There is a sense of surprise when you walk into Honey Hi, the bright new bowl-focused cafe on Sunset Boulevard, in the heart of Echo Park. Honey Hi is startlingly white, clean and beautiful, with blond accents and an artfully simple aesthetic (much like the handful of customers scattered around the low tables inside). It stands out from its neighbors — a tattoo parlor, a hair salon and a Mexican market — but that isn’t why Honey Hi is surprising. No, the real shock is that it hasn’t been here longer — a health-conscious, vegan-friendly, immaculately designed breakfast and lunch spot is almost too obvious a match for this period in Echo Park’s history.
There is a temptation to giggle, maybe, at the “Ayurvedic jam” on the gluten-free sourdough tartine, at the $12 tigernut horchata, at the woman at the next table gently refusing to disclose the secret crystal spot at which she has just been shopping. But parsing the menu reveals that there is more to this place than a shallow glance would suggest — there is an adventurous spirit here, a willingness to experiment, to play with unusual flavors and ingredients, even if sometimes that might seem a little silly. But you knew what you were getting into when you walked in the door.
The bulk of the menu is devoted to a variety of bowls, each of which starts from a familiar place, such as breakfast or Morocco, before jumping off into strange, fun territory. That breakfast bowl, for example, is built with bacon and avocado on a base of sweet potato hash, before being topped off with sumac and a turmeric poached egg. All of the bowls share that sort of cross-cultural creativity; unlikely combinations such as Fresno chilies in the Thai bowl and togarashi spiced almonds in the miso bowl.
Gluten-free sourdough toasts make up the other important piece of the menu, and they display a similarly globetrotting set of influences, including the aforementioned version with Ayurvedic jam and ghee, as well as the one with chia jam and tahini and mint. The toast with paprika-roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, pickled onions and lemon is full of interesting contrasts, crunchy bread and a smush of avocado, of course, but also the richness of the potatoes and avocado playing off of the lemon and pickled onions, with an extra jolt of sumac on top.
As devoted as Honey Hi is to things in a bowl, toast and jam, and mildly uncomfortable seating, you would be forgiven for thinking you had walked into a new Sqirl. There is a familiar vibe in Honey Hi, too – it feels as if everyone knows one another, maybe from chapter meetings of the Rumpled Beauty Club, or maybe they all attended the Great American Fashion-Adjacent Small Business Owners Conference in 2012. It is the kind of thing that can leave you feeling a little left out, or it can give you a jolt of energy, as if you’re sitting at a table with the cool artsy kids in the cafeteria.
The energy you feel is not just from the crowd, either: The menu is packed with all sorts of healthy food, loaded with unusual vegetables, seeds and spices and complete with a side operation of smoothies and drinks made with house milk. That house milk is predictably unexpected, not cow or sheep or goat or soy but a combination of sprouted pumpkin seed and almond. If you want to treat yourself, try the grain-free chocolate chip cookie with coconut sugar, or if you’re feeling particularly nutrient-deficient, you can wind down with a hit of bone broth instead. Either way … you knew what you were getting into when you walked in the door.
1620 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. (213) 221-7810, honeyhi.co.