Atwater Village, LA
Eléfante has been stinking up my dining queue for a while now, since my co-worker Bryn will not stop talking about the place as the ultimate must-do-brunch spot. It’s like every Monday: “Did you try Eléfante? Their scallion pancakes are so divine…” Yada yada. First of all, Bryn, no one’s used “divine” as an adjective since that drag queen in all those John Waters films made it her one-name moniker. Second, the only thing I feel I MUST-DO is get you off my back!
So on Sunday, after I woke up starving from a twelve-hour Nyquil coma, I threw on a sweater from the barely rank pile, beside my really rank hamper, and shimmied across town for all the buttered carbs I could get in front of me. Right away I could tell this place took itself way too seriously when the hostess, upon giving me a long vertical glance, said: “Just one?” I almost made a joke about having an invisible friend but then I noticed her razor-sharp collarbones were freshly inked with what looked like Beatles lyrics. Hey girl, they said DON’T carry the world upon your shoulders, FYI.
I was given a decent table in the corner, next to a skinny man-couple wearing all denim outfits. A comedian ex of mine used to call that look “the Canadian tuxedo.” But rather than attend the Genie Awards, these guys were all set to drive their Mini Coopers straight to the nearest Fair Trade Organic coffee emporium. The table behind me was loudly discussing the latest Wes Anderson movie, debating whether or not Tilda Swinton and David Bowie have interchangeable death masks.
When the server came by for my order, she seemed agitated, but stylishly so. I couldn’t tell if she desperately needed a manicure or had chipped her black polish on purpose. When I asked her about it she said, “I’ll give you some more time,” before sauntering off to a family of three. As she took their order, the dad—of what looked to be a two-year-old—says, “Orange juice—raspberry scone, hurry!” before ducking his head to avoid a saltshaker getting pitched from across the table. But then his wife starts pleading: “Bean, be a good boy. Please Bean, mommy will get you a scone.” Baby Bean must’ve heard “scone” as “scream” because the next thing you know he’s screaming his giant toddler lungs out. The denim duo next to me each plug an ear but continue talking. The Wes Anderson film club exchange pained looks; one whines, “Who brings a baby to Eléfante?” Another snaps his fingers at the server, mouthing the words “to-go box” while miming the writing-into-my-hand gesture, for the check.
Bean kills his orange juice and chucks the glass over his shoulder. He bangs his little fists on the table, BANG, BANG, BANG, then starts chanting, in… Latin? (I studied French, so useless.) His mom’s going, “Oh no, not here, Bean, no, no no,” while his dad sifts through a tote and says, “oh boy.” In the meantime the Wes Andersons are barking, “waitress” and “service!” waving their coffee cups in the air—the Canadian cowboys are Instagramming their Brioche—and I’m worried that if I don’t get the scallion pancakes Bryn recommended she’s going to demand that I come back. I can hear her chipper voice now going nutso over scallions: “To top it off you have two fried eggs, with MORE scallions on top, and a side of scallion butter!!!!” Go away voice in my head, go away, shoo.
By now the kid’s not only chanting with a very deep, un-kid-like voice, but also floating. As he levitates, Splenda packets gather in the air forming a funnel cloud that slowly skirts down the walk space beside the tables. Without missing a beat, a girl with a pixie cut and animal print skinny jeans seizes a yellow packet and pours the powder into her Americano. When the lights flicker, the bartender takes a break from mass-producing Bloody Marys and lights a candle.
The server comes back and I say, “Crazy day, huh?” “Kids are animals… ” she says, then, “What’ll it be?” I order the scallion pancakes with a side of house-cured bacon and two fried eggs. “Figures,” she says, dodging forks, spoons, and butter knives sailing every which way like cutlery being launched by a canon. Bean’s now projectile vomiting a constant rush of green ooze onto the low ceiling above him while his parents argue about whether or not to send him to private school. When the server comes back with my coffee, she’s holding a large umbrella shielding her from the ectoplasm-like spray. The guys in denim have taken off their jackets, holding them over their heads like tarps. The Wes Andersons sip their coffees sitting Indian-style under their table.
Eventually the server, still under her umbrella, zig-zags back to the family’s table and plants a scone in front of Bean—or Bean’s seat, because Bean is still levitating. “Sorry it took so long—the bakery was late with the delivery today,” she says before taking a drag from her electronic cigarette. Once Bean takes sight of the scone, he says, “Scone!” and descends immediately from the air and decimates the glazed mass, stuffing half of it in his cheeks, spraying the rest on the table. “Isn’t he a good eater?” says his mom, taking a giant swig of her mimosa. Her husband nods, shoveling a few heaping forkfuls of fried farro and eggs into his mouth. “Can you pass the Sriracha, hon?”
All in all, Eléfante seems totally on trend—location and décor being the greatest determining factors. My pancake was grilled which gave it a pleasant crisp texture. The hash browns were pretty greasy but that just so happened to be what my guts were screaming for. As for Bryn, I now have one less problem I have to worry about as far as trying out “the divine.” But I have to give her credit for introducing me to the best scones the new underworld messiah, Bean, and I have ever had, because of course I ordered one, are you kidding me?!
Sabra Embury is a book critic for Brooklyn's L Magazine. Her confabulations and fantastications can be found in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, Tottenville Review, NANO Fiction and other places. Follow her antics on Twitter @yrubmEarbaS.