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Allenby St 97

Category: Best RestaurantsTags: Cafe and Guest Reviewer

You are standing at the bus stop in the heart of Allenby’s busy shopping district, across from the Great Synagogue. The bus is delayed so you begin pacing slowly, glancing through store windows nearby…you spend an extra minute admiring the one displaying authentic Middle Eastern musical instruments. Then suddenly something catches your eye. You look up and to your left but you have trouble understanding what you see: a strikingly designed bright-blue arch framing an open doorway. Has the enchanted entrance to the great Dwarf Dwelling of Moria been transported to Tel Aviv from the Lord of the Rings novels? What lies beyond the painted arch with the strange writing? You can’t resist, and anyway the bus is still not coming…so you cautiously pass the threshold. Just a few steps past the stairwell of what you now realize is an ancient apartment building…and then, almost unbelievably, an intriguing hidden world opens before you: an open courtyard with sunlight that tries, with little success, to penetrate the canopy of mature trees shading a casual splay of cafe tables and benches. You slowly become aware of background music trickling under the soft murmur of speech. And then the thrill of discovery seizes you: it’s a secret cafe…on Allenby! Not a place that sells sugared forms of ice coffee among other street food. You sense, hopes rising, that this place may be special.

As you keep moving irresistibly into the captivating outdoor/indoor space, uncertain of whether you are still in this world or have entered an enchanted kingdom, another realization immediately strikes you: the building surrounding the courtyard is vintage, but the cafe setting is young and hip—from a groovy-looking crowd relaxing at the tables, to the music that sets the scene, this place exudes coolness. And it has a name: Edmund Cafe, a coffee bar and daytime hang-out for the hip, and for those who just come for the love…of the coffee, the social scene, or the relaxed courtyard atmosphere.

Unique is the word for Edmund…an idea that just couldn’t be conceived—much less survive and thrive—in any other city, especially those beset by big-chain coffee stores. In many ways this place is Tel Aviv. Maybe that’s because owners David Basilian, Shilo Hadad, Shai Beradt, and Naor David, are the ultimate Tel Avivis: hip, ultra-creative, self-taught, and hard-working. Get to know them and you quickly begin to see that that this is a place they created for their friends: old ones, new ones, and those who achieve that status simply by stepping through the archway and into Edmund’s world. Admittedly little real marketing has gone into promoting the place since it opened in 2017. And yet success has come through both word of mouth and the fact that the owners appear to be highly regarded across diverse circles of the White City, none more than the hipster and DJ elite.

But for all of their success in creating a magnetic daytime social scene, the four co-proprietors remain admirably focused on the main point of a coffee bar: the coffee. For one thing, they have their own coffee bean-roaster in the store. Since micro-roasteries are not yet common in Israel, the small machine itself is a welcome sight behind the counter and it is to be admired. Although Edmund does outsource large-quantity roasting, the owners use their own roaster for small batches, and to test and develop their blends. Here they are going for simplicity in both concept and packaging. Instead of fancy names for their roasts, which they constantly update, they use a chic numbering system: Blend #1, #2, etc. (think Chanel #5). Basilian told me that Edmund specializes in roasts that Israelis tend to prefer: dark and rich with fruit notes. That sounded great to me, so I asked for one like that and got Blend #4, ground for French press. It was everything it promised—with no bitter aftertaste that sometimes characterizes stronger blends.

And here’s something noteworthy and extra-cool: In addition to offering a full line of fine coffee-bar staple selections, both hot and cold, the owners mix and package their own Edmund brand of bottled cold brew. Grab it from the refrigerator, and while there notice Edmund’s other homemade bottled drinks offered as take-away items: from kombucha, to cold-pressed juices, to choco made with real cocoa.

As to food, Edmund Cafe offers an extensive and delectable variety of sweets and baked goods from both Nola American Bakery and Tony & Esther. The lunchtime offering is select, mostly in the form of gourmet sandwiches prepared in-house and on the spot. Those we tried, roast beef and salmon, respectively, were extremely tasty and well prepared on delicious whole-grain bread. They were small, but so was the price, at 16 NIS each. (If you’re really hungry, just buy two and it’s still a relatively inexpensive lunch.)

You’ll find the drink and food menus, mostly in Hebrew, at the counter where you place your own order. Then head back to the refuge of your table in the shaded serenity of the courtyard, wait for delivery, and enjoy chilling out in the coolest “secret garden” of Tel Aviv.

Reviewed by Alicia Gansz.

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