cafe xoho / tel aviv, israel
what happens when you put a group of female expats together in israel who are passionate about food? you got the glorious creation of cafe xoho (pronounced zo-ho).
located in a bustling area of tel aviv, cafe xoho is in its 6 year of existence. this funky, yet very home-y space, was created by two women, xoli and zöe- who simply wanted to have the creative room to recreate dishes from their homes. xoli, born from canadian parents, was raised in hong kong, moved to australia when she was 18, and then decided to move to israel. how incredible is that? zöe, also an expat, spent many years in israel working in the culinary scene. (sadly, zöe left israel to move back to the states only two weeks or so before I had arrived, and she is greatly, greatly missed by xoli and the rest of the staff).
while it wasn’t planned, as cafe xoho started to expand from a 2 girl operation- their entire staff ended up being female expats from all over the world. in this little haven in tel aviv, you’ll find a group of women who have become family. they, for whatever their own reasons, moved to tel aviv from another country and somehow found each other and cafe xoho. and you can feel it when you are there.
I spent over an hour chatting with xoli about her journey, and the philosophies behind cafe xoho. the reader’s digest version? cafe xoho is fueled by women in the kitchen who are passionate about food. and they aren’t classically trained in any capacity. without any formal training, there is open ended room for experimentation, for recreating nostalgic childhood foods, for satisfying the personal craving for an ethnic dish that you won’t find being served anywhere else in tel aviv. xoli is so passionate about being ahead of the current culinary trends. they were the first cafe in tel aviv EVER to have vegan options. now you can find it everywhere.
xoli’s goal is to be able to offer authentic, made from scratch, home cooked food at affordable prices. and with that, she embraces the backgrounds of her worldly staff to bring forth new ideas to the kitchen. cafe xoho’s most popular item, a breakfast bagel, was created because zöe wanted to experiment with the idea of offering a new york style bagel. and what was created? heaven. no seriously. I STILL think about this bagel. completely made from scratch, and just pure utter perfection.
their menu changes every 3 months or so, depending on what is seasonally available in the market. there are specials every week with something new and exciting.
and did I mention everything is made from scratch in house? EVERYTHING.
various types of bread, ice cream, cakes, cookies, sorbet, pies, fresh squeezed juices, jams, jellies, spreads, house cured salmon. and everything I tried was absolutely delicious.
there’s a community around the staff of cafe xoho. being in the kitchen, the ladies beautifully danced around one another- hopping from one station to the next- plating a dish, cracking an egg on the stovetop, slicing up bread. like a choreographed ballet, they so effortlessly moved around one another– and I did my best to stay out of their path with my camera! they wash dishes. they serve food if it gets too busy. xoli jumps into the kitchen, chats with the regulars, does some paperwork, runs food to tables. they are a team. they are a family.
and the community extends to their customer’s. xoli makes sure that every customer feels taken care of. she confidently admits, cafe xoho isn’t for everyone. it’s been labeled as “american food” by some locals. and while the guests of cafe xoho are often english speaking expats and tourists, there are plenty of israelis who understand what is being created, and what purpose the space is serving. it’s a place that, perhaps in venice beach in los angeles, could get lost in a sea of hipsters, manufactured falsely to portray the ideals the naturally flow from xoli and her staff.
but for israel, for tel aviv, cafe xoho is something so unique, vibrant, and welcoming. and it felt like home. my home. your home. wherever your home is- cafe xoho welcomes, embraces, and celebrates it.
just ask the ladies in the kitchen.