When siblings Saif and Lily Alobaidi moved from Iraq to the United States in 2009, it was impossible to find Iraqi traditional Lokma, pastries made of leavened and deep fried dough, soaked in syrup or honey.
So, when Lily would have people over to the house, she would make it from scratch, along with serving tea.
“Lily went to a couple of etiquette courses for setting tables and stuff when she was younger, so when she grew up, she paid a lot of attention to the details of serving on a dining table,” Saif says. “When people came over, she would set up these elaborate tables, and everyone always told her she should open up her own café.”
Last year, the siblings decided to take the advice and set out to open their own place featuring desserts from back home. Today, Lily’s Chocolate & Coffee, located at 175 Maple Ave. E., is one of the first shops in the United States that serves traditional Iraqi Lokma.
The shop’s Lokma has fillings such as vanilla cream, chocolate cream and more, and then covered with chocolate.
While Lily runs the day to day operations at the store, Saif used his background as a civil engineer to make Lily’s Chocolate & Coffee something special.
“I designed it from A to Z and I built it with my construction company,” he said. “All the furniture was custom made from overseas. Even our coffee machine was bought from Italy.”
All chocolate at the shop comes from Belgium, which the Alobaidis chose after visiting the country for a chocolate tasting last year.
“We even came up with our own coffee blend, a mix of Columbian and Brazilian beans,” Saif says. “Even the milk is brought fresh twice a week from a farm in Maryland, so there’s always the freshest coffee and milk available.”
They chose Vienna to open because they knew the community had a big foodie culture and wanted to offer people something different. They found the perfect space and opened on the Fourth of July, holding a week-long get-to-know me event.
“On July 10, we did our official grand opening, and invited a lot of friends and friends of friends from the community, and we had almost 300 people lined up outside,” Saif says. “We’ve met a lot of people from the area and we’ve been getting a lot of friends. We don’t think of them as customers, we’re about making relationships.”
The design of the shop is very welcoming and the Alobaidis work to make each person feel at home.
“We love the interaction with people,” Saif says. “We know a lot of people by name now, and they come in to chat and hang out and enjoy our great coffee.”
In November, Lily’s Chocolate & Coffee started offering afternoon tea, and that has become a popular thing for people to do—especially in groups.
More unique ideas are coming in 2022 as the shop looks to become the go-to place for anyone looking to relax and enjoy a coffee, tea or dessert.
Lily’s Chocolate & Coffee
175 Maple Ave E
Vienna, VA 22180