This article was originally posted to: Jpost
Café Joe, which had earned a name for itself among coffee connoisseurs in Tel Aviv, has opened a kosher branch in Jerusalem.
When it was established in 1997, Cafe Joe was not much more than a small neighborhood coffee shop on Hahashmonaim Street in Tel Aviv, dishing out steaming cups and cinnamon buns to the local populace. The thing that set our protagonist apart, however, was that while other cafes were sticking to stock espresso beans, the owners of Cafe Joe, David Klein and Dov Goldfarb, decided to grind and roast their own secret blends in the belly of the shop.
Legend has it that pretty soon, Joe had earned a name for itself among coffee connoisseurs, and cafes around Tel Aviv began outsourcing their cups to the small cafe. As demand grew, Goldfarb and Klein realized that their little roasting facility would soon fall behind demand. Fourteen years and 63 franchises later, Cafe Joe no longer has to worry about keeping pace with the competition – or the needs of the country’s burgeoning population of high-powered caffeine fiends (caffiends?).
Which is why I was delighted to take a break from the daily grind to sample some of the fabled java at the Keren Hayesod Street Joe, one of two franchises in Jerusalem. It was also an opportunity to see whether the place took its food menu as seriously as it does its coffee or if the grub was no more than a foil to the piping hot main event.
My companion and I arrived in time for a late lunch and were promptly shown to our booth. Rather than plow through the menu, which is fairly comprehensive, we decided to go with staff recommendations. These turned out to be a sauteed vegetable salad (consisting mostly of mushrooms and peppers) served warm over bulgur with sprouts and almonds in teriyaki sauce (NIS 45), and the halumi-mushroom salad, also in teriyaki sauce (NIS 55). We were encouraged to sample the cannelloni (NIS 49) – a new option on the menu served with the requisite cheeses, tomato sauce and side salad — and were more than happy to oblige.
Although we generally prefer to limit our teriyaki intake to no more than one dish per meal, the two salads proved to be quite tasty, if a bit on the sweet side. It is also worth noting that the halumi-mushroom salad didn’t skimp on the cheese – so often the case with these dishes. The high note had to be the cannelloni, which proved that Cafe Joe has more on its mind than just coffee.
The menu also offers quite a fine selection of sandwiches, bagels and toasts for a quick bite, as well as a nice choice of pastas and salads.
There are also several breakfast options served throughout the day, including a breakfast for two (NIS 89) that we’re going to have to go back for.
Unlike the non-kosher franchises of Cafe Joe, which offer an even more diverse menu, the Jerusalem branches are a strictly dairy and vegetarian affair. In a city packed to the rafters with cheese-heavy eateries, Joe manages to hold its own as a full-blown dairy restaurant, even though it is still primarily a cafe.
When we were finished with lunch, we settled deeper into our booth to leisurely sip our respective fixes, I an Americano and my companion a cappuccino. Needless to say, the Joe was superb, easily revealing that even with the solid food menu, the real catalyst behind this chain’s manic growth is no more and no less than a fistful of magic beans.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Cafe Joe, kosher mehadrin, 38 Keren Hayesod, Jerusalem, (02) 561-0555.