Goodbye Sweet Potato Latkes

The End of Tel Aviv's Orna and Ella Is More Than Just a Closure of a Restaurant

The last culinary and cultural bastion on Tel Avivs Sheinkin Street, Orna and Ella caf, is closing after 25 years

Orna and Ella cafe, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Tomer Appelbaum

After the closing of the famous left-wing hangout Caf Tamar, the last culinary and cultural bastion on Tel Avivs Sheinkin Street is now falling, with the owners of the Orna and Ella caf announcing on Monday the closure of their restaurant at the end of March, 25 years after it opened. The restaurant, run by Orna Agmon and Ella Schein, became one of the symbols of the wild young city that never sleeps in the 1990s, part of the leftish, artistic State of Sheinkin that now seems completely extinct.

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The final nail in the coffin of that streets special culture comes after the closure of a number of other cafes in the area over the last two years, such as Caf Luntz, Caf Noah, Ahad Haam, Caf Tamar and others. Another quintessential neighborhood caf that also closed recently was Bacho.

Orna and Ella opened in 1992 as an alcove with only seven tables and a bar. The idea was to provide a place for young people living or working in what was once an exciting neighborhood to have coffee and a bite at the end of a workday. The founders decided to produce everything on their own – from bread and croissants to ice cream and cake. Another calling card was the hiring of only male waiters of ambiguous sexual orientation. Some of the dishes at Orna and Ella became iconic in the local culinary scene, including their famous sweet-potato latkes, cheese cakes and lemon pie. 

The founders and owners of Orna and Ella, Orna Agmon and Ella Schein
Maya Birger
Orna and Ella cafe, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Assaf Evron

Attracting an intellectual, politically savvy, bourgeois crowd made Orna and Ella a symbol of Tel Aviv in the New Middle East 90s. As the street changed – with the disappearance of designer studios, record stores and a popular video library, along with the rise in rents which alienated the younger residents – Orna and Ella managed to hold on, a time capsule reminding us of how it once was. The restaurant featured in the 2006 Israeli movie The Bubble as the place where the gay love affair between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian started and tragically ended. Now even Orna and Ella is a thing of the past.

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After the feeling of completion and achievement that reached its peak in 2017, now comes the announcement of the expected renovation of the building on 33 Sheinkin Street, where the Orna and Ella restaurant opened and remained. It is like a sign from above, said the founders.

They say they hope the last diner leaves with a smile.