MarkC wrote:In my opinion, the Israeli chain Arcaffe deserves a lot of the credit for the high quality of Israeli cafes.
I'll agree and disagree with you on this one. Playing on the biblical theme for a moment: In the beginning there were Kassit, Cafe Tamar and dozens of small, often family run and neighborhood oriented cafes, where although the coffee, cakes and sandwiches were pretty abysmal, they attracted a loyal crowd of followers, each claiming that his or her cafe was the best.
Kassit and Tamar begat The Coffee Nazi (not to take offense, a most affectionate term) on Tel Aviv's Shenkin Street and there, perhaps for the first time someone in Israel who knew how to how an espresso machine works. The Coffee Nazi in his turn begat Ilan's and Cuppa Joe, indeed the first places in the country where the roasting, blending and making of coffee became the art-form of which coffee is capable.
Keeping in mind that Ilan's was founded in 1990 and that Cuppa Joe opened in 1992, both with single cafes at the time (Ilan's on Rehov Ibn Gvirol and Cuppa Joe on Carlibach), it is important to remember that Arcaffe's first branch (in Herziliya Pituach) opened only in 1995 and by that time a host of small but fine cafes were making admirable cups of espresso and having their regulars who came to call on a thoroughly regular schedule. So devoted were those regulars that some Tel Avivians made the round of two, three or even four cafes every Friday, at each to sit with friends and to discuss the national and international politics, cinema, literary efforts and, of course, the men and women they had conquered during the last week.
As to chains I suppose I have a problem, for the more they grow, the more standardized they become and places that are standarized just don't cut it for me. Whether here in Israel, in the USA and indeed even in parts of France, Italy and Spain, I generally avoid the chains, seeking out instead those places that are individualistic enough to allow me to feel my own individuality. And of course, despite or perhaps because of that individuality, to fit in comfortably without feeling that I am simply "another customer".
Kassit is long gone, Tamar will soon have vanished; and the Coffee Nazi is no longer on the premises most of the time. Not a problem though. Indeed Israeli cafe sitting remains among my most favored activities and there remain dozens yet to be explored and dozens to which I look forward to returning.
P.S. And yes, when I am in Akko, Uhm Al Fahm, Jish or parts of Haifa, I continue to thoroughly enjoy the old-time, old-fashioned Arab cafes. And who, after all, am I to deny they joy of the narghila?