Coffee shop Café Telegrama on North Western Avenue in Melrose Hill has been abuzz with LA’s laptop warriors since opening in late October down the block from the neighborhood’s cluster of trendy restaurants, including Ggiata, Kuya Lord, and Le Coupe. The 1,500-square-foot community hub spans indoors and out serving up low-key vibes and an easy food and drinks menu to remote workers and caffeine seekers alike.
Behind the daytime spot are fine artist and visual designer John Zabawa, general manager Andrew Lawson (formerly of Flora Bar and Estela in New York City), and chef Evan Algorri (formerly of Marea and Bouley in New York City). The business is named after a project that Zabawa started during early pandemic lockdowns to connect with fans of his work through letter writing. After securing a P.O. Box and sharing a prompt on Instagram, Zabawa corresponded with around 2,000 letters over two months. “Something about that name just really resonated with me,” he says. “Trying to connect the dots between cafes, but also just connectivity.”
Café Telegrama serves a tight selection of pastries from Friends & Family in addition to a European-leaning food menu that is “approachable, simple, but elegant and delicious,” says Algorri. It includes a few sandwiches (ham and Gruyere, mortadella and burrata), salads, and pancakes that took years to develop. “I’d put these pancakes up against anybody in LA,” he says. To drink, the shop brews Canyon Coffee and half a dozen different teas.
Zabawa was tapped to design the 5,000-square-foot space at 737 N. Western Avenue, which was specced to include a restaurant, a smattering of offices, and a cafe; he ended up signing on as co-owner of the cafe. Together with Lawson and Algorri, he sought to create a minimalist getaway for Angelenos to lounge, sip brews, work, and connect with new people on a busy stretch of Western Avenue. “The cafe is inspired by European cafes, cafes in Paris, things in Italy,” Zabawa tells Eater. “And the philosophy behind them, the settings, the approach to service, the casualness, and how inspiring they are.” Café Telegrama is an extension of the forthcoming restaurant Ètra, which will open in early December.
Café Telegrama is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 737 N. Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029.