Cafe brings a taste of Morocco to Lake Oswego
For Karter Elhabbassi, who owns Ovation Coffee & Tea with his family, opening the Lake Oswego location was like coming home.
Elhabbassi — a West Linn resident — initially moved to Lake Oswego from Morocco in 2001.
Elhabbassi said it was his dad's dream to open a restaurant and his mom's dream to open a coffee shop. The family accomplished both of those dreams — the latest opening being the coffee and tea shop at Mary's Woods retirement community June 27.
The coffee shop serves Moroccan coffees, lattes, homemade pastries and sandwiches.
"Lake Oswego and West Linn (have) more of the staple coffee shops like Starbucks and Pete's," Elhabbassi said. "There's not much mom and pop shops I would say."
When the family first moved to Oregon from Morocco, they opened Dar Essalam — a Moroccan restaurant in Wilsonville where they served traditional four-course meals.
The family sold the restaurant and opened their first coffee shop in Portland's Pearl District about seven years ago before opening another location in the South Waterfront area of Portland earlier this year.
Elhabbassi reached out to Mary's Woods last summer and met with CEO Diane Hood about opening up at Mary's Woods, which recently underwent an expansion that added 198 new units of senior housing and more than 40,000 square feet of corporate and commercial space.
"They (Ovation) are an awesome organization," said Hood in an interview with the Review back in February.
The three buildings facing Highway 43 are mainly retail spaces being leased to outside businesses.
Elhabbassi said they hit it off and had similar visions of "customer service first."
Due to COVID-19 restrictions the coffee shop has limited first-come, first-serve outdoor seating but is open every day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"It has a whole Moroccan twist to the menu," said Elhabbassi, adding that they use eight traditional spices including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves so people can enjoy a Moroccan version of any drink with "the same spices we used to get from our spice shop in Morocco."
Elhabbassi said the most popular drink is the Moroccan pistachio latte, which is made with powder instead of syrup to produce a more sweet and creamy texture, adding fullness to the milk.
Elhabbassi's mother, Dee, makes all the scones from scratch and bakes flavors including vanilla bean, toasted coconut and marionberry. They also serve paninis and other dishes like the Moroccan breakfast biscuit with gyro meat, goat cheese and roasted tomato.
"In the future we are looking to add more Moroccan food items once we get settled," said Elhabbassi, adding that they plan to serve nitro coffee and tea drinks once they can seat at full capacity, since they will offer flights. "We do milkshakes, so a bunch of coffee milkshakes too ... basically a whole new twist to the menu."
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Elhabbassi said the entire family was running the coffee shops but since his parents, Dee and Abdellah, are older, they don't come into the shops as much.
Elhabbassi said Morocco is famous for its hospitality and that his parents are "the star of the show."
"I would say we do wanna spread the hospitality; we wanna spread this Moroccan experience where it's more than a cup of coffee," Elhabbassi said. "You come in and you're part of the family."
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