Mamaleh's, I'm Coming Home
The Yiddish word "haimish" means"home-like, friendly, folksy" and that's just what you'll get at this modern take on all things deli-kitsch. That, and the most delicious pastrami this side of NY.
It’s January in Boston and the potential for harsh winter storms still looms large in front of us. If you ask me, it’s time for some comfort food – and I found some of the best. Matzah ball soup so rich you can taste the schmaltz, potato latkes so crisp your tablemates may fight over them, and pastrami so flavorful you’ll keep coming back for more.
Craving Boston contributor, Elisha Siegal, teased the opening of Mamaleh’s back in the spring in his Jewish Deli roundup, and then seriously teased our tastebuds again with the recipe for Bourbon Milk Punch from co-owner and bar manager, Evan Harrison. Now, Mamaleh’s ownership team, which also runs State Park, is killing it with their duo of unique Kendall Square hot spots.
Mamaleh’s originally piqued my interest because I saw some of my favorite words in the English language, “All-Day Breakfast.” But when I saw their lunch and dinner menu my attention went from homemade bagels ($2) and babka French toast ($9) to the smoked mushroom Reuben ($12) and NY-style cheesecake ($5.50). I wanted all the things, which is totally possible at Mamaleh’s. Yes, they’re serving traditional Jewish delicatessen fare, with thoughtful modern updates, but you don’t need a forklift to eat your sandwich. While the food is quite comforting (as are the prices), the focus is on quality rather than quantity. They’re not serving mile-high sandwiches that could feed four people, and you’re not paying outrageous prices — that’s a really good deal if you ask me.
I spoke with co-owner Rachel Miller Munzer about this concept and she said, “We take a lot of care in everything we prepare, so for us it’s less about that gluttonous principle and more that we don’t like to waste food. We’d rather put out high quality, manageable portions than giant sub-par portions.”
Indeed, they are serving portions people can finish, which leads to less food waste — one of the overall goals of the ownership team. Don’t worry, it’s not like they’re ignoring the extra-large portions entirely. If you’re really into eating a truckload of meat, you can order the fresser option (Yiddish for heavy eater), priced appropriately ($24). Even the cheesecake is smaller and lighter (and better) than your average deli fare. A silky-smooth rendition on a chocolate crust with housemade cherry preserves, it managed to impress even my skeptical NY-born tablemate.Everything at Mamaleh’s is a treat for the senses. The atmosphere is fresh and modern, yet super comfortable — the kind of place that’s equally appropriate for weekend brunch and a Friday night date. The innovative cocktail menu, along with homemade sodas and milkshakes, make Mamaleh’s as much of a beverage adventure as a dining destination. Both the Seeded Rye Manhattan ($12) and Bourbon Raspberry-Walnut milkshake ($12) were huge hits among my dinner companions who described the spiked milkshake as “Somehow warming despite being frozen,” and “One of the best things I’ve ever tasted.”
The creative bar program speaks to the modern twist the ownership team is taking with the menu, but that doesn’t mean they’re messing with tradition. Miller Munzer said, “We like to think of it as freshening up the original recipes. Leaning toward the freshest meats and high quality products while keeping to family recipes (3 of the owners are Jewish).”
This concept shows in the cured meats and fishes, which you can also buy deli-style at a counter built for take-out, and in the quality of the knish ($4/6) and Nana’s noodle kugel ($6) – officially my newest obsession.
With so many tempting options (did I mention they serve the freshest blintzes ($10) I’ve ever tasted?) it’s hard to choose between breakfast, lunch and dinner.
So why choose when you can have all three?
1 Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02139