"The vegetarian/vegan queen of cafés, where you can have a real health fix whilst still enjoying a naughty Monster Munch cookie after. A home away from home with a living room feel and the place to catch-up with friends. Xoho caters to all."
*Stunning images all courtesy of Jessica Bruning
If ever there was an Israeli version of Friends series, Xoho would certainly be THE Central Perk for us all! This is a relaxed-homey vibe café with an eclectic mix of furnishings and wall art that redefines the whole cafe experience with its utter uniqueness. Attracting a mixture of olim chadishim, locals (mostly loyal regulars), students and workers alike – even the local street cat pops in and nonchalantly sits adjacent you. Xoho is dog friendly too, so if you don’t spot the local cat you’ll certainly find his dog cousin chilling inside! It’s a place to catch up with friends or (Friends on your laptop), ease the transitioning for olim, work uninterrupted and also the place to spot some eye candy, given its diverse crowd! The staff and owner are equally as wonderful and friendly, just be sure to come early and be aware that they are (unsurprisingly) incredibly busy during lunch. Much to our delight, due to its popularity, the cafe relocated several months ago to bigger premises, its new location holds its masses well as more and more people are discovering this gem.
Before you even enter the cafe, you are welcomed by colourful, hipster wall art, a homey decked patio with an assortment of seating and colourful chairs, there’s some cool contraptions and DIY elements, like the fabric planter hanging on the wall and cool postcard sketchings stuck on the windows. Walk inside and admire a beautiful, rustic and organic front desk topped with various baked goodies, a flower pot, tote bags and badges for sale – look below the unit and find homemade cakes and treats… Check out their awesome vintage-looking neon orange coffee machine. Inside is a real treat, every inch of wall is covered in crazy and cute colourful illustrations, plants hang from the ceiling and the cafe is alive and buzzing with a diverse range of people and chilled music. Large chalkboards display the daily specials and the breezy, fun bohemian atmosphere is incredibly catchy and oh so charming, you’ll always catch the sound of laughter from a nearby table or can even find yourself making a new friend (encouraged by a communal table inside and outside).
Catering for the vegan and vegetarian crowd, the café offers freshly baked cakes, muffins, breads/ bagels and cookies that are equally balanced with a full array of dynamic healthy options on the menu, as well as the daily specials board. It is certainly a vegan/ veggie experience to embrace even for us meat-lovers! Some of their mouth-watering specials samples:
Quinoa bowl with sautéed kale, thyme-roasted mushrooms, two fried eggs and feta (vegan version also available)
Brown rice bowl with roasted eggplant and cauliflower, topped with a yogurt drizzle, tomato jam and walnuts
Vegan kubbeh with mushroom and nut-filled ‘dumplings’ in a tangy and spicy beet broth
Each dish is lovingly and beautifully served, varying in texture and colour that alight all the senses. Their food varies accordingly to the seasons and Jewish holidays – They even feature specials for American festivals for the homesick olim or host other fun events. Usually Monday nights they feature select musicians to perform, with free entry, they also hold various events, best to follow their Facebook page for this. The chef continually experiments with different cuisines like their recent Korean Kimchi Pancake served with two fried eggs and a soy dipping sauce. They just recently introduced Crabbies Ginger Beer to their menu, which I am excited about and also serve other alcoholic beverages. So no matter what the weather or if you feel homesick, this is just one of those places that will always leave you with a smile on your face. Even meat eaters like myself can embrace their alternative meat options and walk out satisfied.
Their aromatic and fresh coffee is from a local trader (2 Israelis’) adjacent the Shuk haCarmel (on 2 Shefer Street) using Costa Rican MAE bean blend, for years they literally learnt the whole coffee process in Costa Rica and brought their knowledge to Israel. They have a mutual business relationship, where Xoho uses their coffee and Mae usually buy Xoho’s various baked goods in bulk. No doubt, Xoho’s community-spirit is probably also echoed with their various other food suppliers too, their need to tell even their customers about their suppliers, shows their connectivity with other businesses, very admirable. Follow the cowboy shutter doors to the loo and discover a series of tributes/ messages located in the toilet booths, post-it notes and pens have been provided for those creative minds – A series of funny and strange notes have remained.
I urge you all to try their beer bread breakfast, this is always a win: A colourful and hearty egg breakfast, an open hot sandwich stacked with various toppings/ spreads and salads that are constantly reinvented – more than Madonna herself! It certainly keeps me coming back for more! I had just that for my review, this time the beer bread was served with a salmon cream cheese spread, with red onion relish and capers. The green salad was fresh and tasty, with radishes, cucumber and tomatoes coated in a delicious vinaigrette, it was a real treat. Jess had their carrot cake and fresh orange juice. She had a generous chunk of cake, frosted with cream cheese and covered in walnuts and framed with silan (date syrup) which complemented well with the moistness and rich cinnamon/nutmeg taste of the cake.
Drink – try their refreshing limonana or basil equivalent (limobasilicum) with their tangy-sweet halloumi sandwich, and try leave space for one of their many baked goods on display (or at least takeout, for a special treat later). Their hot and cold drinks are varied and the juices are all made fresh on site served in cute jars, you almost feel like a health freak for that hour! Many swear by the chai drinks.
There’s a real sense of community and good, happy energy and vibes all-round and it’s certainly well worth the visit.
[*For those Kosher observant folk: Although the cafe does not have a kosher certificate, it is a dairy only cafe and is not open during Shabbat and important Jewish holidays.]