweet potatoes that taste like they’ve been spending a lot of time with butter. Get this as a side.
As you can see, this is just a big plate of vegetables with some dips. That said, it’s a great thing to share with a few other people, and it’ll make you feel like a large rabbit.
A solid egg sandwich with some semi-spicy labne and avocado. If you want a quick breakfast (or some eggs for lunch), get this.
Cabbage typically isn’t our first choice as a salad green, but the Sullivan Chopped is pretty good. It’s on the lighter side, with some mint and feta, and it’s better as a snack or a side.
For $5, you can add a few pieces of seared halloumi to any bowl or salad. We highly suggest you do this.