At basically any minute of any day, someone is trying to peek inside the tiny takeout window at Borekas, the Sherman Oaks bourekas spot that has become a must-stop destination on any recent food tour of the San Fernando Valley. Owner Uzi Waizman is patient with everyone — even those who look directly past the all-caps SOLD OUT sign taped to the window to ask, impossibly, if there are any bourekas left. He’s thankful that they showed up at all.
“It’s something else, something I’ve never experienced before,” says Waizman, sporting a thick Israeli accent as he sits on a milk crate in front of the strip mall business he created on a whim last fall. Formerly a catering kitchen for his kosher restaurant Psy Street Kitchen (located just a few doors down), the 700-square-foot space became an almost immediate sensation when Uzi and his wife Gal decided to make a few bourekas for their Instagram followers one morning in September. The rest has been a whirlwind.
“I had been wanting to do bourekas basically since I was a baby,” says the thoughtful Waizman. “This is everywhere in your life when you live in Israel.” The dish, which has its origins in Turkey but is found in different permutations (and with different spellings) across the Mediterranean region, quickly found favor with Los Angeles’s robust Israeli community in the Valley, and now there’s no chance that the tiny space can keep up with the overwhelming demand.
“On Sundays, we do between 700 and 1,000 bourekas,” says Waizman. “We need three days just to be ready.” It’s a massive workload, but it also comes in a somewhat truncated window. Waizman says that selling out every day, while not ideal — he doesn’t like to turn people away, or to turn down the revenue — does allow his team to work hard in the morning, and then be off by the mid-afternoon. It’s a work-life balance that he has struggled to otherwise find in his years spent in restaurant kitchens. “All my staff, they’re happy,” says Waizman. “Even though sometimes I think we can make more, that I can push myself to the edge, it’s not what I want.”
To hear Waizman tell it, staff happiness translates directly into the food and the experience at Borekas. When wait times begin to drag out on weekends, employees hand out small sample bites to people in line to keep spirits high. Of course, Waizman also knows that his proprietary recipe for bourekas, which involves a lot of butter instead of olive oil, is also doing plenty to keep people happily coming back. “This food touches a lot of people,” says Waizman, meaning both that the dish has resonated with thousands of Angelenos and that it is the kind of food that even people with certain dietary aversions can often enjoy. “It’s very light, and doesn’t fill you up.”
So what’s next for this tiny, maxed-out bourekas kitchen in the Valley? Waizman says that he has plans to expand, and hopefully soon — beginning with a second location deeper in the Valley. He’s also working on flipping his Psy Street Kitchen space into something new, an evening option that will have a pared-down menu alongside beer and wine, but that’s still about six months away. He says the simplicity of the Borekas operation has made him re-think his entire restaurant philosophy. “When you look all over LA at, like, Courage Bagels,” says Waizman, “they do this one thing, and it’s a beautiful secret. It’s something perfect and simple.”
There are talks with unnamed people to help jump the Borekas brand to several locations quickly, though Waizman says that managing the growth is of paramount importance. He wants to enable his current workers, and some future employees, to be partners in Borekas locations in a shared-ownership model. “I want people from my team to grow into this business,” says Waizman. “I don’t want just people with money; we have money. I don’t want 200 locations. I want 40, all over the U.S. It’s enough.”
Before all of that can happen, though, the 30-year-old Waizman is waiting on his first child with partner Gal. The two are expecting any day, and once the baby arrives, things will have to be different for the always-busy Uzi. “This is what I’m doing since I was 15,” he says. “I never did anything else. It’s like to sell your soul to the devil, it’s not even close to a normal job. Now, I need to take care of my life, my wife, my family. I cannot be in the kitchen every day all the time.”
That’s not to say that Waizman is done thinking big. “I wish Michelin would come and taste this pastry,” he says. “You never know.”
Borekas is open Sunday to Friday at 15030 Ventura Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 91403, keeping hours from 9 a.m. to sellout.