Valley Debut: Sweet Butter

It’s not as if Leslie Danelian didn’t already have a following when she opened Sweet Butter Kitchen, Café & Market earlier this year. The self-described foodie had run her own local catering operation for years. Still, she and husband Rick Berge were shocked when, days before the restaurant’s debut date, the phone started ringing off the hook.

It’s not as if Leslie Danelian didn’t already have a following when she opened Sweet Butter Kitchen, Café & Market earlier this year. The self-described foodie had run her own local catering operation for years. Still, she and husband Rick Berge were shocked when, days before the restaurant’s debut date, the phone started ringing off the hook. “We were crazy busy trying to get set up and the phone would not stop ringing,” Leslie says. “People wanted food!”

And when they did open? The crowds came in droves, lining up for breakfast and lunch (they close at 6 p.m.) and to pick-up chalkboard, take-out dinner specials like the wildly popular filet mignon. “We were so inundated those first days that we came home totally exhausted, not knowing and whether to laugh or cry!” Rick chuckles. The warm welcome hasn’t worn off.

Every day sidewalks in front of the Ventura Boulevard café are packed with diners wrapping around the corner. It’s a pretty happenin’ block, by the way—with Lisa Rinna’s Belle Gray catty-corner to Sweet Butter and Tori Spelling’s (also new) Inventori furniture shop right next store. Originally Leslie thought she’d benefit from their traffic. “But, turns out,” she giggles, “it’s the other way around!”

Sweet Butter occupies two adjacent buildings. In one, customers order at a counter displaying prepared dishes like
Vegan Quinoa Salad and Kale & Cranberry Salad with Pecans. Coffee and pastries are available at another counter. Next door, you’ll find Sweet Butter’s kitchen, also the hub for Leslie’s ongoing catering business. In between is a charming courtyard with tables and a small, trickling fountain.

But the spot seems to be the sidewalk tables —one of which, a rustic picnic table, came from Leslie’s nearby home. “Atmosphere is so important. I wanted it to feel beautiful but cozy. Plus, everyone is welcome here, from kids to dogs. I like to say everything is allowed.”

From the Croque Monsieur to the chopped grilled salad (“my version of The Ivy’s”), the menu is filled with local goods. “We use top-notch produce from a nearby farm and bread from the La Brea Bakery. I even hired our in-house baker after I met her at the Studio City farmers market,” Leslie says.

The couple is now gearing up to expand, possibly, to Pacific Palisades. “It’s been extremely rewarding,” Leslie says. “It’s like reaching a career pinnacle. People really seemed to enjoy my food when I was catering. But now, to watch them enjoy it in our restaurant, it’s incredible.”

Check out the café at sweetbutterkitchen.com.

Sweet Butter’s Egg Salad

24 organic eggs, boiled, peeled and mashed gently with:
½ cup garlic aioli
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup chopped cornichons
½ cup minced red onion
salt and fresh pepper to taste
dash Tabasco sauce
Makes 3 pounds or 6 sandwiches.
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