Fly me to the moon

Anticipating a new coffee joint, Arabica, downtown

Summertime may not be “officially” upon us for another couple weeks, but with this heat it sure feels like it. And, generally speaking, as soon as the college and K-12ers are finished with the spring semester, this town transforms. Many of us locals enjoy a few months with easy parking, less-crowded restaurants, fewer bros aimlessly jaywalking near campus. I know it’s not great for local businesses, but I also see many stores and restaurants taking this slow time to do renovations, tweak menus and try out new things. That’s exciting.

I was walking on Broadway downtown last week and ran into an old acquaintance of mine, Sam Shabbar, standing outside what used to be Arabian Nights, the hookah lounge he owned. (His brother is Mohammed Shabbar, who’s working with downtown business mogul David Halimi to open Tellers, the restaurant set to occupy the corner of Broadway and Second streets.)

I stopped to say hi and ask him about the place, as the windows were covered in paper. He’s transforming it, he said, into a cafe called Arabica, named for the Ethiopian coffee plant but with a hint at word play. He’s tired of running a hookah lounge and was concerned he’d lose business since California made the legal smoking age 21 (effective June 9). His vision is that of an old-time Chico cafe. The inside walls have been transformed to faux brick, and the tiles in the center of the ceiling are reminiscent of an old hotel ballroom. And Shabbar plans to knock out the windows, which angle in to where the door is, to accommodate outdoor seating—but that is still being vetted by the city.

Aside from the décor, what will set Arabica apart from other coffee shops in town? First, it will stay open later than any other coffee shop. “If they’re open till 9, we’ll be open till 10,” he said. Second, it will offer traditional Middle Eastern beverages. I’m particularly excited for the Turkish coffee, which I haven’t had since I worked in a Romanian bakery. I’ve never gotten such a buzz off caffeine! Traditionally, a Turkish coffee uses very finely ground beans that are boiled right into the water before being strained back out. I don’t drink as much coffee as I did back then—I bet a small cup now would shoot me to the moon.

In addition to coffees, teas and fresh fruit drinks, Shabbar said Arabica also will create all its own pastries, many of which also will be based on Middle Eastern recipes. He anticipates opening this week, so go check it out at 142 Broadway.

So long, farewell News came last week that Mary’s Gone Crackers, that awesome brand of organic, gluten-free snacks headquartered in Gridley, has outgrown its current spot and will be relocating HQ to Reno. As of now, official word is that the Gridley facility will remain open.