West Hollywood is about to get another all-day cafe courtesy of an Orange County legend: John Secretan opened the first Zinc Cafe and Market with his mother Rosemarie in Laguna Beach in 1988. Now, the second Los Angeles location — the cafe also has an outpost in the Arts District, as well as one in Corona Del Mar — is set to open this Wednesday, September 28 on the corner of Melrose Avenue and Westbourne Drive. Secretan had been eyeing this specific location, which housed a Le Pain Quotidien for 20 years, and is elated that he can finally call the space his own.
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years now, and I’ve expanded slowly and carefully at the pace that worked for me,” Secretan says. “Like one [new Zinc Cafe] every 10 years.”
Zinc Cafe’s menu offers new dishes alongside fan favorites. Unique items available at the Melrose location include a Sugar Kiss melon salad with fennel and Parmesan, and a fried egg sandwich with herbed cream cheese, pickled onions, and Persian cucumber. Zinc standbys include asparagus and cauliflower toast, chilaquiles bowl, Belgian waffle, and the ever-ubiquitous-in-LA avocado toast. Intelligentsia coffee and Art of Tea selections are on offer, as are mimosas and bloody marys. The space will offer to-go items, too.
Secretan is a third-generation vegetarian and deeply inspired by the aesthetic, mood, and menu at Alice Waters’s Cafe Fanny. He first discovered Waters’s outdoor design work while studying landscape architecture at UC Berkeley. The vines growing along Zinc’s terraces and its ever-expanding garden are all inspired by Waters.
When this dream corner lot, just a block away from Urth Cafe and sandwiched by furniture and design stores, became available a few years ago, it was priced affordably enough for Secretan and his team. Along with his partner, architect Tim Nicol, John carefully designed the newest Zinc location to feel like walking into an old home in North Berkeley where a huge courtyard appears seemingly out of nowhere. The pair brought in Evan Raabe Architecture Studio and Greg Solmeri of Rolling Greens to revamp the location and capture the “secret garden” energy. Sparse paintings of vegetables and flowers hang on the walls, while live plants will continue to grow inside and around the restaurant through the years — a fact Secretan is giddy about.
The competition on Melrose is fierce, especially when it comes to all-day cafes. Vegan restaurant Avant Garden Bistro opened in May and vegetarian restaurant the Butcher’s Daughter opened a second location on Melrose Avenue just last week. Secretan feels good about Zinc’s offerings nonetheless. “We were the first to bring a casual and fast gourmet restaurant to Laguna Beach,” Secretan says. “I feel confident our concept holds up very well.”
Zinc on Melrose will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., with dinner hours to follow.