Everybody knows you can get coffee at Elemental Coffee. It’s right there in the name. That said, the baristas are getting very tired of me asking for selenium, argon, or any rare-earth metals.
Sorry, guys. I procreated. These dad jokes are a part of me now. In many ways, they’re all that’s left.
But if you are visiting Elemental just for coffee (or just to bathe in the glory of open outlets and free Wi-Fi), you’re missing out on some tremendously wonderful food.
“Greg, I heard it was all vegan.”
Well, it isn’t. But so what if it was? There are some vegan items and, as Elemental employees and sisters Anna and Michelle Bui told me, pretty much anything you want on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan.
I’m going to say it. I can’t keep this in anymore: If you can’t have a meal without meat it in, there’s something wrong with you. Seriously. There’s nothing wrong with not eating meat. There’s nothing wrong with not eating eggs or cheese. Those aren’t lifestyle choices I’m willing to commit to in perpetuity, but I can definitely hang for a meal or two without a big slice of ham and a bunch of melted brie.
Okay, in retrospect, it feels weird scolding you guys for demanding ham and brie on everything before telling you that one of the best sandwiches at Elemental Coffee is C’est La Brie ($9.50), which is filled with ham and brie. But also fig jam! And they do this thing where they cover one side of the sandwich in parmesan cheese and grill it, so you get this crispy/nutty flavor that makes me weak at the knees.
Weak elsewhere? Yes. I’m notoriously weak. But my knees have always been so strong and this sandwich comes along and completely weakens them. It’s like my kryptonite, except I don’t remember Superman ever eating a big sandwich made of the remnants of his destroyed home world.
(Oh, wait, here’s a picture.)
If the rest of this menu was on a boat that sunk into the ocean, lost forever to the annals of time, it would be a tragedy. But with the help of C’est La Brie, I know I’d move past it someday.
Rico Suave ($10.50) is another quite meaty option. Am I starting to feel bad for giving you guff about the vegan thing? Only a little.
Look, I said it wasn’t all vegan. And this is extremely not all vegan, because there are carnitas, a fried egg, queso fresco, poblano, avocado, and chipotle mayo between two pieces of jalapeno cornbread. It’s also a lot of sandwich, which makes it all the more delightful how well it ages. I ate half for lunch and the rest for breakfast the next day and I’ve never felt more alive. (In fairness, doctors all agree I’m “pre-zombie.”)
Smokie Dokie ($9) is a veggie-heavy wrap that uses barbecue tofu in place of chicken. But I flipped the script and got it as a salad, which can be done with almost any of the menu items. This was a pretty tasty pile of greens, especially because I think it gave the tofu and avocado and pickled veggies more space to bounce off one another instead of being trapped inside a wheat wrap.
You can get Hudson Street Tacos ($10) with tofu or chicken, so I opted for the shredded chicken and I was not disappointed. These are just phenomenal little tacos, packed all the way full of delicious, crunchy goodness. While they’re called tacos and they look like tacos, when you start digging in, you’ll notice the flavors skew more toward a banh mi—wilted kale, avocado, pickles daikon and carrots, cilantro, and sriracha aioli. It’s the best of both worlds.
Speaking of dangerously addictive dishes, the P.C.P. (it stands for peanut cilantro pesto) is a $10 quesadilla-style sandwich filled with roasted chicken, spinach, hot pepper cheddar cheese, and jalapeno, inside a cheese-on-the-outside whole wheat tortilla, covered in spicy pesto.
There’s a lot going on here, so let me say your best option might be to ask for the pesto on the side. It’s a scratch kitchen and things change day-to-day based on who’s cooking. In this case, the pesto might be sweet with a bit of heat or it might be Godzilla shooting his laser breath into the mouth of another kaiju hot. Keeping it on the side lets you deal with only as much world-ending-monster breath as you want.
Two of my friends are obsessed with salads from Elemental. One goes for the Mad Beets ($7) with added cold-smoked salmon and it’s a real treat. I love the way the earthy beets give way to spiced walnuts and tangy goat cheese. The balsamic-roasted red onions should be sold by the jar.
The other friend is nuts for the Kale Yeah! ($7) with chicken added for protein. It’s a great kale caesar even without the chicken, thanks to the umami-packed addition of sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts to the cashew caesar dressing.
I usually don’t bother telling people to “leave room for dessert,” because the body kind of naturally makes room for dessert. But, in this case, I’m recommending you actually leave room. Your body might make space for a salted chocolate chip cookie, but what about a ginger-cardamom whoopie pie? You’re going to want more than one dessert. It might be worth it to make a friend just to have someone to share with.
Elemental Coffee makes great coffee. Duh. But their kitchen deserves a lot of kudos, too. The food is always great and their customer service is hard to beat. Much like the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts, the menu at Elemental is whatever you need it to be.