Our Critics' Picks


Elf Cafe

2135 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Critics' Pick
Best Of
Elf Cafe +

Courtesy Elf Cafe


  • Mon.-Sat., 6-11 p.m.
  • $$
  • Vegetarian Friendly, Wheelchair Accessible, Patio/Sidewalk Dining, Takeout
  • Dinner
  • No Alcohol
  • Street Parking
  • Reservations Not Accepted
When the lilliputian Elf Cafe opened in 2006, Echo Park was not yet home to million-dollar homes and organic grocery stores. Instead it shared a stretch of Sunset Boulevard with Burrito King’s adorable donkey marquee and American Apparel’s first U.S. store, which opened in 2003. The area was transitioning, but you could still witness an occasional drive-by while waiting line for a Dresden Dolls show at Jensen’s Rec Center. More than a decade later, Dov Charney’s flagship store is gone but Elf remains, serving inspired fare with cooking steeped in Moroccan, Indian and continental European traditions. It’s a meatless restaurant, not that it matters. The simple but elegant restaurant survived the arrival next door of Mohawk Bend, the behemoth vegan- and vegetarian-friendly beer hall from Golden Road Brewing impresario Tony Yanow. Why does Elf persist? Every dinner here feels like a special occasion. Maybe it’s the dining room enshrouded with plants or the warm, yolky glow of the filament bulbs that make entrees such as kale with Tunisian chermoula salad look almost like Flemish still-lifes, plated with delicate precision. Founded by Scott Zwiezen and Astara Calas, Elf has been recently shaped by chef Dave Martinez, who joined the team in 2013 after working at West Hollywood’s Soho House. His imagination flourished on the menu in dishes such as risotto with saffron cream, maitake and chanterelle mushrooms; baked feta in grape leaves; and unmissable flaky puff pastries. In a lot of ways, Elf is the last remnant of the late ’90s/early 2000s Northeast L.A. vibe, when neighborhood haunts weren’t just places to be seen on Instagram. —Drew Tewksbury

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