This Middle Eastern bar/café/lounge packs in the tourists and the locals — particularly for weekend bellydancing. (Which is why I tend to avoid it at all costs during those hours.) It has a dark interior, floor seating at pillows and low tables, plus a limited supply of traditional table seating (depending on when you arrive).
Joe, the Palestinian owner, and his father (the Anthony Quinn lookalike you often see hanging out) have run this place since 1992. I stumbled into this place the week it first opened, and I’ve been a fan of the place, and it has been rather consistent, ever since. In the past 14 years Starbucks has taken over the coffee world several times over, and yet the espresso here hasn’t changed any for the better in that time. But then the spiced Arabic coffee (cardamom, etc.) is the main attraction.
They use packaged beans from Egypt (and otherwise unknown origin). Their red espresso machine at the bar has dual Faema E61 group heads, and with it they pull a sickly looking espresso with a thin, medium brown crema with larger bubbles in it. It has an ashy flavor — as if the machine hasn’t been serviced since Saladin. Stick to the Arabic coffee unless you’ve had a few too many puffs of their hookahs. (“Hookahs not bazookas”, their old stickers and T-shirts used to say.)
I rarely get out here anymore, but I always seem to have a pretty good time there when I do — with an Arabic coffee and a halva.
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