Tadeh Ghazalian wanted to create a neighborhood spot where customers could be treated like family. With influences ranging from his mom’s Armenian culture, his dad’s Italian background, and his executive chef’s training in French technical skills, Ghazalian’s interest in food integrates all of these cultures.
We sat down with Ghazalian to find out more about what it took to make Dialog Cafe into a local treasure.
How did Dialog Cafe begin?
My parents wanted to turn [the space] into a deli, like a sandwich spot. At the time, I was going to school and working here on the weekends. I was always into coffee, super passionate about it. So I was like hey let’s do an actual coffee program here. I think we’d kill it in this neighborhood. And that was at the time when you just started hearing about third-wave coffee, specialty coffee–there was Intelligentsia and light roast.
When that happened, I started offering these specialty coffee drinks and revamped our espresso machine. We bought an imported, hand-made espresso machine from Florence.
What’s behind the name, “Dialog Cafe”?
My family took over this place about thirteen years ago. Back in the day–do you remember when AOL Chat was a big thing? You go to these cafes and log into their wifi. That’s where our name “Dialog” came from–dialing in and chatting. There used to be a whole bunch of computers here. That’s how it started.
How did you develop the menu?
I loved food, but I never went to school for it. It was one of those things where I took an approach of reading books and finding out what was happening. Then I collaborated with this really famous, underground baker, Naomi Shim. She worked in a lot of these French high-end restaurants.
She and I collaborated this new breakfast menu for the cafe. It was super high quality, and the biggest thing was the sourcing of it. She taught me that we’re very spoiled in LA. We have super good produce and so many vegetables and farmers markets and farmers that are local. She showed me how to use these farmers markets as inspirations for dishes. Once we introduced a full breakfast menu, that’s when the cafe started taking off.
Tell us about your drink menu.
Even our coffee is a collaboration of old school, traditional Italian and specialty, old-world exotic coffees. The blend that we have is basically an old school flavor, but with a complexity that a lot of specialty coffee drinkers can appreciate. If you’ve ever had a traditional espresso, it’s a little bolder and darker. It has that element to it, but at the same time we put a really exotic coffee in the blend, like Colombian or Ethiopian or Honduran. Something exotic, like blueberry and fruity, so when you taste it, it’s like a chocolatey depth, but with fruity flavor to it.
There’s even a secret locals menu hidden in the cafe that not a lot of people know about. It’s orders of regulars who have been coming in for years–the way they have it with their modifications. The only people who know where it is are the people who are on that menu or have been on it. The regulars on the menu are the ones who spread the word to their friends that they made it on the menu.
How about the breakfast burrito?
The most popular thing everyday of the week is the breakfast burrito. We created a second one–the Brisket Breakfast Burrito. The brisket is the whole nine yards. The way to do our brisket, we cook it three different ways. Because it tends to be a harder meat, we cook it down for about eighteen hours.
First, we marinate it overnight, then we take it out and cook it down in a very special way. We’ll put another dry rub on it, then we put it in the oven and roast it off. We cook it until it has that really nice crust, then we take it off, cool it down, and hand slice it like you would with prosciutto. Then we add over-easy eggs, fresh onions, fresh cilantro, hash browns, and parmesan cheese–it’s killer. You cut this thing open, and the eggs ooze out. It’s a smokey brisket.
What’s your favorite aspect of being a part of Dialog Cafe?
I wake up everyday, excited to go to work because there are so many things going on. I live for changing the menu, and the team pushes me to do that. The cashiers love people. They want to know everyone’s name, what they usually order, what they’re allergic to, what they did on the weekend. I think that’s what takes it a step further. Having that kind of relationship where you can just walk into a place, talk about your day, and walk out. You didn’t even order anything, you just paid, and everybody already knows what you get. I think that kind of warmth- you don’t get this everywhere, especially in such a big city.
What makes Dialog Cafe special?
A lot of people who live in Los Angeles don’t have family here. They’re trying to do their own careers or things, but here, when they come in, I’d say 50% of my customers know all of my employees by their first name.
They even know my dad. You’ll see my dad hugging, dancing, joking with customers. He’s this crazy Italian man, and he loves that. He loves knowing everyone. We’ll have people come and sit down with my dad for twenty minutes, not buy anything, and my dad will just talk about life or whatever with them. That kind of builds the type of energy we’re after–that neighborhood spot.
Address: 8766 Holloway Drive, West Hollywood, CA 90069