Coming from a university town in a Northern Chicago suburb, my daily life evolved to strongly depend upon small, local venues with a warm atmosphere, friendly staff and appealing food and drinks. Be it the coffee shop around the corner from my apartment where the mornings begins or the Irish pub in the center of town where the long days come to an end, the familiar smiles and fresh conversations breath life into the local culture and give communities their appealing energy. What I developed and became a part of over four years in Evanston, I immediately found in Split, Croatia, thanks to To Je To.
To Je To. That’s It.
A fitting phrase. Particularly because it’s hard to describe in words. The atmosphere at this local bar-café fusion feels like home. It is what it is, and what it is is familiar, friendly and comfortable. That’s it.
The owners Tim and Monique, an expat couple who spontaneously moved to Split after a brief weekend visit from Budapest, have done an incredible job in designing this venue, creating a welcoming, open entrance on one of the narrow streets of Split’s historical Roman complex. Of course, most of the credit has to be given to Lanie, who greets all of the customers as they walk through the front doors.
My visit to Split was only supposed to last 2 days, but I ended up staying for 6, one of the main reasons being To Je To. Taking a seat on one of the hand made stools at the bar, the first thing that catches the eye is the interior design. Tim and Monique have dedicated a great deal of time and effort to give To Je To a cozy feel, using mostly recycled materials in the construction of the bar. Some of the most striking features are the tables, which are old cellar doors in a beautiful, aged-green.
Resting on the wooden tabletops are Monique’s wonderful creations – the drink menus. As a graphic designer, she has fashioned some of the most aesthetically intricate and colorful drink lists I have seen – and apparently these graphics have become a little too popular among visitors, as the menu count diminished over my one week stay (to be honest, I was a little tempted to snag one myself)..
Ordering from one of the many exotic concoctions, it is usually a matter of seconds before you find yourself enjoying Tim’s company. His cheerful and hospitable nature rarely allows for a lonely or boring moment, and in his absence, the lovely staff makes the place feel like home. And to top it off, the coffee was delicious. Before I knew it, I was visiting my new, local spot at least twice a day…and I wasn’t alone. Having only been open for 45 days at the time of my visit, To Je To was already a gathering place for regulars who would dedicate hours each day in contributing to the lively, friendly atmosphere.
The evenings bring on an even more vibrant setting, as locals and tourists alike come to enjoy live music along with one of the local draft beers or mixed cocktails.
I came for the drinks, and stayed for the company. Tim, Monique, Tihana, Simone, the rest of the staff and all of the regulars made me feel as if I had been coming for years. They have also made my travel plans quite difficult, as I will have to revisit Split just to hang out. I have given it my best shot, but, as I mentioned earlier, the feeling and atmosphere is hard to explain in words. For anyone in the area, you have to swing by and experience for yourself. And be prepared to extend your stay..