It's sort of neat how each Silver Lake eatery has its own unique set of clientele; I see people here that I don't see at Millie's, nor even at Good (not that we go to Good). Flore is the current occupant in this particular tucked-between-stores space, having a more solid premise than Prasadam before it. It has a notable urban hippie commune feel, which is no surprise considering its vegan menu and deli counter. From time to time we like to wring out our gastronomical selves and get a meatless experience.
It's actually open fairly late (10pm on weekdays) but I like breakfast from Flore. The Blueberry Buckwheat Bliss is an astounding pair of pancakes with crisp edges, almost muffinesque in texture; I'm not a fan of really fluffy blankets of batter anyway. Blueberries and pecans are griddled into it, and it's served with organic maple syrup, soy butter and blueberry/apple preserve on top. The breakfast burrito has Flore's Tofu Scramble in it, with tempeh bacon*, potatoes, cashew cheese and avocado. It's larger than it looks.
Flore makes a relaxed blended ice mocha, and coffee so subtle and gentle that it needs no cream or sugar. They also have organic fruit juices if you're wiser about morning beverages than we are.
Parking is along Sunset or along the hilly streets that sprout from it.
Its little cousin down the street has died off, but it had been reduced to a lackluster brunch buffet anyway. Meet Market replaced it, and is also closed in favor of the Food Lab, which will probably also succumb to the void-creating mass that is Dusty's.
* I like tempeh bacon better than typical veggie bacon or turkey bacon. Those latter two try to be bacon, and fail miserably, only ending up dry, brittle and worthy only as packing foam. Tempeh is a soy product and doesn't try; aside from the shape, it just feels like a flat strip of lentil loaf, which is much tastier than that sounds.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Healthy/Organic, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park )
At first glance this seems like the kind of place I leave to gushing magazine reviewers and self-proclaimed foodies, because of an overabundance of fennel and foie gras, or a preference for intricately designed dishes over a patron's full tummy. Elements is a tiny place, with tiny tables; four inside, a few outside along the sidewalk.
The culinary experience, however, is extraordinary. A crisply dressed person, friendly, helpful and utterly lacking in attitude, will introduce the seasonal menu to you. The chef may come out and chat. You rearrange your table settings to try to fit everything, especially your tall glass of iced hibiscus tea, zippy and slightly sour, with a penchant for staining lips and tongue. They also present a dish of buttery toasted bread slices with a sundried tomato tapenade.
The first and best thing about the lunch was the tak daal, a rich and luxurious Indian lentil soup. Every day the soup is different. Your lunch menu is brief but creative: a Cuban pulled pork sandwich with black bean hummus and plantains; a cold chicken escabeche sandwich on a europane baguette, with Bolivian chicken and a spicy Sriracha mayonnaise; curry chicken, either as a sandwich or a salad, zestful without being heavy on celery; a tuna panini with tarragon and Chaubier cheese on sourdough.
And, hello? I can has Mac n' Cheese with a choice of bacon, chicken, mushrooms, veggies or truffle butter? Kthxbai!
The dishes are all fantastic, filling and really not expensive considering the obvious learning of the chefs (the sandwiches range from $10 to $14). You may or may not have room for the bevy of desserts, such as a blood orange sorbet or a cucumber and key lime sorbet.
Elements Kitchen is open basically for lunch to early dinner (11-6), and closed on Sundays and Mondays, which is a very L.A. thing to do (the "closed on Mondays" thing seems to be spreading all over our culinary landscape). They also cater.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Healthy/Organic, Pasadena/San Gabriel/Alhambra, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
Rowena Avenue is at the top end of Silver Lake, before it spills over onto the 5 Freeway, and it's got a few eateries. The Coffee Table is the refuge of dog-owners, studious types and breakfast aficianados. The line is always at least seven people deep, but calm and quick to move. The interior is artsy, with local paintings and photographs and a few "no cell phones" placards. The tables are stained glass (probably from Furthur). There's a front patio (smoking and dogs okay) and a warm, wooden-floored back patio.
They'll get started on your drink before you get up to the front. Chai lattes they do well, hot mochas, and mocha macchiatos. There's free water from a metal dispenser, and paper menus to help explain what's available on the wall.
The pancakes or tofu scramble always taste really good when stolen from Bianca's plate; the Eggs from Hell (cheese, black beans, and what they call "hell sauce") have a nice kick to them, but I think I'll ask for something different than the sun-dried tomato tortilla next time. The chorizo and eggs come with black beans and a pile of chopped pico de gallo, and need only a few shakes of Cholula to complete them. For lunch, we always try out a place's turkey burger, and Coffee Table passes the test. Large, rich, comes with gourmet mustard.
There's also a location in Eagle Rock that opened up. It's got more of a Santa Cruz-esque casual family coffee shop feel, with loosely drawn Mexican-style murals of the local landscape. The outdoor seating is on the sidewalk, subject to the sun's rays. They have something I don't recall the Rowena location having: Croissant French Toast. It's as good as it sounds. Again, really tasty when stolen from Bianca's plate.
Other major differences are that 1) the Coffee Table in Eagle Rock has beer, ale and wine: Stella Artois, Guinness, Bass, Chimay Ale, and a few other microbrews; and 2) has a lounge downstairs with electric blue vinyl booths, a massive TV (they show movies on Mondays), a TouchTunes jukebox, and all those beers and ales on tap. Very much a hangout, and we plan to go get a Black & Tan soon. Parking can be found on the side streets or behind the Taco Spot.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Healthy/Organic, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Diner, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American, Coffee/Tea/Desserts )
This is not the kind of taco place into which you stumble after a particularly vigorous night of bar-hopping, sorely in need of something greasy to soak up your spirit-laden bloodstream.
