Cafe Talk: Where Atara once stood

Where the legendary Café Atara stood for 58 years, comes a new restaurant, De Masa, which has recreated some of the nostalgia of Atara.

July 3, 2013 14:06
2 minute read.
De Masa Cafe

De Masa Cafe. (photo credit: Courtesy)

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.

One 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 options.

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 NIS 30.

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
Kosher l’mehadrin
7 Ben-Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
(02) 586-5000

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