Telling You What's Good

DC Gets a Proper Teahouse: Abu Nawas

This sign made me do a double take

The post I just made about Iraqi tea was a necessary precedent for something I’m very excited to share with you.  There is now an IRAQI TEAHOUSE (Chaikhana) IN THE DC AREA. Abu Nawas Tea Gourmet, in Fairfax. OK, so it’s in Fairfax, but everything good and ethnic in DC is in the suburbs for the most part (case in point, it’s in the same shopping center as Bon Chon, home of the best fried chicken in the universe, no arguments allowed).

Read on to see why it’s so special:

Well firstly, it’s the ONLY Iraqi cafe in the entire mid-Atlantic area, from what I can tell – which by itself is an accomplishment. More importantly it has real Iraqi-style tea, in several varieties, something no place else has.  Sure, there are teahouses in DC, but most focus on East Asian teas favored by the new age set. I like them and they have their place, but they don’t cut it. Recommended are the “charcoaled tea-pot”, as well as “Basra lemon tea,” made out of dried limes.

This is how dark Iraqi tea should be. Those yellow things are fresh dates.

They also have a menu of light food which is entirely Iraqi – no pandering to the crowd with hummus and the like, but rather a variety of very Iraqi snacks, sandwiches and desserts:

Not listed but recommended: dates stuffed with walnuts

Furthermore, they have some of the best-packed and most reasonably priced nargile in the DC area:

You can sit outside and have a smoke and drink your tea, which is nice:

Or you can sit inside, which is quite interesting.  Really, the best thing about Abu Nawas is just how proudly Iraqi they’ve made it. The place is named after Abu Nuwas, a prominent and still-beloved medieval poet from Baghdad, who wrote about the good things in life, no matter how sinful they may be. Today, the main entertainment street of Baghdad is named after him. On the inside of the cafe, the walls are lined with works by Iraqi artists which are for sale, and the proprietor, Ra’ad, is himself an artist, who was working on a piece last time I was there.  He’s also a very nice guy, packing all the nargiles to order, playing traditional Iraqi music on request, and generally making one really feel at home.

They have yet to hold their grand opening, and their website is yet to launch, but hopefully this place really takes off. Iraqi culture deserves to be recognized – after all, it’s home to the oldest civilizations in the world – and Abu Nawas Chaikhana is doing a damn good job representing. Go, go, go.

A customer representing too

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