Inside the endlessly chic, ever sunlit, woman-friendly workspace of The Wing’s seventh location in West Hollywood, a well-appointed cafe sits in the middle of the space. Sandwiched between the elegant main room that houses most of the patrons throughout the day and a cheerful outdoor terrace that sometimes functions as the “party in the back” area of the space, The Perch cafe is both a recurring motif throughout every location, and a highly customizable section that can easily reflect each distinct region or neighborhood of a Wing space.
Happily providing free drip coffee, sparkling water (!) and filtered water to anyone who walks through the doors, along with a bevy of other offerings for those who want to sit down for sustenance in the middle of the work day, The Perch in Weho also proudly touts a menu dominated by female chefs, restaurateurs, winemakers, and other food creatives. And yes, before you ask, they have Sqirl jam. As a former New Yorker who was on her way out to California when The Wing first opened its door in Manhattan, the arrival of the co-working space in LA was something I’ve been highly anticipating, and I immediately joined when they opened their doors.
The Hollywood version of the cafe faced the not-so-simple task of incorporating a truly enormous array of cuisines, styles, and cult favorite into a single, succinct menu; not only is California the biggest state by far to host a Wing, but the Los Angeles food scene is arguably the best in the country. And if—if—you want to assert that New York has a horse in that race, consider that New York has three spaces and LA only has one.
Which is why it’s even more impressive that within the span of a single menu, Dani Dillon has created and curated a collection of dishes that seem to capture exactly what a local California girl would want on hand — and plenty of things I didn’t even know I wanted. For instance, I didn’t know I wanted a wine menu brimming solely with female California winemakers; it didn’t cross my mind that a restaurant would be able to replicate the cross-section of sophistication and representation that I’ve only ever encountered at a Marissa Ross event.
It didn’t occur to me that I wanted a strawberry Inna Shrub & Soda ($4) after a particularly prickly conference call left me parched too early in the work day to go for a sparkling wine. Inna originally began with Dafna Kory’s post-Thanksgiving hankering for jalapeno jam, but has since evolved to include a whole line of shrub (read: a fruit-vinegar-sugar syrup) products that are delicious combined with sparkling water, or as ingredients in cocktails.
If you do go for wine, though, I recommend trying the canned Una Lou rosé — a snappy, peachy Pinot Noir varietal named after winemaker Lia Ices’ daughter — coming out of Sonoma County for $25. This serving amounts to a half bottle, a generous two glasses for yourself, if you’re snuggled up in the space to watch Troop Beverly Hills for a couple hours on Friday night (love you, Jenny Lewis), or can be split with a friend or colleague for a great, almost effervescent drink that beats the other by-the-glass sparkler’s higher price point. (I’m a freelancer now, natch).
As the Culinary & Beverage Director, it’s Dillon who makes sure that the menus for each space reflect both the region’s cooking, and the chefs who are helping define each scene, while leaving plenty of space for the foodie geniuses who might not be superstars on Instagram or reality TV.
“When we highlight chefs that are big names, we want to balance it out by including individuals who don’t get a lot of media attention, or by highlighting a project that could use support,” Dillon told Food & Wine in April when the Weho location opened. “I think about how The Wing can use food & beverage to increase visibility by representing women who are otherwise underrepresented in a lot of food and beverage media.”
And that brings the menu back around full circle to The WIng’s foremost goal: the economic advancement of women. The famed Nancy Silverton shows up, but just for a breezy ricotta kale salad ($12), that I recommend as an app — the anchovies are divinely salty-sour, but it isn’t filling enough for a true meal. Delegates from Botanica, Kismet, Octavia, and El Jardin all crop up on a Weho exclusive tasting menu, that, perhaps unwittingly, is a good map for which of these often pricey and exclusive restaurants I might like to eventually go out and try. Key ingredients from Cowgirl Creamery and Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi appear in affordable dishes prove that price point need not define brilliance, either.
But like Dillon said, plenty of the menu comes to you deliciously celebrity-free, and the fact that these dishes are equally superb is a testament to her palate. Bub and Grandma’s house breads pop up time and again, and you can’t go wrong with any of their fares, but the sourdough will break your heart and put it back together. Get it cheap for breakfast with an order of Hatched Plans: two soft boiled eggs and generous swath of butter on a thick, warmed slice for $5.
If you’re looking for a workhorse meal, order a full portion of the Fattoush ($11), a truly satisfying mix of cucumber, tomato, cilantro, feta, chickpeas, and bits of crusty bread seasoned with hummus and lemon-Aleppo vinaigrette, and served in an enormous cereal-sized bowl. The dish can be easily tweaked for vegans (lose the feta) and the gluten-free (lose the croutons), and also comes in a half portion for $5 that is still plenty food for a working lunch.
Most of the menu is very mindful of vegans, vegetarians, the gluten-free, those with food allergies, or those embarking on any number of restrictive food programs, thus making the “no outside food or drink” policy a bit more bearable. Never once has a staffer turned up their nose at an alteration request, and the counter service has the same polish as the friendliest, high-end restaurants I’ve tried, from Brooklyn, to Paris, to Portland.
Feeding women will never be easy, and neither will representing California’s land of milk and honey abundance, but in The Perch, Dillon and her crew have made both gargantuan tasks look easy. Which is a reality and a triumph that most working girls will be very familiar with — it’s what women do.
Learn more about The Wing here.