I’m known for sharing tips on the best places to eat – it comes very easily to me, especially when the eater is adventurous or open to anything.
A friends who works in A&R for an independent label and often needs to travel to work with talent calls me regularly for fancy yet hip restaurant recommendations when she’s in Los Angeles. For whatever reason, however, musicians signed to her label tend to be finicky eaters. Or, perhaps as an adventurous eater open to anything, I tend to think of vegetarians as finicky.
Enter Elf Café
, a dark savior on the corner of Sunset and Alvarado in Echo Park—A true vegetarian restaurant that relies on the deep and honest flavor of a vegetable properly prepared. Elf Café abstains from all meat and synthetic meat products attempting to taste and appear to be meat, as well as tofu and soy in general. Many of the dishes in Elf’s kitchen are vegan or can be made vegan while still retaining a hearty satiating quality. The words “Mediterranean” and “Moroccan” appear often on Elf’s menu with olives, pita, hummus, and harissa. But don’t look for a hookah.
The menu features earthy rich flavors inspired by the European continent, as well, such as a gluten-free risotto, a savory crepe filled with house made goat cheese butter (pictured), and pappardelle with saffron cream coated mushrooms. Everything from the baked sheep feta and tomatoes starter dish to the Turkish apple tart for dessert is prepared in an all-electric open kitchen on view to the dining room.
Even the décor underlines the comfort food feel. One brick wall, deep hues of brown on adjacent walls, and large potted plants surround diners enjoying a roasted beet with braised fennel or a baked tart with thyme and garlic. The effect reminds me of romantic cinematic moments where lovers share wine in the glow of candlelight. By the way, another crowd pleaser at Elf is the low $5 corkage fee for you BYOB folks. And,
It may be no coincidence that the proprietors of Elf Café have themselves a background in music. In fact, Chef Scott Zwiezen was first and continues to be in an experimental indie-rock band called Viva K with business partners Astara Calas and Evan Haras. (Listen at http://www.myspace.com/vivak.) The vibe at Elf can be inferred from the kind of music the owners make together—an earnest, up-tempo celebration of life with sustained crescendo. They serve restaurant patrons with joy and sincere welcome, and I would be lying if I said I haven’t felt like applauding after every meal.