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Review

Natalie Schaefer

Sofra

Written by
Natalie Schaefer

We don’t really know what the afterlife has in store for us. Maybe we’ll be carried off into the next world on the golden wings of angels who smell like cinnamon and sound like Morgan Freeman. Or maybe we'll realize that the real heaven was that time at the deli when the guy behind the counter accidentally gave us two bags of salt and vinegar chips. We have no control over what’s going to happen to us, but at the very least, we can hope to be buried at the massive Mount Auburn Cemetery in West Cambridge. That way, at least we’ll be next to Sofra.

From the same people behind Sarma and Oleana, Sofra is a tiny Middle Eastern counter-service spot that’s almost always cramped, because when people come to Sofra, they come back. And even if you’re not going to spend the afterlife across the street, you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time here. It’s where you’ll go to take out tahini hummus and flatbreads for a picnic. It’s where you’ll enjoy a long breakfast of soft boiled eggs and feta when you take a mental health day from work. And it’s where you’ll stop on your way home to pick up meat pies and sausage pitas that are way better than your usual pizza delivery.

Natalie Schaefer

The food here is both familiar and not. One of the menu items (the menu, in this case, being sheets of brown parchment paper taped to the wall above the cash register) simply reads: sugar snap peas. You probably think you know what sugar snap peas are - they’re those things that look like fat green pinky fingers, sound like they were invented by Mother Goose, and leave behind a string of organic floss in your teeth, right? But even if you’re already familiar with them, you’ve probably never had them with pistachios, fresh mint, tahini, and whatever nigella seeds are. It tastes like an entire summer garden in your mouth.

The Sofra experience is like that - one really creative dish after another that you’ll be thinking about for a long time after you’ve had it. Seemingly simple things that taste great, smell great, and look like little works of art, made with phyllo dough instead of papier-mache.

You’re going to linger at Sofra, not because it’s a regular cafe where people bang away at manuscripts while nursing the same cup of coffee for three hours, but because it’s the rare cafe where you can sit down for three meals a day. You’ll grab a chai tea and a pastry (hopefully outside on the patio), you’ll smell the Turkish polenta stuffed mushrooms at the table next to you, and you’ll make your way back up to the counter to order those and whatever else catches your eye. It’s not a bad place to spend eternity, really, or, at the very least, a long breakfast that stretches into lunch.

Food Rundown

Natalie Schaefer
Turkish Breakfast

Soft boiled eggs are way better than hard boiled eggs - they’re runny, creamy, warm, and never rubbery. Here, they’re baked inside of shredded phyllo and served alongside yogurt and fried cheese balls. Eat this.

Natalie Schaefer
Hot Wings

We’re never going to complain about traditional bar wings that are fried and slathered in Frank’s Red Hot (holding back from ordering the wings after a plate of them is carried past you in a bar is so hard it should be an Olympic sport), but they’re pretty damn good when they’re covered in date molasses, Turkish spices, and relish, too.

Natalie Schaefer
Cheese Borek

A piece of hot, creamy cheese trapped inside a crispy, flakey crust. Free the cheese and you’ll be rewarded.

Sugar Snap Peas

It’s essentially a pea salad with pistachios, mint, and tahini. But if the words “pea salad” don’t normally excite you, rethink things, because this one will.

Natalie Schaefer
Sausage Pita

It isn’t a pita pocket, but rather a piece of flatbread topped with sausage and spices and then folded over. If, for whatever reason, you don’t want this because you’re really dedicated to the pocket construction method, then you’ll be missing out.

Grape Leaves

It’s always fun to bite off the end of a grape leaf while pretending you’re an obese 1920’s gangster chomping off the end of a cigar, and it’s even more fun when the grape leaf is stuffed with dill and pinenuts to go with the rice.

Natalie Schaefer
Beet Tzatziki

If you’ve ever been tempted to recreate the food fight scene from Hook you can do so with the beet tzatziki, a fluffy pink dip that looks like a cartoon food come to life. Or you could, you know, eat it, because it’s really good.

Pistachio Nest

This honey-soaked phylo wreath stuffed with nuts is so pretty you almost hesitate to eat it. But just get the regular baklava if that’s what you want, because the ingredients here don’t come together as nicely as they do in the traditional preparation.

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