Best New Restaurant In The Eastside Echo Park/Silverlake…?

There’s no phone, no web site yet, and no sign. But Elf, despite its lack of distinguishing markings, has my heart.

I don’t like salad. I don’t like, well, green things. Unless they are pistachios. Or candy. I like candy.

Who woulda thunk a vegetarian, mostly-vegan joint would get my vote as best new restaurant of the year? But this place makes me love fresh kale. This is no minor feat.

viva%20k.jpg

Elf–so named for its tiny little dining room–seems to be enjoying the benefit of outstanding word of mouth and a supportive vegetarian/vegan community on the Eastside, because despite having no ads & no signage, the place has been packed every time I’m there. And it doesn’t hurt that its proprietors, servers and chefs are beloved fixtures in the area as well: owner Scott Zwiezen and servers/hosts Ween Callas, Ravi Dhar and Evan Haros are all members of local band Viva K! (photo by Tryan George)

Viva K (myspace) is an unusual hybrid of Indian influences and guitar-rock explosiveness. They’re a buncha ass-kickin’ urban neo-hippies, and they freakin’ rock.

I was sent to Elf for a food review for a paper I freelance for, and so I brought my pal Evan, a major foodie, standout chef, and vegetarian connoiseur. There’s no way I can eat enough food by myself to do a decent food review. Evan was the second mouth I needed.

We were blown backwards in our comfy little chairs by how delish the food is. The organic kale salad with citrus dressing and hemp seeds is a yummy surprise, the nutty richness of the fresh, organic kale making it an eye-opening specialty. The hemp seeds add a subtle buttery undertone to the sweet citrus dressing. A spinach and herb soup gets drizzles of olive oil and yogurt (dairy optional), with a delicate minty undertone. For those wanting something more decadent, the gorgonzola mac and cheese with baked organic penne is just what the doctor [didn’t] order: rich and buttery with gorgonzola’s warm, funky flavor and perfectly al dente pasta. An entr√©e of roasted beet and braised fennel with wild rice pilaf–studded with perfect little dices of carrot–is drizzled with a gorgeous port wine reduction that’s a perfect pairing with the beets, but that’s also brilliant against the fennel’s subtle licorice flavor.

For those raw-foods folks, there’s a beautiful plate of raw Middle-Eastern specialties: organic hummus, tabouleh and falafel all served on a scatter of crimson cabbage, accompanied by deliciously salty olives, and served with crisp flax crackers made from whole, dried flaxseeds.

Don’t get me wrong. I like meat. I served grilled tri-tip with a port reduction and a gorgonzola sauce for Christmas dinner. But I love vegan food, and raw food does always make me feel healthier. I tried unsuccessfully to convert to vegetarianism during my first few years of college. I did okay for a year, but was lured back by bacon.

Mmm, bacon: the Gateway Meat.

But anyway, off the top of my head I don’t know Elf’s address, but it’s just west of Alvarado on Sunset Blvd., on the north side of the street. Go. Sit at the little bar up against the cooking area and chat with the folks cooking, because they are super nice. It is yum. Sheer, unadulterated yum.

A visual aid for finding it: click to biggify. It’s the place without a sign, right next to the shuttered white theatre.
ELF.JPG

36 Replies to “Best New Restaurant In The Eastside Echo Park/Silverlake…?”

  1. ummm, after you biggify, you can see it’s two doors west of 2131 Sunset, on the North side of the street. I believe thats just a bit across from the Chief auto parts (on the south side of Sunset).

    Hope that helps!

  2. Oh, you mean Echo Park, I thought you were going to talk about the Eastside. When will these newbies learn…

  3. I know, I know. But after living in Los Angeles ALL MY LIFE, I’ve found the culture seems to undergo the greatest “Easside/Wesside” transformation in the strip between Western & Vermont. It’s around there that the homogenized blandness (sorry, Westside fans) that is the Westside seems to fade into a landscape of greater diversity and a more local character.

    I’m sure this comment will piss even more people off. ;)

  4. Very cool MIchele. I’ve been past that place many times in the last year or so when it only had an “A” card in the window and nothing else going on inside. I was a little worn out when it opened a couple months ago and opted for that no-name-on-the-marquee thing and as such had no idea what it was called or what they served and interimly named it the WTF restaurant . At least I had the number of letters right.

    Oh and the westside? That ends at La Brea. Period. Anything east of that Avenue is just uncivilized to some people who’ve never been on a surface street across that line of dermarkation.

  5. Yah. I have to agree with Will. Anything east of La Brea, that’s eastside. Just ask anyone from Santa Monica. Fun to have a new healthy place in the hood. Thanks

  6. Great entry, we can’t wait to try Elf, which is really close to us 30 something, aging hipsters, Left Coast leaning, NorthEastsiders, West Pasadenaites, South LaCanadians homesteaders in Highland Park.

    Down with the Westies!