It's more the kind of place where you can get Mexican-derived food and feel good about it. Not super authentic, yet not Chipotle Grill. Normally I'm not wild about "fresh Mex" places that make a point of not using lard, has tofu, etc., because the cuisine often requires dousing with red sauce, cheese and Cholula to give it some form of flavor (Baja Fresh, I'm looking at you).
Taco Spot does better. It has cochinita and al pastor, for one thing, and ahi instead of mahi-mahi (the latter tends to bore me). They serve breakfast all day, from three-egg chorizo omelettes to a soy-rizo burrito, and a myriad of burritos, tacos, salads and vegetarian dishes for lunch and dinner. I've tried the carnitas and the al pastor, and while they aren't melting with food-coma inducement, I found them good.
The salsa bar is fully stocked. The "Colorado Blvd." sauce is their hottest, and while it has that perilous shade of orange that suggests it might be radioactive in its heat index, it's actually not very hot at all. Most of the salsas in fact are tasty but don't bury the meter on the Scoville scale. The avocado salsa is cool and refreshing.
It's definitely a guiltless lunch spot for me. There's a small lot in back (hung with threatening "90-minutes only, and you totally better park in a space devoted to the business you're patronizing or puppies will die" signs) which is shared by an adjacent pilates place and the Coffee Table restaurant across the street (the same people as the Coffee Table in Silver Lake).
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Mexican, Vegetarian/Vegan, Healthy/Organic, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock )
Cheebo's been around a while, keeping a solidly cool presence in a quieter, more tree-laden section of Sunset. Some people have loved it since it arrived, some are irritated due to slow or impolite service. Bianca and I haven't run into that; in fact, our most recent visit was made better by Melessa, our very capable waitress who was basically working the entire restaurant by herself (they lighten the waitstaff on Mondays and Tuesdays). Yes, it took a while, but the point was to be out having a nice dinner, so we sat enjoying a bottle of Argentinean malbec, listening to experimental noise-electronic limping and bleating from overhead, and peeking at the Dodgers losing on the television over the bar.
Cheebo makes a point of keeping as much of its menu organic as possible, and turns out some fabulously good fare. I was a little startled not to find my favorite sandwich on the menu (the Slo-Roasted Pork & Manchego), but found that it had been retitled the Porkwich, a name of which I'm unsure I approve. They also have a mesquite-grilled flank steak rolled with prosciutto, sopressata and mortadella, with provolone and white beans. They have large, rectangular pizzas that seem good to the eye (I haven't tried them yet).
On our last visit, we did pasta. Bianca had the special: penne with chicken, asparagus and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes in a white wine garlic sauce. I had the rigatoni with sausage and mushrooms in a white sauce, and it was one of the most ludicrously flavorful pasta dishes I've had in a while. The vegan lentil soup was thin but tasty, and the grilled polenta tots appetizer was taken home for the next day.
(We were also amused by a young man on the phone near us: "Yeah, man, I'm over at Cheesebo... Cheesebo... on Sunset... you know, like 'smile, cheese'..?")
They have a list of organic teas such as Egyptian camomile and masala chai to settle you afterward. We had no dessert this time around, but I understand there's a flourless caprese cake with chocolate and marzipan that might be worth a look.
Is it expensive? Yeah, kind of. About sixty bucks without the wine. But that's with a soup, an appetizer, a pasta, and a special, so there are other places that are heavier on the purse. There's valet parking but we usually glide westward a bit and park near the All American Burger joint. The north-south streets are brutally permit-only, as in "no parking ever, really; don't even turn left after ten o'clock."
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Hollywood, Healthy/Organic, American, Pizza )
Yes, it was before the movie
8020 Beverly Blvd. (west of Fairfax)
Phone: 323-653-5858 | map
It seems to fit perfectly into L.A. culture. With its blue-and-white-punctuated awnings and its pixie-punk waitresses, Swingers creates a vibe that's a bit Melrose, a bit Beverly Hills, and a bit cruising Sunset Blvd. after midnight. There may be celebrity sightings, cool cats, tats, and cowboy hats.
They have the expected diner menu, and tweak it in the direction of health and hipness. One of the sides is quinoa, which is an ancient South American grain a bit like couscous, sautéed with finely chopped broccoli. They've got soy chocolate milk, a vegan burrito (tofu, spinach, quinoa, black beans, whole wheat tortilla, topped with a chipotle sauce), and multi-grain banana pancakes.
The Veggie Joe--soy-rizo on a poppy seed bun with veggie chili--is melty and rich, and they do a very good turkey swiss burger. The fries have a bit of skin and a lot of flavor.
There are a bunch of sweet parts too, like red velvet minicakes and shakes. I've tried the Rocket Shake, chocolate ice cream with espresso and blended espresso beans, which provides an understandable buzz. I'm also looking forward to the Hardcore Soy Shake.
The parking requires some attention to signage (no parking between here and here, on this day or that day, if you're wearing purple, your car is not nice enough, must possess a small dog, permits excepted, etc., etc.), but Swingers is open until 4am, so you'll get there eventually to watch the Beverly traffic go by.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Healthy/Organic, Beverly Hills/Wilshire, Diner, American, Late Night/24 Hours )