Layla’s Persian Food serves simple, savory fare

Owner Laila Borokhim left her office job to pursue her restaurant dream
Layla’s Persian Food serves simple, savory fare
Photos by Nicole Peaslee

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.