Yellow is the place to be for breakfast in Georgetown, offering the first of its kind, a Middle Eastern cafe with ingredients that remind you of the motherland.
Between the enchanting melodies of Lebanese vocalist Fairuz, the Arabic words scattered across labels and signs and the calming aroma of Za’atar and summaq, the line at Yellow stretches out the door and around the block for good reason. The cafe, found at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and P Street, has a menu well worth the early morning wait with a Palestinian twist on traditional breakfast items, like croissants, coffee cake and breakfast sandwiches.
Breakfast is only served until 11 a.m., so make sure to get there on the earlier side.
Upon walking into Yellow, the namesake of the cafe is immediately apparent through the shades of the yellow walls, which create a warm atmosphere for the crowd gathered inside. The dining area takes from Middle Eastern influence, with a U-shape formation of chairs along one wall and geometric engravings on the tables. There is also a outdoor patio option in the front of the cafe, lining the street.
Chef Michael Rafidi – the founder of Albi, the famous Michelin-Starred Middle Eastern restaurant located in Navy Yard – takes inspiration from his Palestinian heritage in his flavor profiles while adopting modern western cooking techniques. At Yellow, he has infused typical Palestinian ingredients like Za’atar, tahini and summaq into western food including French pastries, iced coffees and soft serve to create a fusion of his background and culinary training.
The menu offers an assortment of sweet and savory morning breakfast options and lunch items sold from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Soft serve ice cream is also available, along with a range of Middle Eastern-inspired coffees and teas.
I went with the breakfast egg pita ($10), made of soft scrambled eggs, cheese known as kashkaval, labne – or strained yogurt – and tahini chopped salad with a consistency similar to a cucumber sauce alongside kofta (extra $3). It was a heavenly combination. The kofta, which is made of minced beef mixed with spices and vegetables like onions, added a savory complementary flavor to the egg, enhancing the overall mix. Toward the end of the pita bread, you will discover another amazing contrast – labne and tahini chopped salad – a refreshing blend of yogurt and a light cucumber sauce to follow the meat and eggs.
I paired the breakfast dish with the golden date latte ($6), and though it was a first for me, the date molasses added a distinctive sweetness to the latte that was not overpowering. I also tried the lemon sumac pastry ($6), comprised of a sweet lemon glaze along a crust that was baked to perfection, crispy yet still floaty, which created a perfect setting for the sumac to shine. Though I was was hesitant about it at first because I have only tasted summaq in savory dishes like musakhan, a famous Palestinian chicken and rice dish, my doubts went away after I took the first bite.
Overall, Yellow was modern with its Middle Eastern-inspired beaming bright yellow decor. The cafe can get a little overcrowded on the weekends, but it’s truly worth the long lines. The mix of spices and ingredients created a bold taste at Yellow – the Middle Eastern flair and flavors complemented each other in a way that you cannot find it in your average neighborhood cafe.
Although it’s very rare to see Palestinian culture celebrated, especially in affluent neighborhoods like Georgetown, Yellow does an exceptional job of doing that and more. Yellow is more than a cafe. It’s a center of Palestinian culture for people to discover Arabic flavors and for Middle Easterns like myself to feel at home.