Elf cafe, located at 2315 Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park on the same block as American Apparel and next to the abandoned movie theater, has no phone or website, but since this teeny vegetarian bistro is owned by the members of the band Viva K., they do have a myspace page. Elf, just so you know, is 18 years old and has 112 friends.
I don't know if the name refers to the restaurant's small size or its leanings toward leafy green things one might find in forests; probably both. The menu is very vegan friendly, if a bit plain. The other night I had a roasted carrot puree that tasted like carrots and not much else (which is fine!), and a kale salad that was tossed in a nice citrus dressing but presented without any fanfare as a gigantic pile of raw kale that definitely seemed a bit unmanageable. As one of my yoga teachers pointed out (because of course who else does one discuss the new veggie spot in town with?), the place is really a huge leap for east side restaurant kind, but there are those moments that you think to yourself, I could actually make this better. Like, MY carrot soup would have had a drizzle of cilantro chili oil to give it a little zip. And I barely even cook. And it's not like it's some macrobiotic minimalist thing. My friend Zoe had a polenta and roasted vegetable dish that I thought was delicious, but she characterized it as "total Santa Cruz," which means bland hippie food in her book.
However, even if the food were much less palatable, I would still dig this spot for its great chocolate brown walls and cozy ethnic chic decor, its BYOB policy, its limeade, and its fantastic potato and garlic puree that arrives on the table with crostini the moment you sit down. And did I mention the patrons? Definitely a place to meet a cute stranger or covet an imaginative outfit. One word of advice: arrive before 8pm, when everybody else is meeting their date, and you'll snag one of the prime window-side tables for two.