It’s been a busy few weeks around the city, as Los Angeles restaurants reopen for dine-in service, with many taking unprecedented steps to expand seated areas into public parking lots and sidewalks. Over in Echo Park, the barely two-month-old Lady Byrd Cafe has taken physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic to the extra mile, going so far as to transform its own parking lot with cozy, individual greenhouse distance dining pods.
Owner Misty Mansouri opened Lady Byrd in the former Pollen space one month into California’s shelter-at-home order, and opened its dining areas last Tuesday. It’s hard to believe that Lady Byrd’s new setup, now filled with plants, flowers, four greenhouse tables, and a mini-market, is born out restaurant’s parking area. Six can snugly fit inside a greenhouse, and there’s still plenty of traditional seating inside, as well as a second outdoor patio.
Mansouri says that she was inspired by European al fresco dining and Mediamatic, an Amsterdam restaurant that installed outdoor dining greenhouses in May. “It’s such a different dining experience there,” says Mansouri. “That’s what I wanted to bring into this space. But when COVID hit, we had to focus on health and safety first. Even though we have a huge patio space, I wanted to go the extra step for people who wanted safety.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti launched his recent LA Alfresco initiative on May 29, immediately paving the way for restaurants to turn public spaces into outdoor dining areas. He probably didn’t picture Mansouri’s greenhouses, which are compact enough for those who feel safe dining in small groups. After each meal is finished, the greenhouses are cleaned top to bottom with a mixture of Simple Green, bleach, 409 Multi-Surface Cleaner, and Lysol. The greenhouses also have windows to allow continuous airflow while eating.
LA is ideally situated for this new phase of parking lot and sidewalk dining. With Lady Byrd, Highland Park’s Barcade, and other establishments moving towards al fresco drinking and dining, one question keeps coming up: With fantastic year-round weather, why did it take a pandemic for Los Angeles to move towards a more European approach to outdoor dining?
Lady Byrd Cafe. 2100 Echo Park Ave, Echo Park, CA