Chef Jessica Koslow is no longer bringing Tel, one of the country’s most anticipated sophomore restaurants, to the west side of Los Angeles. Her massive all-day project was supposed to open inside a large dual-use property off Barrington near the Expo Line, but a sudden turn of events means those plans have disappeared completely.
In a heartfelt conversation with Eater over a cup of coffee at her massively popular Virgil Village restaurant Sqirl, Koslow says that the failed deal to bring Tel to West LA is among the hardest things she’s ever dealt with professionally. In essence, the highly anticipated project got bogged down in all the not-so-glossy details that come with starting and operating a restaurant build-out from scratch, from issues with the city and county to landlord woes to the strenuous task of retrofitting an existing space to hold a restaurant — especially the kind she was hoping to provide. In a statement, Koslow says further:
More than two years ago, a very generous real estate entrepreneur and investor asked me to open a new restaurant in an industrial space she controlled in West Los Angeles.
Together, we developed plans for Tel, an all-day dining and cultural space in her building, and Telmud, a three-acre farm in her Malibu backyard.
But her building had never been a restaurant. And this led to expensive, time-consuming regulatory delays. Although it wasn’t easy, we finally obtained the necessary building permits, secured key operational licenses, and hired our construction staff. We planned to break ground in January, but my investor backed out just before we could move forward. She told me that there were just too many location-specific barriers to open our restaurant in the building.
Koslow notes that the decision to scrap Tel in January on the Westside was sudden and, for many involved, costly. In the process she also lost access to the idyllic Malibu farm that was to serve as a primary supporter of the restaurant’s menu, and years of designing, discussing, and even hiring early staff with the intent to move the project forward.
Thankfully, Koslow says that Tel still exists as a notion and (ideally in the near future) as a restaurant, albeit one without a fully realized home just yet. She’s working on sourcing a new address now that will put Tel closer to Sqirl in Virgil Village, but given the restarting of the entire process it’s premature to put any kind of timeline or specific location on the news.
Koslow is also quite certain that the Tel of the future won’t look entirely like the Tel she’s been envisioning for years now, with its pan-Jewish diaspora cuisine and wood-fired bagels. She and her team will be using whatever new space she finds to help inform the menu and the vibe of the restaurant down the line. She adds:
Tel remains very much alive. I really appreciated the chance to develop this project over the last two years… and that is going to make a significant difference when we open the doors.
More on the future of Tel as it comes. Meanwhile, the original Barrington space is back to having several For Lease signs hanging off the side.