Retro Dining, Beers and Surprisingly Damn Good Coffee at Excelsior
Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Among Downtown Cairo's old retro cinemas like Metro and Miami, is a great little place called Excelsior. Situated in the old lobby of an old cinema, Excelsior is an unusual mix of cafe, bar and American diner. Excelsior is a great place to go for a midday beer next to a plastic fern, grab a club sandwich for lunch, or to bring your laptop and get some work done.
Good espresso and American coffee are often hard to find in Cairo, but Excelsior does them surprisingly well. However, the best thing about Excelsior is the building and interior decor. The cafe doesn't seem like it has changed in decades and it maintains an amazing 1960's Downtown feel despite the surrounding area having changed beyond recognition. This seems to be the appeal to many of the Egyptian and foreign customers who explore Downtown for a nostalgia tour of beautiful Isma'il-era buildings and the previous haunts of Egyptian high society like Cafe Riche and Groppi, familiar to them from classic Egyptian films.
I'm always surprised that Excelsior sells alcohol, as too are many of the customers who walk in from the street to grab a coffee and slice of cake, and become suddenly aware of the green Stella bottles dotting the tables. Like the exterior and interior of Excelsior which hasn't changed much since the 1960s, the restaurant's attitude to alcohol is also of another era. Alcohol is often hidden away in Cairo, be it dimly lit balady bars or high-end hotels and restaurants, but in Excelsior, it's out in the open and normalized. While this used to be commonplace in Cairo, a growing conservatism throughout the country has very much changed the status that alcohol has in Egyptian society.
While the food is relatively bland, it's satisfying and reasonably priced. However, their club sandwich is a guilty pleasure of mine when I'm a bit homesick, which I would fully recommend.
Whether you're after a damn good coffee, beer, or their famous club sandwich, be sure to pop in next time you're in Downtown for a blast from the past.