A performance at La Terraza | Courtesy La Terraza


East Los Angeles  — The compact commercial strip along City Terrace Drive is dotted with small shops, markets as well as a church and library. What was missing, according to attorney and resident Carlos Barrios, was a cafe and neighborhood gathering place with good coffee, sandwiches and salads. That’s how Barrios ended up teaming up with two other partners to open La Terraza Café.

Like neighboring Boyle Heights, City Terrace section of East Los Angeles has seen home prices and rents rise and old homes renovated as gentrification spreads. But Barrios and partners said La Terraza is part of their effort to give back to the predominantly Latino, working-class neighborhood.

“We all grew up in L.A. and my two partners have roots in Boyle Heights,” said Barrios, who grew up in South Central as the son of Guatemalan immigrants. “We care about this neighborhood, and we wanted to offer residents a nice spot to grab coffee, because there wasn’t anything like this before.”

After finishing law school in Illinois, Barrios moved back to Los Angeles to start his law practice. “I ended up moving to City Terrace and I realized the small downtown area had a lot potential,” added Barrios.

When he saw the vacant spot at 4017 1/2 City Terrace Drive he jumped on the opportunity — even though the building had been abandoned for a long time.

Barrios had the capital and asked two others to join in: Eva Alvarez, a Boyle Heights resident with restaurant experience, and Alisha Daher, whose paternal grandmother was born in Boyle Heights to Russian Jews while her paternal grandfather was raised in nearby Lincoln Heights.

La Terraza Café made its debut in December, with Alvarez as manager. The menu included coffee-based drinks, tea, sandwiches, salads and baked goods. The cafe hosts events featuring local musicians and displays original work by local artists.

La Terraza still has some work left. The back patio needs to be fixed, so patrons can enjoy an actual “terraza” or terrace. They also plan to offer alcoholic beverages in the near future.

While Barrios and his partners were concerned about how the community would react to the new cafe,  many appear to have welcomed La Terraza.  Barrios said some of the most enthusiastic patrons have been older Latinos.

“One lady came in with about 8 of her children and grandchildren and was so proud to buy them brunch, coffee and treats at our place,” said Barrios.

La Terraza is at 4017 City Terrace Dr. near Hazard. 


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