There's Nothing To Eat -- Tel Aviv Cafe Serves Up Empty Plates, Cups

TEL AVIV, Israel - On trendy Shenkin Street, where Tel Aviv hipsters have turned pretense into an art form, a new cafe beats them at their own game.

Cafe Ke'ilu, loosely translated from Hebrew as "Cafe Make Believe," serves customers heaping plates and overflowing mugs of nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Not that nothing comes for free.

The cafe, owned by top-rated Swiss chef Phillipe Kaufman, charges $3 during the week and $6 on Fridays for the privilege of ordering from a would-be menu of eel mousse, pomegranate salad or ram's brain in lemon-lime sauce.

Manager Nir Caspi said customers have been coming again and again for the world's first experience in "conceptual dining." If it's success, a franchise will open in New York.

The point: People come to cafes to be seen and meet people, not for the food and drink, Caspi explained.

Cafe Make Believe has just taken that approach to its logical conclusion, he said.

The cafe has already booked a wedding reception and a birthday party, said Caspi, who cooked up the idea with Kaufman several months ago at the chef's Paris restaurant over a few bottles of (real) wine.

But on an afternoon last week business was slow, with only one of seven tables occupied.

Noam Yadlin, a 28-year-old graphic designer, ordered espresso and the waitress earnestly placed an empty cup with a Lavazzo logo in front of him on the sidewalk table, covered with white linen.

Several passers-by stopped to peek inside the cafe.

"Is this place for real?" a man asked. He shrugged and left.