Lightbox Cafe brings kava, a relaxing drink from the South Pacific, to Queen Village
Kava, the relaxing drink made from the crushed roots of a plant harvested in the South Pacific, is in the spotlight at Lightbox Cafe, a hippie-chic new juice / smoothie store in Queen Village that bills itself as Philadelphia’s premier kava bar. (It’s next to the famous 4th Street, creating a deli yin culinary yang.)
At the front are Jennifer Hombach, a sustainability activist and yogi who a few years ago started a kava business called Jaya Kava via pop-ups, and Gabriel “Gaby” Vazquez, who calls himself “a bartender. frustrated “and whose varied hospitality history includes director operations at Philadelphia Brewing Co.
Hombach wanted a place to brew his kava, while Vazquez planned to open a cold-pressed juice bar. Their business idea came to fruition in early 2021, and as the project evolved the scope of the menu expanded to include superfood smoothies (called ‘smoodies’), cereal bowls cold and hot, toast, mocktails and teas. They use Merzbacher’s Philly muffins for the sandwiches.
Hombach recently imported his kava from Vanuatu. It is brewed and served directly in coconut shells (with an earthy and bitter flavor) or mixed with other ingredients; golden chai kava, for example, is made with turmeric cardamom chai and coconut sugar.
They hope to turn Lightbox into a hub for music, open mic parties, art, and nighttime conversation with scheduled programming. The vibe is cold, laid back, and cozy, especially at the two semi-private window tables on either side of the door. “A kava bar is an alternative to bars,” Hombach said. “It’s more convivial and social.
From 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, they serve Sri Lankan comfort food (curries) from Melissa Fernando at Sri’s Company as well as Puerto Rican pastelillos from Amaryllis Rivera-Nassar at Amy’s Pastelillos.
Hours are extended earlier than the current schedule: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.