So far, I'd have to go with The Park. I also think Elf Cafe is awfully sweet, even if the cooking isn't the most sophisticated. However, I haven't gotten to Lot 1 yet -- I've been waiting for them to straighten out the air conditioning issues and get a liquor license. Columnist Joel Stein told me the other night that he had a wonderful meal there, but wasn't so crazy about the rest of the trappings.
I've been to 15 twice, and although it certainly provided a good alternative when it was practically the only decent restaurant in the area, the food isn't very original and it feels kind of bland and corporate. Oh, and the $15 before 7:00 special just went up to $19.
I reviewed The Park for the Los Feliz Ledger last month. Here's some of the review:
The Park strikes the right balance between funky Echo Park and gentrifying Echo Park, although decor verges on the overly minimalist. The bonus is that with free corkage, diners can bring good wine and eat lavishly for around $60 a couple.As for the older spots, I used to like Barragan's but suffered digestive distress from the greasy tacos last time I went there. Freres Taix is a great historic spot but the food is blah, and Masa is terribly inconsistent, although it has its fans. Anyone brave enough to try Phnom Penh?
While the menu ambitiously runs the gamut of pastas, Latin-inflected dishes, vegetarian selections and comfort food, it's remarkably successful for the range it covers.
Don't miss the mini cornmeal pancakes with seared shrimp as an appetizer; the chipotle butter pairs nicely with the gently sweet pancakes. A hamburger or homemade veggie burger is just $10 for the basic version; add cheeses, bacon or mushrooms for $1 per topping. Super-skinny fries are nicely browned. A special of duck confit is a meltingly tender portion paired with a soft tamale filled with rajas (mild chile strips) and savory onions. The chef pulls off the Southwestern-style dish admirably, and the duck falls away from the bone with no tiresome excavating involved. A peach cobbler special with vanilla ice cream is serviceable but could be more flavorful. Service is friendly if a little awkward -- one server enthusiastically announces "Ta-da!" each time she presents a dish to the table.
The Park has its finger on the pulse of Echo Park -- tasty but not pretentious, with a dash of Latin flavor and several nods to vegetarians.