Two veteran restaurateurs are bringing a new neighborhood cafe to The Heights that will serve as a new home for one of Houston’s most venerable chefs. Veronica and John Avila will open the Telegram Tea Room later this year in partnership with Monica Pope.
Similar to Henderson & Kane, the Avilas’ modern general store in the Old Sixth Ward, the Telegram Tea Room will serve locally roasted coffee by Little Dreamer Coffee and pastries by Semilla Baking Company in the morning with a light lunch menu and a selection of retail products such as milk, eggs, beer, and wine. Where the Telegram Tea Room will set itself apart is a dinner menu by Pope, the chef who led bringing the farm to table movement to Houston.
“I’m super excited to be working with Monica,” John Avila tells CultureMap. “To have a relationship with her is going to carry us into a new vibe.”
Avila, who also owns Cypress barbecue restaurant Burro & Bull, explains that he and Veronica were drawn to the historic building at 2601 Baylor St., which is claimed to have been a telegram distribution point. Plans have currently been submitted to the City of Houston for approval. If all goes according to plan, it could open in four to six months.
One of the lessons he’s learned from operating Henderson & Kane is to have a diverse selection that leverages as many talented people as possible. While Telegram won’t stock quite as many products, it aims to be a boon to its neighborhood.
“We want to be diverse and give people reasons to come in,” he says. “Whatever people need us for, we hope to be there for them.”
From Pope’s perspective, teaming up with the Avilas allows her to build upon the work she’s been doing for more than 25 years. After she closed Sparrow, Pope moved her One Table dinners and cooking classes to her home. Telegram will give them a new venue.
“I have some favorite artisans out there that I think are good people. They do amazing work,” Pope says. “I want to put those people at the head of the pack, with One Tables, with cooking classes . . . It gives me an opportunity to bring it all together.”
Her vision for dinner is to work with different chefs to create theme nights. Just as Henderson and Kane offers a steak night and a burger night, she sees Telegram having a vegan night, for example. Of course, her “Sunday Suppers with the Pope” series would be included, too.
Beyond the dinners, Pope has plans for markets with her favorite farmers, ranchers, and other artisans. She may film her cooking classes to share them on Youtube. The details are still being worked out, but the chef has a clear vision for how it will come together.
“I think what I would want to do with Telegram is make money,” Pope says with a laugh. “To give people difference experiences and continue to transform people’s lives. The story continues, as they say.”