>> Yafa Café | Eat the World NYC

15 October 2019

Yafa Café

YEMEN 🇾🇪

A few months ago, a space that used to be a Chinese takeout restaurant started to come alive with signs of life after a fairly quick renovation. A few doors down from Yemeni-owned Yafa Newsstand & Deli, which has served the corner of 4th Avenue and 45th Street for many years, Yafa Café has now been born.

For the better part of a couple months, only drinks were offered, but an open kitchen and the eager stories of its new operators (from the same family as the Yafa Deli) promised a marriage of foods from Brooklyn and Yemen, an exciting proposition.


In the past few years, a hipster-oriented coffee shop had come and gone on busy commercial 5th Avenue nearby, but Yafa seems to be more oriented towards the entire community rather than just the newcomers. Sunset Park is still very strong when it comes to resisting changes, but I think the neighborhood might have a place in its heart for Yafa, whose coffees can nevertheless get pretty expensive with a lovely $7 Yemeni pour over available at the high end of the scale.

When the sandwich board finally announced that breakfast and lunch were being served, the former was the goal on a first pass. Along with oats, bagels, and a gussied up bacon, egg and cheese sandwich lives the Yemeni breakfast ($10, below), which revolves around their excellent flaky traditional flatbread called khubz and a variety of "breakfast dips."


From left to right above, the khubz is served with scrambled eggs with diced peppers, ful medames, and two slices of what appear to be the French Laughing Cow cheese. Their ful, a stew of fava beans and spices, is much less sour than usual and will probably appeal to a wider audience. Its spices are delicious, so it combines well with both the eggs and the khubz.

For a light lunch or the starting course of a larger meal, try the Yemeni shurba ($6, below), a tasty soup made of tomato puree and bulgar wheat. The garlic sourdough served on the side make this actually quite filling by the bottom of the bowl.


Many Yemeni-operated bodegas around town are known to have a small case of halal fried chicken. These may not warrant gallons of ink to be spilled, but are always sneakingly satisfying especially later in the evening. No matter how long the wings and thighs have been sitting there in the hot case, the temperature and texture seemed to be just right, with a dash of Yemeni hawaij to give it a unique taste.

The standout star of Yafa Café builds on this tradition with their Yafa fried chicken sandwich ($10, below), which comes on a plump soft brioche bun and is served with potato chips.


The sandwich is handsome upon arrival but it was the first bite that was a revelation. The chicken is supremely crispy and spiced perfectly with hawaij, while each end of the bun is slathered with a wonderful homemade plum chipotle sauce. Welcome to Sunset Park.

The bite-away view below reveals the all important fourth and fifth components of the sandwich: a Brussels sprouts coleslaw and generous use of pickles. Expectations were high when the order was made, but the reality blew this out of the water. This sandwich deserves some high acclaim.


Other customers seemed to be ordering the shakshuka ($10, not shown) in high quantities, a classic breakfast plate of eggs and tomatoes that they serve here on its cast iron skillet.

Also of note is lamb haneeth sandwich ($12, below), which probably plans to be the star of the show but is just a bit off from that so far. The lamb itself is slow cooked and has a lovely texture but they seem to be playing it safe with their spices, unsure maybe of the customer reception. When they go for it, it will be a pleasure to retry this sandwich.


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Yafa Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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