To say I’ve been waiting a long time for K’Far Cafe to open up is an understatement. Ever since it was announced that the CooknSolo duo behind Zahav and Goldie were opening a then–unnamed restaurant in November of 2018, I’ve been waiting patiently. But if we’re being technical, I’ve been waiting for decent Israeli pastry since I was a little kid begging my mom day after day to make borekas. The only decent Israeli food in Philadelphia for a long time was limited to hummus and falafel. Don’t get me wrong; I mean no disrespect to the honorable hummus and falafel, but I’ve been ready for something new for a while.
My exceedingly Israeli parents and I arrived on K’Far’s second day open at 8:07 a.m., expecting a small line since after all, it was only seven minutes after opening. Instead, we were greeted by a line that stretched from the counter to the very back of the restaurant, and silently hoped that it would be worth it as we made our way to the back. In many ways, aside from the food itself, the line actually helped me observe the place in a more profound way. Chef and Philly food celebrity Solomonov was happily walking around, serving bagels and toasts to patrons, and chatting them up in the process. It’s a great PR tactic, but he seemed genuinely thrilled to be there.
In terms of decor, the cafe is absolutely beautiful. Nothing like that dusty, old, and charming borekas joint in Qiryat Ata that fills my memories of eating borekas in Israel. No pesky black flies circling the pastry, no open windows or doors, no toothless man serving you his delicious food with a huge grin. While the picture I just painted for you seems a little bleak from the outside, there’s so much warmth and beauty in that scene that it was difficult for me to imagine Israeli cafe food any other way. Before K’Far, that is.
K’Far is leaps and bounds away from that bakery in Israel; it’s much more elevated, similar to Cook & Solomonov’s other restaurants. The whole space is covered in millennial pink, the bar holds enough liquor to make enough aperitifs for a small country, and there are elegant windows into the kitchen and the outside that give those in line and those outside a glimpse into what makes that place smell so damn good.
After nearly half an hour in line ogling the pastries from afar, we finally got to the counter and ordered. The relief washed over me as I realized that I got the last pistachio sticky bun, and I could finally relax. In total, we ordered the sticky bun, some borekas with Bulgarian feta cheese, and a smoked salmon Jerusalem bagel.
The first thing I tried was the Jerusalem bagel, which is thin and oval–shaped, not like its thicker and more circular counterpart, the New York bagel. It was well–toasted and super buttery thanks to the caper butter, and the salmon, pickles, and dill worked in perfect, salty harmony.
The pistachio sticky bun was everything I hoped it would be (and might just rival my love of Hungry’s Pigeon’s version): sticky, sweet, and nutty, with just a hint of what I think might be rosewater in the glaze.
Finally, the borekas; what one could argue is the star of the show in any Israeli bakery. The borekas must be super flaky and stuffed well with the filling, so that the only solely–pastry bites you can get are the corners. For cheese borekas, there must be sesame seeds on top and the pastry has to be triangular (Leafy green borekas like spinach or swiss chard are circular, and potato borekas are rectangular.) K’Far had fulfilled all of the exterior criteria, but once I bit in, I knew that this was probably the most perfect boreka I could ever have outside of my own home. It was flaky and buttery, filled with the wonderfully salty feta and covered in sesame seeds. Definitely a must–try if you’re ever at K’Far.
All in all, K’Far ticked all the expected boxes for an elevated Israeli cafe in this area. It’s mindful of the American palate but still willing to stay true to its roots. Not only is the food great, the space is beautiful and has indoor and outdoor seating. The staff is friendly and patient, and the vibes are great. If you live in the Philly area or are staying on–campus for the summer, head to K’Far as soon as possible, if you can stand for an early wake–up and a long line in exchange for heavenly Israeli pastry.
Address: 110 S. 19th Street
Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for breakfast and lunch. Dinner service will be added sometime in August.