Emily J. Sullivan
Perched on the northwest corner of Foothill Boulevard and Towne Center Drive, Cafe X2O and Hookah Lounge offers the best Mediterranean cuisine on this side of Route 66.
A large circus tent-esque patio covering surrounds the elusive cafe.
Red lights framed the interior ceiling, and big white paper lanterns were strung throughout the patio.
The servers power walked in and out of the kitchen, bringing large trays filled with colorful dishes to their hungry customers – of which there were many.
Outside is a black ornate cage filled with hookahs. Some with big blue glass bottoms and long red hoses used to inhale the flavored hookah tobacco.
Others were replete with intricate designs decorating the base.
All of them are table height and placed next to the tables outside.
Glowing coconut charcoals are placed atop the hookah chambers.
There’s an abundance of hookah flavors to choose from, with classics like vanilla and lemon, and more exotic flavors, like Sex on the Beach and Pirate’s Cove.
The cafe was packed to the brim.
Inside, non-smoking patrons sipped on wine and ate authentic Mediterranean cuisine, while patrons enjoyed hookah on the patio outside.
Patrons ranged from families with small children to college students enjoying hookah.
There was a large pizza oven in the corner where servers hurried past, throwing in pita bread to warm it up before serving it with hummus sprinkled with cayenne pepper.
A secret off-the-menu flatbread pizza is available to order as well.
The menu offers a large variety of options. There are cold meze items like hummus, garlic paste, tabbouleh, tzatziki and grape leaves as well as hot meze items like falafel, makanek, beef shawerma fries and spinach boreg.
I ordered the sujuk boreg – an empanada filled with Armenian beef sausage and seasoned cheese.
When you cut into the flaky empanada dough, steam billows out from the savory cheese and meat center.
For the main course I ordered the beef shawerma plate, which had rice garnished with chili powder, red onion and parsley, a large pita bread topped with tender slices of beef, a roasted tomato drizzled with tzatziki and a generous plop of hummus.
The huge serving inspired this only slightly hungry patron to devour every bite, and it was reasonably priced at that.
I also enjoyed a sweet sangria, a perfectly sweet and crisp compliment to a very flavorful and savory meal.
The energetic server had the inside scoop on all the best menu items, the secret off-the-menu flatbreads and the drink specials.
Wine Wednesdays are 50 percent off wine and beer, and Thursdays are 50 percent off beer.
They also bring in DJs on select nights to amp up the vibe.
Cafe X2O and Hookah Lounge is located at 2445 Foothill Blvd. in La Verne, and is open every night until midnight and Sundays until 9 p.m.
Emily J. Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.