Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Mediterranean-Style Dream; New Cafe and Hookah Bar Has Opened Its Doors in Riverside

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Mediterranean-Style Dream; New Cafe and Hookah Bar Has Opened Its Doors in Riverside

Article excerpt

Byline: LAURA CAPITANO

When you keep a close eye on the openings and closings of local leisure spots, you notice how certain locations just can't seem to make a go of it no matter who the tenant. The former South Street Tavern/Dick's Wings/Bella's Bistro by Tinseltown is my clearest example.

I've lived 'round the way from another one of these tricky locations for years, the little building on the corner of Forbes and King, most recently known as the Vienna Garden. The Garden managed to be a complete flop in a busy Riverside nightlife hub for its adherence to spotty service and an overpriced, mediocre menu. The space has been born again under new ownership as Al Hilm Cafe and Hookah Bar, translation: The Dream, which sounds like a nice place to go, doesn't it? "Meet me at The Dream."

Less than a month old, The Dream has hung the requisite beads and red draperies to conjure the Mediterranean spirit, but the place needs a shot of energy and confidence to entice patrons. The neon open sign was half-dark. A faux-torch adorning the interior archway was burned out. The chalkboard on the hostess stand was blank. Candles sat unlit. Televisions were powered off. And while I am very lenient with a new business trying to find its feet, I just don't think ignoring such details is good for the integrity of the establishment. If you're open, be open, man. Change your light bulbs, and act like you want some customers!

Atmospherics aside, the food and beverage experience was delightful. The Dream offers a short wine list, with selections from $4 to $8 per glass and $22 to $30 per bottle. The beer list is more varied, offering some quality imports as well as crowd-pleasing domestics. Happy hour is a solid drinking deal, with 2-for-1 pricing on drafts and house wine from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The Dream does offer entree meat platters boasting all sorts of kebabs ($9 to $25), but I sampled from the appetizer menu - tasty stuffed grape leaves, a boat of parsley-tahini dip with pita and a hefty portion of falafel served on an adorable duck plate, all for under 15 bucks. …

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