A new restaurant is coming to McKinney that'll be half Italian, half coffee shop. Called Yaba Java Cafe, it's opening at 3935 S. Lake Forest Dr., in a new shopping center at the intersection of McKinney Ranch Pkwy., where it will feature pizzas and other Italian dishes cooked in a wood-burning oven.
According to owner Ayman Hatkwa, it'll open this summer, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a full-blown espresso bar.
There was once a Yaba Java Cafe in California, now closed, which served as a kind of inspiration, Hatkwa says.
"I was originally going to call it Northwest Cafe, as a nod to the Seattle area which has such a major coffee scene, but I liked the name Yaba Java — in Arabic, 'yaba' means father or daddy," he says. "It gave us our slogan: 'It's yaba-licious.'"
Hatkwa collaborated with a chef to create the menu.
"We're not cutting corners here, I really want to give customers great food, good service, and consistency," he says. "The centerpiece is our wood-burning oven, and we'll use that to cook most of the food, even dishes like lasagna."
At breakast, he'll have muffins, plus pastries from Bindi, an Italian company.
"Most of what we have, we'll make in house," he says. "We'll have egg sandwiches, quiche, Belgian waffles, and then for lunch and dinner, we'll do flatbreads, pizza, lasagna, salmon, and rack of lamb."
One of his specialty pizzas is topped with fig and feta cheese, and his flatbread lineup will incorporate middle-Eastern flavors and herbs. "It seems like a lot of people think flatbread is just a skinnier pizza, but we're approaching it with more creativity," he says.
Starters will be fun finger foods, including chicken egg rolls, panini, and kebobs. He won't serve alcohol, but welcomes BYOB.
"We're going for a healthy theme, we'll have vegetarian dishes and lots of soups and salads, as well," he says.
The healthy theme will extend to making carbonated sodas in house — no canned Cokes — along with coffee, teas, espresso drinks, and even a Turkish coffee.
Hatkwa has lived an intriguing life including serving in the military and working in the private security industry including personal bodyguard for VIPs like Kanye West.
"The story behind this goes back to the '80s when I was a young trooper in the 82nd Airborne Division," he says. [The Army's 82nd Airborne Division is an elite division specializing in parachute assault operations into denied areas.] "The idea of opening a bar or a cafe was something I always dreamed about."
He had family in the Dallas area, so he decided to give up that other life and move here with his wife and kids.
"We like it here, Texas and especially north of Dallas is a very good place to live," he says. "We've invested a lot in this place, and hope people will love what we're offering."