Borekas, a new Sherman Oaks shop selling bourekas, advertises its hours as “9 a.m. to sellout,” a hint at the incredible demand that has already materialized since the takeout window opened at 15030 Ventura Boulevard earlier this month.
People have been lining up for the flaky, savory Israeli pastry, offered with the choice of four fillings, since the shop opened on September 8. Leading up to the opening, chef-owner Uzi Wizman and his wife Gal posted a single story to the shop’s Instagram and made no other announcements. Uzi prepared some 80 bourekas and told his team they’d probably stay open until 2 p.m. “We sold out in 55 minutes,” Uzi says. It’s been more or less that way ever since. Even on weekdays, the shop sells out in two to three hours, Uzi says, adding that he hopes to scale up.
Bourekas, traditionally made from phyllo dough or puff pastry, share similarities with Greek spanakopita and Turkish borek, and even to the empanada found across much of the Spanish-speaking world. In Israel, bourekas are eaten at street stalls and breakfast tables alike. “It’s comfort food,” Uzi says. “When I’m mad, or sad, or am having a shitty day, I go buy bourekas in Israel. It just makes you happy.” Yet, while shakshuka, hummus, and other standbys of Israeli cuisine have grown in popularity around the U.S. over the past decade, bourekas haven’t had their moment in the sun just yet. Uzi’s goal is to change that with Borekas, although the idea didn’t come to him immediately.
After moving to the U.S. in 2016 to stage at Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills, Uzi stayed in Los Angeles to pursue cooking — sleeping on his cousin’s couch and selling sandwiches to Israeli offices around town. Uzi soon became a partner at PSY, which at the time was a shawarma place in a strip mall along Ventura Boulevard. He transformed it into a burger joint, changed the name to PSY Street Kitchen, and bought out the rest of the partners in 2019.
Fast-forward to a few months ago when a vegan burger spot opened in the same strip mall and then abruptly closed. Uzi took over the space and turned it into a catering kitchen. The storefront’s layout included a street-facing window, so the Wizmans got to thinking about some kind of walk-up operation. “We thought, ‘Okay, we have this window. What should we do with it?’,” Gal says. “Then Uzi just made this crazy dough.” And with that, the idea for a bourekas shop was born.
Uzi had already been experimenting with a new bourekas dough. Rather than using traditional phyllo and either oil or margarine, he made something between phyllo and croissant dough, and substituted brown butter for the margarine. “It took a month to mix it,” Uzi says. Classic bourekas can have an oily taste that lingers. “That doesn’t happen with butter,” he says. By filling the dough with local ingredients and house-made cheese, Uzi created more refined, if less traditional bourekas. “I said, ‘’You know what? If we’re going to do this, fuck it, let’s make it amazing,’” says Uzi.
The result is both delicate and indulgent. Fresh out of the oven, the dough is light and flaky, subtly buttery but not greasy. Borekas offers a selection of fillings: mushroom and truffles; cheese and za’atar; brown butter and potatoes; and spinach and cheese. “The cheese in the spinach is more like feta,” Uzi explains, while the other cheese is “like a ricotta that we make here from scratch.” The pastries are baked in a long, horizontal shape until crisp before sliced cross-wise. All to-go bourekas come with a hard-boiled egg, pickles, a tomato dipping sauce, and harissa. Even for those who’ve never had bourekas before, sitting on the curb outside the window with one or more pieces feels nostalgic, like a rediscovered treat.
As they clean up the store on a recent Friday afternoon, Gal and Uzi are constantly interrupted by customers. “Sorry, we don’t have anything,” Gal says to a woman in Hebrew through the window. “Nothing?” the woman asks in response. “No, it’s all sold out. Try again Sunday,” Gal says. Almost under his breath, as if stunned by the onslaught, Uzi mutters, “It’s been like this all day.”
Borekas is open Sunday through Friday from 9 a.m. to sellout.