Veteran Jerusalemites may well remember the legendary Café Atara, which for 58
years was the Ben-Yehuda Street coffee shop. It was frequented in Mandate times
by British officers and members of the Hagana, the Stern Group and the Irgun
Zva'i Leumi, and after statehood by politicians, journalists and arty
types. Locals were devastated in September 1996 when second-generation
proprietor Uri Greenspan sold out his key-money rights, and the buzzing Atara,
with its middle-aged waitresses clad in straight black skirts and snowwhite
blouses, became a hamburger joint.
Atara was replaced by a Burger King
which, though it rarely showed signs of life, managed to survive for several
years. Then a few months ago, Burger King was out, and De Masa, which in
some respects was reminiscent of Atara, was in.
De Masa is a branch of
the veteran Ne’eman bakery, coffee shop and restaurant chain, which includes
Sambooki and Noya.
Every new broom sweeps clean, and just as Burger King
completely remodeled what had been Atara, De Masa remodeled what had once been
Burger King. Patrons can choose to eat outside on the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian
mall, in the indoor section that overlooks the street, in a more private section
adjacent to the main dining area or upstairs in the gallery, where they can sit
at a table or at the bar.
The staff is mostly in their early 20s. Service
is fast and polite, with a pronounced concern for customer comfort.
of the best deals on the menu is the hearty continental breakfast (NIS 32),
which is served on a three-tiered tray. It includes bread, butter, cheese,
olives, an omelet, a salad, yogurt with muesli, and two pastries. Coffee is not
included in the price of this breakfast, but it is in some of the more expensive
If you’re a coffee-and-cake person, the price for a large cup of
coffee and a generous piece of cake is usually reasonably priced at less than
In many respects, De Masa has recreated some of the nostalgia of
Atara. Several of its regular clients, now older and grayer, have
returned to their old stomping ground, and on Fridays in particular they can be
seen in the clusters of yesteryear.
For all that, De Masa has quickly
made an impact on a younger generation clientele in downtown Jerusalem and,
considering the considerable competition from some dozen other eateries nearby,
it’s doing so well that at times one has to wait for a seat.De Masa
7 Ben-Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
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