Food I tried a secret LA sandwich shop that only takes orders via Instagram DM. It's my new favorite lunch spot.
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- I tried the garlic aioli chicken sandwich at Carla Cafe and found my new favorite lunch in LA.
- The shop takes orders on its private Instagram, where it announces "sandwich drops" three times a week.
- The exclusive cafe regularly offers its chicken sandwich or a "tuna chop" - and usually sells out.
After seeing multiple friends in Los Angeles post photos of aesthetic-looking sandwiches on their Instagram stories, I sent a follow request toaccount. As soon as the shop announced its next "drop" on its Instagram story, I put in an order via direct message for a garlic aioli sandwich and they gave me the pickup address.
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Because of the private account, discreet location, and the "If you know you know" vibes, getting the sandwich felt like an illicit meeting and I was hooked before my first bite.
In mere months,owner Avi Ahdoot went from making himself a sandwich at home to selling upwards of 1,000 sandwiches per week out of a pop-up shop - all via private Instagram messages.
"I have no restaurant experience, I just made myself a sandwich one day," Ahdoot told Insider. That was in May 2020. "My girlfriend posted a photo of it on Instagram and a ridiculous number of people replied asking where to get one."
After the initial response, Ahdoot said he aspired to sell 30 sandwiches from his house as a way to make extra money during the pandemic. He told friends and family through social media and texting.
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Ahdoot said they sold out instantly, and a flood of strangers began to message his Instagram account.
"The magic really happened all by itself," Ahdoot said at a recent Saturday sandwich drop. "Because we're very limited in capacity in how many sandwiches we can actually make, it really gives everything that exclusive, community feel."
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The Carla Cafe Instagram page () is private, and to place an order you have to request to follow the account. If the cafe accepts, you can message the account asking for the link to place an order.
Once you've placed an order at that link, you show up at a hole in the wall outside Bootsy Bellows, a Hollywood nightclub, for pickup. The account calls for orders on their stories one or two days in advance.
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The "in the know" sentiment contributed to its business boom - Carla Cafe's Instagram has more than 22,800 followers and Adhoot has turned this into his full-time job.
The shop does a "sandwich drop" three days a week, promoted exclusively on their Instagram stories. Usually it prepares only one sandwich per drop - either Garlic Aioli Chicken or Tuna Chop - but on occasion they do a "duo drop" and offer both on the same day.
I've lived in the greater LA area for most of my life, and sandwiches are often my go-to lunch choice - so I've tried a lot of sandwiches. When I took my first bite, I knew it was the best sandwich I'd had in LA. The bread crunched loudly, the homemade garlic aioli tasted five-star, and when I finished I wished I had ordered two.
The following week, I ordered another sandwich from Carla Cafe - this time a tuna chop, which was equally as awesome.
While most restaurants in Los Angeles were doing takeout only during the pandemic, Ahdoot said Carla Cafe was selling upwards of 400 sandwiches per drop at $16 per sandwich.
As dine-in options are back in business, Ahdoot said sales in July 2021 dipped to around 300 sandwiches each day, but he isn't discouraged.
"Our next step is mastering how we can keep doing sandwiches successfully, but in a more open world," Ahdoot said. "We were born in a pandemic, so now we're figuring out how to continue operating."
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