Sunday, March 04, 2007
Elf Cafe, Echo Park
Now I love my veggies and cook meatless meals frequently, but a vegetarian restaurant usually sends me scurrying in the other direction. All-vegetables conjurs up images of the spots in my college town of Northampton, MA, earnest but tasteless, or the scary raw/vegan joint in New York that cost an arm and a leg, though I had to bus my own plate because "we're all equal."
Thankfully, the newish Elf Cafe in Echo Park has erased those memories. The menu of this cozy, tiny organic veggie spot, run by local band Viva K, tends toward the Middle Eastern/Persian, and when you step in the door you're enveloped in the scent of fragrant spices and simmering onions. The friendly staff welcomes you with glasses of cucumber water and a ramekin of just-pungent-enough potato-garlic spread and toasts, gratis (pictured, left). As we settled into our corner table and perused the menu, my vegetarian dining companions remarked upon the pleasure of not having to settle for the lonesome veggie item on a regular restaurant menu. Some Chowhounders have complained about "hipstery pretentiousness" but either they're overly sensitive, or I've become a pretentious hipster--I thought it was easy-going and welcoming.
Elf serves up multiple savory tarts served on a bed of greens and a fairly large selection of pressed sandwiches. I went with the special, a hearty vegetarian kibbe (pictured, right). Kibbe is a Middle Eastern meatloaf, full of cinnamon, pine nuts, and of course, beef or lamb. This version was made with potatos, layered with the spice/nut mix, and I gobbled most of it up. The side of green beans in tomato sauce paled in comparison, not bad, but nothing exciting either.
Elf is only open Wednesday thru Saturday, beginning at 6 pm. No liquor license yet, so head to the spot a few doors east (next to the Burrito King) to pick up Trader Joe's-esque wine (though not TJ's prices) and pay the $5 corkage. Also, as ApronNapkin noted, it's very warm inside, so dress accordingly.
More reviews from Epicurean Quest (a haiku!) and Metroblogging LA.
2135 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Photos by the always awesome Jill