Taste a hard-to-find Iraqi treat at Lily’s Chocolate & Coffee


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Lokmas, chocolate and quirky coffee drinks are on the menu at the Instagram-worthy café in Vienna.

By Alice Levitt

“Life is short, eat chocolate.” So says a sign in the highly Instagrammable interior of Lily’s chocolate and coffee in Vienna, a newcomer from an Iraqi-American brother and sister team. The cafe was designed by Saif Alobaidi, a Reston-based civil engineer, who had everything from swing-style seats to the flower wall built to his specifications.

His sister Lily also played a role in the design of the cafe they own together, he says. But Lily Alobaidi’s biggest contribution has been food and drink. “She is very well known among her friends and family for her good Iraqi tea,” Saif says. Its traditional black tea, enhanced with cardamom, is indeed just what it takes. It’s served in hand painted cups and saucers made by a dedicated customer since Lily’s opened in July. Coffee is a blend of roasted Guatemalan and Brazilian beans Grace Street Cafe in Georgetown, served both in traditional forms and as drinks dressed as honey cinnamon or pistachio lattes.

But Lily’s biggest innovation (as in the store and the woman) is to apply chocolate to the fried dough called lokmas. The bite-sized balls are served with sugar syrup or date syrup in Iraq, says Alobaidi. Here, however, the dough is filled with a burst of cookie butter or vanilla or caramel cream. He’d rather not reveal the enviable Belgian chocolate supplier – with iterations ranging from black to ruby ​​- that dresses up the hot dessert, but he and Lily picked him out on a tasting trip to Europe before the opening.

In the future, Lily’s treats could expand to include a world of chocolate treats, including Spanish churros, Belgian waffles, and French pancakes. Until then, a succulent taste of Iraq is sure to attract sweet lovers.

175 Maple Avenue East, Vienna

This story originally appeared in our December issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.

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