    Big Cheers,

    Big Mo

  7. Atwater Newbie,
    Bullshit. You can keep trying to rewrite history just because you and your friends suddenly find it fit to dismiss my part of town (the Eastside/East LA) but that’s not going to happen. The last million people that moved to LA are most likely Latino,and they generally do consider the Eastside to be on the other side of the river. Yes, we know that you’re trying to distinguish yourself from that “Westside” you can no longer afford, but for many of us that place is not a point of reference, nor is it even on our maps. Go ahead and call me an “oldbie” but you’ll not erase my sense of place that easily. What a nightmare to have the tourists think they can define this city and dismiss a shitload of people as inconsequential.

    http://lacitynerd.blogspot.com/2006/12/eastside-westside-all-around-town.html

  8. El Chavo I dig your proprietary community spirit but it seems you missed a section of the LA City Nerd’s post in question, which pretty much includes the very areas east of the L.A. River that you think the Nerd’s ignored and that he defines as the eastside:

    The Eastside
    Again, for the eastside, Downtown & Chinatown are not inlcuded, so you’re looking at the LA River east from about the 10 north. This includes Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Montecito Heights, Highland Park, Monterey Hills, Glassel Park, Hermon, Mount Washington, Cypress Park, Eagle Rock, and Garvanza. These ar the areas that are partly in CD14 and partly in CD1.

  9. I guess if the whole Eastside dividing line had changed gradually, naturally then it might be acceptable. For us natives though, it seems to have been imposed on us by outsiders and newcomers. Imagine if I moved to the Lower East Side in NY and started calling it Upper Manhattan. New Yorkers wouldn’t go for that, so why should we Angelenos? It’s disrespectful to those of us that have history in this city and also negates the real Eastside of the city and it’s millions of inhabitants.

  10. Every city is a mutable, shifting concept more than a geographic designation. For those ticked off that the idea of where the “Eastside” begins has moved over time due to “outsiders & newcomers,” I feel your pain. FWIW, this website is largely frequented by folks who seem to know the Westside well and who’ve subsequently gravitated east due to their affinity for the sense of community there. So this website will reflect their mental image they have of Los Angeles: one where the eastside begins around east Hollywood. For natives of, say, Boyle Heights, there’ll be a different conception of the city and its regions.

    This whole thread seems to just point to how a city is more of an IDEA than a corporeal boxlike thingy with boundaries and clear definition.

  11. A city’s traditional boundaries and designations aren’t shifting–just because you didn’t know that the LA River divides the city doesn’t mean that designation isn’t real. A city isn’t an idea, (what weird thing to write) but certainly is a place with boundaries and definitions. Your ideas about what’s familiar and important to you are shifting and fluid and that’s fine. But to decide that the eastside has shifted because you think so is frankly disrespectful to those whose community spirit you admire so. Where the eastside begins hasn’t shifted, you’re just trying to make your version stick.

  12. I had no idea there was any difference of opinion at all until I read these posts. I thought Western was the undisputed line!

    –Los Feliz resident who wants no part of the Westside label!

  13. Oh, puhleeze. Why is that ONLY those clinging to that amorphous head space some call the “East” side feel the need to defend their turf? Those of us on the west side just go about our business, secure in our boundaries and obviously superior psychogeography.

    (Note to the humor impaired: look up “tongue-in-sheek” in a dictionary)

  14. Eastside IS East of the Los Angeles River. Aspiring actors/actresses (broken dreams a-plenty), out-of-towners, and general aging hipster yuppies should not dictate where “The Eastside” begins. Sorry if you don’t like it, but you can’t change history.

  15. I can certainly see how it makes sense to divide the city at the river, geographically speaking. When did so many people sort of decide it was Western Avenue?

  16. …and okay then: what’s the best new restaurant to open up in the “real” Eastside this year? This started out as a story about a great vegetarian restaurant. …although, if you told anyone who grew up in Echo Park, went to school there, or had kids there, that they were–surprise!!!–living on the WESTSIDE, I think they might lunge for your throat.

  17. Best new restraunt in LA, El Bueon Gusto
    on Glendale Blvd. Only need to have a beer
    and some chips (they don’t have any).
    Order the home made tortillas’s.

  18. I’ve never been a huge fan of calling Silverlake/Echo Park the “eastside,” but I’ve always found it funny that people in East LA or Lincoln Heights or Boyle Heights will argue about it ’til they’re blue in the face while ignoring the fact that theres, oh, 40 miles of city to the east of them. If anybody’s going to be a geographical bitch about it (as opposed to recognizing the cultural justifications for calling it the eastside), then they’d better STFU and give some props to Covina or Glendora.

  19. 5000!: much of that 40 miles east of say Boyle Heights has only existed as settled, suburban areas contiguous with say downtown Los Angeles for mostly well less than 50 years, and even since then, mostly as suburban sprawl lacking clear centers of history and identity. While Boyle Heights et al were populated and contiguous with downtown Los Angeles with very established communities with all the services that that includes well before WWII, Covina et al were still largely citrus farms. Many of the areas just east of downtown that we’re talking about have been settled/developed and incorporated into the metropole of Los Angeles for nearly a full century, in some cases even longer. While places like Pomona and Ontario and Covina certainly had small settlements of residents, and may even have incorporated themselves nearly as long ago, they were distinctly not a part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, which is probably why for those residents here with a sense of history and longer family memories, those places don’t figure in the equation, as they are not commonly identified as part of the city of Los Angeles (even if we understand that that sense of city includes places like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Culver City, all of which are not the city of Los Angeles itself).

