On Sunset Boulevard, near a corner strip mall featuring both a cheap burrito stand and a liquor store (a dangerous combination in the patrons it attracts--often fighting, occasionally disrobed) and yet another outlet of American Apparel, is Elf Cafe. The restaurant, opened by members of the LA band Viva K., serves up "vegan, vegetarian, and raw food in Echo Park."
The first time we visited this tiny hole-in-the-wall cafe, we were seated right away at bar stools, facing the small kitchen area. It didn't feel cramped--it felt quaint. I thought our dishes to be the richest, most wonderful foods I'd ever tried. The new-agey music, the light din of conversation, the smell of the food...well, I thought I'd found a culinary Utopia.
This past Saturday, we returned...
The food: On our first visit we ordered the Crepe and the Blue Cheese and Potato Tart. A-flippin-mazing. Last Saturday involved a Moroccan stew over quinoa that felt more Mulligan Stew than gourmet (I found three almonds, a couple of orange rinds and one olive at random) and a Vegetable Torte that was innocuous but didn't live up to its price tag. I will, however, give it up for our starter, a baked feta dish that made me, for the first time, like feta.
The service: We arrived at 8:30 and were told we'd have a 25 minute wait. We went across the street. We returned. We were told we'd have another 20 minute wait. We were patient. We watched other parties get sat (parties who I am sure were not there before us but were merely friends of the owner). We thought about telling couples they were taking too long. We didn't. We were finally sat at 10 pm. Umm, that is an hour and a half wait time last time I checked. Get it straight, hostess girl.
The verdict: If you tried heroine and it was really, reeaalllly good the first time, you'd do it again. And if the second or the third time, it didn't feel quite right--well, you'd probably still do it again because you'd already had a taste. But had you overdosed on the first attempt, you'd be done for good. Let's just say, round two at Elf Cafe was sort of like a bad trip. But since the first time was so good, I'll be back for more. (Disclaimer: I've never tried heroine. Seriously.)
Celeb sighting: Michaela Conlin, who I very much heart from Bones.
Photo Credit: James L. on Yelp