By Michelle Li
If you've ever considered ditching your work cubicle to live a fairytale existence, then Laila Borokhim is your hero. As the owner of the Persian restaurant Layla’s--Borokhim altered the spelling of her first name to keep the pronunciation simple for guests--she boldly left her office job to control her own destiny.
"I had my son two years ago, and I just didn’t want to go back," says Borokhim. "I wanted to show him that his mom was something. She had a dream and she followed through with it."
That dream is now being realized in a cozy space off Butler Street below the Madison Hostel. Borokhim is a one-woman-band restaurateur, server and janitor. And she still doesn’t question her sanity.
"I feel calm when I’m cooking," says Borokhim. "It's a labor of love."
The love of family has always inspired Borokhim. Her Iranian father moved to Madison to study engineering but stayed to open Borokhim's Oriental Rugs--now one of the oldest businesses on Monroe Street. Her dishes come from her grandmother’s kitchen, delightful and simple foods constructed mostly of rice and a protein. Many items feature organic and local ingredients.
Fesenjoon is the most popular dish, made of slow-cooked organic chicken in a walnut pomegranate sauce. The ghormeh sabzi--a close second--is an herb stew comprised of grass-fed beef, Persian limone and kidney beans.
The restaurant already claims many regulars, but Borokhim encourages diners to take a chance on her food. "It's good," says Borokhim. "Come give something different a try."
Layla's Persian Food
141 S. Butler St.