Elf Cafe anyone been recently
My husband and I just got back from Elf and a movie tonight (Wednesday night) - it was excellent. We went at about 7pm and did not have to wait at all. Our server told us Thursdays seem to be the busiest night for them. I had read several reviews under another chowhound thread about this place, a few of which mentioned the hipper-than-thou vibe - we did not pick up on this in the least. The personnel were totally friendly, as other reviewers have said, and I can't say enough good about it. It's a great neighborhood place, the prices are not too high IMO especially for organic, and the food was excellent. This is not a vegetarian place, this is a place that serves good food and happens to be vegetarian. There is no sense of meat-substituting. Elf delivers fresh plant-based food in a way that highlights the plant. They don't have a website, they don't have a phone, and they aren't open Monday and Tuesday, and there's still no sign, and it's BYOW w/$5 corkage. The appetizers on the menu tend toward Mediterranean-style tapas dishes: they have a lentil and caramelized onion stew in a small crock, a fava bean puree (fool mudammas - sp?) served with pita, and of course the raw kale salad with citrus dressing, sesame seeds, and avocado that everyone is mentioning, all of which are very good, in addition to a tahini avocado dip and a few other things that we'll be trying on our next visit, next week (we live right by). My husband had the tagine, also a popular dish with other chowhound reviewers, and it was delish (not served in a tagine, but with Moroccan spices, cous cous and a VERY spicy harissa, served on the side). I had the roasted tomato feta tart, which came with a perfectly dressed balsamic salad, and I was told the tart crust (which comes closed like an envelope, not like a pie) was vegan (!) which is a miracle because it was flaky, buttery, and delicious. Then we couldn't help ourselves and had to order the special, which was a beautiful vegetable torte made in a springform pan with phyllo dough, red onions, spinach, cherry tomatoes, feta, and squash (?), and it was also delicious. I keep saying delicious, but that's what it was. We also saw a portabello sandwich, mentioned in other reviews, and a kind of baked pasta pie go by, and can't wait to try those, in addition to the fresh peach tarte tatin with cream we saw, and the mac and cheese we heard about. Lots of work goes into good tart crust, phyllo dough, and caramelizing onions, apparently a staple on their menu, so I don't think the prices are high at all. Did I mention it's only 9 tables? And most importantly, and most overlooked by other reviewers, all this wonderful fresh and high quality yet downhome-ish food is served out of a shoebox of a kitchen that, minus the refrigeration, could probably be packed up and shoved into a cargo van and set up somewhere else. There is no sautee line, only a very small electric oven, 3 or 4 electric stove tops, a soup warmer, a small steam pan setup, and a miniature garde manger area, and 2 cooks kicking butt. To think that some reviewers have liked this place better than the much more well-endowed Canele. Amazing. I say, Go, Elf!
I disagree with lizzyjk--I like Elf (have been twice) and I don't think the prices are too high. They are in the $9-14 range, portions are decent, ingredients are organic, and corkage is low ($5). They give you complimentary snacks to start that are a step up from the boring bread basket--one time I had a garlicky potato spread with toasts, another a small dish of roasted cinnamon almonds and a small dish of olives. They also put cucumber in their water, which I love.
Also, I've always enjoyed the cozy atmosphere, have never been cramped (even eating on a Saturday night), and have felt welcomed in my decidely "unhip" gap jeans and symetrical haircut. The staff is super-friendly and it's a very pleasant spot.
I've been to Elf twice in the past two months for dinner, the first time someone else treated and I quite enjoyed my meal: kale salad in particular stood out. However, the second time I decided that the food was overpriced (bill came to $40 for only 3 entrees, no drinks, no appetizers). Also, the ultra-hip crowd that lines up early hovers over the few tables, making a leisurely meal out of the question. While it's great to have an all vegetarian restaurant that isn't part of the Vegan Paradise dynasty thrown into the mix, I have to say that my feelings for Elf have soured somewhat. While the food is nicely thought out and prepared, I feel strongly enough about the cons of high prices and a cramped environment to give the place a hearty "meh." If everything on the menu were $3 cheaper and the restaurant made people wait outside for tables, I would heartily recommend.