According to a notice in the window, Zell’s Cafe on Southeast Morrison Street will be closing for good on May 2. In light of “increased labor and food costs,” the statement explains, “the Zell’s Cafe model does not work in 2023.” For decades, Zell’s has been a local favorite because of their freshly baked German pancakes and scones.
Tom Zell established Zell’s in a brick structure that had previously housed a shoe shop, pharmacy, and soda fountain in 1983. Former Portland restaurant icon Judy Sacheck purchased Zell’s café in 1996 and later sold it to longtime workers Nance Jansen and Michael Gaines.
The cafe’s regulars sat at the counter and perused the blackboard for the day’s specialties, which can include smoked salmon Benedicts or croque madame, for years. There used to be a long wait outside the breakfast café every weekend because of its famed large servings and excellent coffee served in sturdy glass cups.
In its short time in business, Zell’s has been lauded by outlets like Eater Portland, which included the restaurant on its best breakfast map and describes it as a “no-fuss breakfast cafe” that “feels like one of those places that’s been around forever.”
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In 2010, Zell’s was named the finest breakfast spot in Portland by the Oregonian, which praised its “incredible angel-light miniature scones, press pots of fragrant loose black tea, and creamy omelets.” The café was also recognized by Portland Monthly, which praised the gorgonzola, mushroom, and thyme omelet served there.
The company will likely continue operating under the same name and management after its upcoming shutdown. “We are reimagining the space and will return with a different concept at some point,” the statement says. At 1300 SE Morrison Street, Zell’s will be open as usual until May 2.