Historic Caffe Med sign that graced Telegraph Avenue for 50+ years is gone

This blue and white sign and color-coordinated awning of Caffe Mediterraneum has stood sentinel on Telegraph Avenue since the late 1950s. It was recently removed as a new restaurant is opening there. Photo: Wikipedia

It’s been about a year and a half since anyone could buy an espresso at Caffe Med, the storied Telegraph Avenue café that opened in the late 1950s and became a meeting place for beatniks, Free Speech Movement activists, hippies, anti-Vietnam War protesters, the Black Panthers, and many others.

The poet Allen Ginsberg frequented the café when he lived in Berkeley, and many believe he wrote parts of Howl in the coffee shop at 2475 Telegraph. Some say one of the early owners, Lino Meiorin, created the first caffe latte there. Dustin Hoffman was seen at a table in the Med, with Telegraph Avenue visible outside the window, in the 1967 film The Graduate.

The café even has its own Wikipedia entry.

Now, the familiar large sign emblazoned with the coffee shop’s name is gone.

Caffe Mediterraneum, to use its full name, changed hands in late 2016 when Craig Becker sold the lease for the business to Delicious LLC, a company co-owned by Robert Hom, Louis Tai and Andy Yang. They shut down the operation with plans to reopen once the café was remodeled. (Construction began in early 2017). The new place will be called Boileroom, according to Becker. He and his brother, Bruce, still own the building.

No one at Delicious could be reached for comment and Becker said he preferred not to reveal details about what kind of food will be served. Becker did say that he thinks it will open sometime this year.

Caffe Med without its well-known sign. Photo: Ted Friedman

Becker said he promised to deliver a watertight building to Delicious, and has to put a new roof on the building. They took off the Caffe Med sign as part of the repair process, he said.

“We wanted to get rid of it because it’s old corrugated metal,” he said. “There was nothing much you could do with it. We didn’t know what was behind it. It could hide a lot of dry rot. Until you take it down you can’t see what kind of repairs need to be done.”

Over the weekend, the sign came down, leaving behind pieces of wood in a pleasant pattern. The wood was in better condition than Becker expected, he said, although there was a bit of rot.

“It’s sort of a non-event,” he said.

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