Sometimes while traveling around Japan you may feel a bit lost and out of your element. Everything that surrounds you is strange, confusing and sometimes overwhelming. The friendly staff at the quirky Art Cafe ELK can help make you feel more at home. ELK opened in 2013 and aims to be a friendly space for international visitors, residents and locals.
Granted the decor is a mish mash of art and decoration for sale, and the tables and chairs have a big window view of the car park opposite; but when I visited it was quite a relaxing place and the food wasn't at all bad.
When I sat down, I mentioned that I was a vegetarian and to my surprise I was shown a whole page of vegetarian options including okonomiyaki (Kansai style) and udon noodles which normally are made with fish flakes or seafood stock. I have never been to a cafe in Japan with so many options. I chose the vegetarian panini and the staff made sure that cheese was okay before making it. Although the bread was made with usual sliced bread, making it more of a toasted sandwich, it was quite tasty. For the lunch set a sandwich or other choice main comes with a side salad and a drink for just over 850 yen. I saw others enjoying some of the desserts like pancakes with ice cream and fruit, it looked great!
I like the big sofa seating next to the window and the fancy toilet was also one of my favorite features. That may sound strange, but the more restaurants and cafes you visit in this country, the more you appreciate the grandeur of the Japanese WC. This one is complete with a modern, high tech toilet and the decor is a throw back to your aunty's decadent washroom or a 80's style Japanese coffee shop.
ELK is not simply a cafe, it promotes itself as an "international language cafe". They host nights for people to go and chat in a target language together. When I visited they advertised Mondays for Japanese and Tuesdays for English and Korean, these lessons are free but they ask any participant to at least order a drink or item from the menu as a kind of "fee" to take part.
They also have monthly international events for people to join in hopes of making new friends. The flyer for this month said there would be a cover charge of 1,500 yen for people to join including a drink and some food. The price is discounted to 1,000 yen if you are a tourist or an international student. This is a nice opportunity to make some new connections or have a chance to meet other friendly folk while in Hiroshima.
Some of the photos and art on the walls by local Hiroshima artists was quite beautiful. Since everything is for sale, you can take anything home that you are particularly fond of.