There is no shortage of Instagrammable spots in L.A. It is the land of perennial sunshine, ever-present blue skies and picture-perfect landscapes, after all. Some places, of course, stand out above the rest, though, like the Pink Wall at Paul Smith, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Urban Light installation, the Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore and a tiny café known as Alfred Coffee that sits tucked away on one of the most fashionable blocks in Beverly Grove.
Located in a charming yellow-hued building at 8428 Melrose Place, the java shop is the brainchild of real estate developer Joshua Zad, who ironically isn’t much of a coffee or tea drinker, as he is the first to admit. But as a longtime local, he became frustrated over the lack of a communal spot to grab a cuppa or baked good within walking distance of the tony Melrose Place shopping district.
Not to be confused with the similarly-named but far more bustling Melrose Ave., the tree-lined Melrose Place is one of Los Angeles’ most well-heeled hidden gems. Spanning just three short blocks of picturesque storefronts housing fine boutiques, the tiny thoroughfare “came of age in the 1960s and ‘70s,” as the Los Angeles Times reports, “when the demand for high-end antique stores along La Cienega overflowed to the street. Because it was a little more isolated, Melrose Place became a cheaper place to buy into and the area quickly became a district all its own.” “Cheaper” is no longer a word one would associate with the location. Currently populated by such esteemed names as Monique Lhuillier, LoveShackFancy, Oscar de la Renta and Santa Maria Novella, the enclave, the Times notes, is a “destination for a certain kind of shopper, the kind of person who might employ a decorator, a stylist or both.”
But not a barista, apparently, because until Zad’s arrival on the scene, there was nary a coffee shop in sight.
Sensing a profitable untapped market, the then 30-year-old decided to fill the void, but with a unique slant emphasizing style and an aspirational aesthetic. As he told the Bristol Farms website in a 2020 profile, “I started Alfred in response to the other third-wave coffee shops that were popping up in 2012. I found them all to be focused too much on the beans and the craft itself, leaving much to be desired in terms of design, vibe, and community. Having worked under an interior designer for several years, I decided to go into the business myself and make my style of coffee shop! With that, Alfred was born.”
To house his new venture, Zad selected the corner storefront of a vine-covered, stuccoed building initially designed in 1949 by architect Heth Wharton as a studio/apartment for interior decorator Katherine Musselwhite. Prior to the opening of Alfred, the multi-level space housed a by-appointment-only clothing store.
Zad thoroughly rehabbed the unit’s interior, the majority of which sits below street level, utilizing expertise gleaned from a post-college stint working for Laura Hunt, a celebrated Dallas and New York-based interior designer who, as her website notes, is “repeatedly named to Architectural Digest’s exclusive ‘AD 100’ list.” Hoping to create a warm gathering place that would foster community, he outfitted the quaint café with countless highly stylized and inviting touches, including shiny white tiles, dark floral wallpapering, chalkboard murals created by Swiss graphic designer Blanda Eggenschwiler and a massive sign reading “But first, coffee.” Employee uniforms were fashionably stitched by Rag & Bone, natch.
All that was left to complete the venture was a catchy name. According to some reports, Zad once lived on Alfred St., just off of Melrose Place, and dubbed the new shop in honor of his former address. But a 2020 appearance on the “Friend of a Friend” podcast presents a different story, with the entrepreneur whimsically telling host Olivia Perez, “The whole concept was, alright, there’s this mythical guy named Alfred. You think of Alfred, you think of the butler in ‘Batman,’ you think of mustaches. Mustaches seven years ago were really cool.” To that end, Zad designed a set of four custom sleeves to swathe his coffee offerings, each with its own unique stubble.
Alfred Coffee opened its doors on January 23, 2013. The timing was fortuitous, thanks to the growing popularity of Instagram, which was just hitting its stride. Influencers were immediately drawn to the shop’s photogenic interior, Stumptown brews, prominent “But first, coffee” signage and even the mustached sleeves, all of which began to pop up ubiquitously on social media feeds. As TimeOut described a visit to Alfred, “The experience is irresistibly Instagram-able. (Seriously. That ‘But first, coffee’ decal should have its own handle.)”
Celebrities soon followed. As recounted by Racked Los Angeles, “Power BFFs Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid were both spotted with Alfred’s famous coffee cups firmly in hand, solidifying the java joint’s hot spot status among pop culture junkies.” Other stars to begin frequenting the place included Mickey Rourke, Emma Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Jonah Hill, Vanessa Hudgens, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Sofía Vergara.
Today, it’s a neighborhood staple, beloved by the famous and non-famous alike.
In the decade since Alfred’s inception, Zad has expanded his enterprise, with outposts now situated across the globe, including 14 locations in Los Angeles alone! The original Melrose Place café remains a favorite, though – so much so that you’d be hard-pressed to pop in at any time of the day and not find it standing-room-only.
Regularly deemed one of L.A.’s most Instagrammable sites, it was only a matter of time before the place showed up onscreen.
In the premiere episode of “Hacks,” titled “There Is No Line,” down-on-her-luck comedy writer Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) spots an industry friend named Taylor (Ally Maki) dining on Alfred’s patio and ambushes her in the hopes of landing a job on her new show.
Los Angeles Rams general manager Charles Green (Omar Benson Miller) manufactures a meet-up with Alvin Kamara (playing himself) at the coffee shop in the hopes of getting the New Orleans Saints running back to switch teams in the season five episode of “Ballers” titled “Crumbs.”
And in the new Netflix comedy “You People,” Ezra (Jonah Hill) and Amira (Lauren London) are briefly featured drinking coffee on Alfred’s patio in a montage segment showcasing the couple’s blossoming relationship.
Fun fact – Franck Eggelhoffer’s (Martin Short) bridal boutique from the 1991 classic “Father of the Bride” can be found just a few doors down at 8408 Melrose Place.