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Cafe Havana offers Mediterranean food, coffee


Employee Megan Erhart makes coffee at the European-style Cafe Havana. The cafe is located on South Main Street behind Falcon Food Mart.

When brothers Sam and Issa Baiz opened Café Havana nearly two years ago, they designed it with their home in mind.

The interior of the café is adorned with the work of local artists, and the outside features a mural, artificial foliage and potted trees, all to remind them of their grandfather’s home in Lebanon.

“When we sit in here, we felt like we’re back home,” Sam said.

The store is behind Falcon Food Mart, located off South Main Street, which Sam and Issa have owned for four years. The success they had with the food mart allowed them to open Café Havana.

But they didn’t just want their café to allow them to feel at home — they want their customers to feel at home, too.

“We designed it for it to be a nice place for people to meet, do homework,” Issa said. “If you sit in every corner of Havana, you get a different experience.”

The inside, which has soft lighting, features booths and tables surrounding a fireplace. The outside, which is for those smoking hookah, features an array of tables and two TVs.

“People feel so comfortable here,” Sam said. “People just feel that they’re at home.”

The European-style café specializes in coffee, Mediterranean food, desserts, gelatos and hookah.

Some of the menu’s highlights include garlic chicken pies and hummus. The popular drinks include a caramel chai latte and the café’s signature Lindsay Lohan, which is a dirty chai served hot with cinnamon on top.

The name is random, Sam said, and they named it when Lohan was in the tabloids a lot.

“We’ll always stick with it. People love it,” Sam said. “It brings smiles to people’s faces.”

The shop has many gelato flavors, which has a less fat-to-butter content than ice cream. One of the more popular flavors is tiramisu, Issa said.

Everything on the menu, Issa said, is made with quality ingredients and made fresh every day.

“We’re pretty well-known for our quality,” Issa said. “We really won’t have it any other way.”

The outside is the only place customers can smoke hookah, Sam said, so “it’s not just sticking in one room.”

The café uses a disposable hose, which they trash after one use. The ceiling features a ventilation system, as well as heaters for the colder months.

“Almost any Middle Eastern family you find have hookah in the house,” Sam said. “It’s something you socialize with and you relax.”

Café Havana also has various types of shows, including theater, music and dance performances. They will also participate in the upcoming Art Walk, with in-store digital demonstrations, a singer and more.

The shop is open until 3 a.m.

“Students live at night pretty much,” Issa said.

Customers do stay until the early hours of the morning. Usually, it’s students studying, Sam said.

“If people are here and they want to stay longer, I’ll let them,” Sam said.

Issa said to look out for an updated menu this summer. This will include authentic world coffees, he said.

“We’re not going to be the café that stays the same,” Issa said.

Sam and Issa make their focus on getting on a first-name basis with those who come to the café. This has led to repeat customers, Sam said.

“We’re more personal,” Sam said. “We either know them by name or they know us by name.”

One such repeat customer is Alicia Kae Honsberger, a University senior.

Honsberger said she stops by Café Havana once or twice a week, whether it’s to study all night or visit with friends.

“The atmosphere is really casual,” Honsberger said. “I’ve tried studying in other places and they’re never more welcoming than they are here.”

She knows Issa and Sam, and said the staff is even willing to fix a drink for her that’s not on the menu.

“I can get my drinks exactly as I like them and I don’t feel like I bother them,” Honsberger said.

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