    And, I’d argue, those cities east of the “eastside” still don’t figure in to the equation of the sense of what is Los Angeles.

    But I really, REALLY, *REALLY* don’t want to start another argument about what divides the Eastside of LA from what’s just east of LA. Otherwise, soon we’ll be arguing about the Mississippi River!

  20. To tie it all up… I am confident in saying that there is no “line” that divides the City east and west. There is an Eastside, commonly accepted as east of the river, and a Westside, which I assert is west of La Cienega (generally). The area in between is neither east nor west: it’s either Hollywood, Mid City, Downtown or any number of derivitives. So, if you’re talking about Silver Lake, guess what, call it Silver Lake – becasue that’s what it is.

    More here.

  21. El Chavo, I’m not dismissing your part of town. I’m
    trying to join it. Half of Atwater Village is Hispanic. And all of it is east of the LA River. No matter how you look at it, you and me, we’re both east-siders. Peace?

  22. See what I mean? You let the newbies start doctoring local history and you get an Eastside nestled between Griffith Park and Glendale, whatever you say! Why not just call it Atwater, or Upper Frogtown if you want to be special? I don’t even call Lincoln Heights the Eastside, it’s LH! But really, that whole Western thing just proves the point: you want the term Eastside just to wave it as a flag for your culture battle with the clods from the West-Westside, and they’re not even looking. For some of us, the term actually means something.
    If you’re so insecure that you need their social gaze for validity, have at your boring little fight. Just leave “Eastside” out of it.

  23. I will agree with El Chavo that the hipster eastside is quickly being branded by newbies. However, it can also be considered the new hipster Eastside was the old Eastside at the turn of the century. I’ve been to the Eastside Deli in Chinatown and it’s linked to a former Little Italy that was long buried away.

    With the shift of demographics, eastside was linked with East LA — across the LA river where it runs north and south that includes Boyle Heights and LH. (Nerdly I add, East LA is county, not city and they are looking to incorporate)

    But Chavo, I have to respect Lincoln Heights history as part of East LA. Lincoln Heights Jail is where the “Christmas Eve Massacre” occurred and Lincoln Heights High School is where the 1960s walkout took place. All deemed part of East LA civil rights history. Now with a layer of Latinos with no ties to ‘chicanoism’, the ethos is changing as we speak.

    There will be constant overlapping of neighborhoods. With it’s rich history as Edendale — Silverlake and EchoPark grew from Downtown, so it’s just LA to me. A soulful noir LA. Eastside? Maybe. East LA? No.

    As long as people are here establishing new layers of neighborhood identity, it can be valid as long as all the history is taken into context. Maybe not all 225 years, and not just 50 year. At least the last 100 years.

  24. If the West Side ends at La Cienega, then that leaves more than half of West Hollywood, part of Beverly Hills, and a tiny part of Culver City out of the “West Side”. Fairfax is probably more a more accurate boundary – using that definition, all of Beverly Hills and Culver City, and more than half of WeHo (i.e. the part closer to Beverly Hills than to Hollywood proper), would be in the West Side.

    The new “Eastside” – which is ridiculous to anyone who grew up in L.A. – was originated to describe Los Feliz and Silver Lake because – prior to gentrification in Echo Park and downtown- those were the farthest east areas in L.A. that had substantial numbers of non-Latino whites. I’d refer to that as the “white peoples’ east side”.

    Of course there are people from Silver Lake and East Hollywood who think that the West Side begins at Vine St., and people from Venice who think the “west side” ends at Centinela Ave. or even Lincoln Blvd., but those aren’t serious definitions.

  25. After much semi-sober reflection and some offlist chatting with El Chavo, I concede that “The Eastside” is anything east of the LA River. So I’ve changed the headline to reflect that. I still think, however, that this RESTAURANT (hello, this was a post about a fricken’ restaurant…go eat there, for fuck’s sake) is one of the best joints to open this past year in the half of LA that I brutally, senselessly and randomly chop off at Western Avenue. If there are new restaurants in East LA, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Echo Park, Silverlake, Edendale, Highland Park, Mount Washington, Glassell Park, Alhambra, Monterey Park, City Terrace, Cypress Park, Boyle Heights, Central City East, Westlake, Wilshire Center, K-Town, Atwater, Los Feliz or East Hollywood that are just as good, better than, or even approaching this one in sheer tastiness, presentation, atmosphere & style, speak now or forever hold your peace.
    Heh.

  26. Thanks Michele for taking the time to find out the facts and for clarifying the issue for a lot of people.
    As a Eastside vegetarian, I’m looking forward to trying out the new restaurant!

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