The former Obscura storefront on East 10th Street has been transformed into what appears to be a mild-mannered coffee shop – but you’ll still find a few oddities within. The seating, for example, is made out of repurposed RPG rocket crates.
“We come from Israeli Military backgrounds originally,” explained owner Guy Jacobovitz, “where wooden creates were basically your improvised closet, your footlocker. We thought, why not turn something that is war-related and militant into something that is fun, like coffee shop furniture, these cute little benches?”
With free WiFi and plenty of outlets for recharging, Café Silan aims to be a welcoming local hub that will serve not only coffee and espresso but also homemade pastries and, starting this week, Mediterranean-inspired tapas. Last week, experiments behind the pastry case included two varieties of cheesy muffins – one cheddar and one gouda – which were being giving away for free in exchange for honest feedback.
Jacobovitz’s cooking combines his Israeli heritage with his love of New Zealand and South Pacific cuisine. The name Café Silan comes from a vegan sweetener of the same name (also called “date honey”) that’s popular in Israel and can be found in the pineapple-espresso sauce of his barbecue pulled-chicken sandwich.
As for the coffee, Jacobovitz’s business partner, Nir Achiel, spent years working as a barista at prominent local cafes like Tiny Giant and Atlas Café. He aims to appeal to coffee connoisseurs as well as those who might feel alienated by strict coffee snob rules; you can order a fine flat white here, but if you want a shot of caramel syrup in your macchiato, go for it.
Jacobovitz says he chose the former Obscura storefront in part because he felt connected to the neighborhood. He appreciates the area’s Jewish history and even discovered a tiny remnant of the past while tearing down some drywall; today, if you peer into a framed cutout in the kitchen wall, you’ll see a faded Hebrew letter “P,” which appears to be part of a magazine or newspaper that was stuck to the wall decades ago. “We could not have taken it down,” he said. “It would have been like taking down an ancient artifact.”
Café Silan, 280 East 10th Street, bet. Avenue A and 1st Ave.; open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.