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A delicious, healthy lunch. [Photographs: Leah Douglas]

We have a bunch of coffee chains in the States: Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's...the list goes on. Some of these joints are known for decent coffee, others for passable sweets—none of them, however, excels at both food and beverage preparation. Which is why I was unprepared for frequent visits to Aroma Espresso Bar, which is often dubbed the "Israeli Starbucks." Not only does this place turn out tasty hot drinks, they also have a mean food menu.

I tried a bunch of Aroma's beverages during my stay in Israel. The Chai Latte is a coffee-free drink, consisting of hot milk blended with a signature chai tea powder. A glass of hot chocolate has a layer of unmixed melted chocolate at the bottom, and optional homemade marshmallows on top that melt into a gooey first sip. Sachlav is a surprising thick, sweet milk beverage with nuts and cinnamon, steaming hot and incredibly filling. And on the cold side, an Iced Aroma is like a Frappuccino at its best: good coffee, delicious whole milk, and sugar blended to perfection. To top it all off, with every drink comes a complimentary piece of Aroma chocolate.

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Grilled Vegetable salad.

These drinks were all great, but what really blew me away at Aroma was the food. Though they pitch themselves as an espresso bar, Aroma touts a full breakfast, sandwich, salad, and pastry menu. And these are no pre-packaged, wilted, half-stale meals. Your food is prepared fresh, and pastry is baked within spitting distance of the cashier. Sandwiches have fillings ranging from everyday (mozzarella, tomato and basil) to experimental (grilled halumi cheese, pickles, and cream cheese).

The salads are varied and absolutely enormous. The Grilled Vegetable salad features green beans, roasted zucchini, and potatoes; the Sweet Potato and Lentil salad is enhanced by a copious amount of goat cheese. And the bread—oh, the bread. Absolute slabs of the fluffy, crusty goodness are available for only a few shekels, and it will almost certainly be fresh out of a nearby oven.

If you can't tell by now, I have been having vivid dreams about Aroma since my return. While there are a couple of Aroma outposts in New York and Florida, they can't compete with the quality of produce, milk, butter, and chocolate available in Israel. If only Starbucks would take a page out of Aroma's book and start putting together some decent food offerings—then, perhaps, my pangs of desire would begin to recede.

Aroma Espresso Bar
Multiple locations, in the U.S. and Israel (map)

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work is also featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.

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