Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A weekly notebook about dining options during the Covid-19 shutdown, with a focus on quality and ease of pickup and delivery. Remember, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.

Sofra’s cook-at-home Feta and Herb Dumplings. (Photo: Tom Meek)

The Turkish-infused bakery nestled in the town line corner with Belmont and Watertown, at the fork split of Mount Auburn and Belmont streets, is long famous for its meze (whipped feta, beet tzatziki and crick-crack crackers), sweets (walnut baklava, Syrian shortbread) and great grab-and-go lunch fare (Sausage Pits, cheese borek) and has always offered prepared foods to go, but now that the pandemic has limited dine-in, the popular nosh cafe – where you can still get a table outside, but close to passing traffic – has pivoted to more takeout and preprepared fare. Reasonably priced meals for two, packaged with heating instructions, include appealing Chicken Borani and Braised Greens with fingerling potatoes (always a win), yogurt sauce and baharat spice, and a Turkish red lentil soup. There’s moussaka and Sultan’s Delight (glazed beef) as well.

I got the Feta and Herb Dumplings recently, not really sure what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised. The dumplings, whipped mounds of feta and herbs with an egg and yogurt binder, were nestled in tangy, thick marinara sauce and covered with sautéed broccolini. Feta can overwhelm, but not here: The marriage of the sauce and herbs worked brilliantly. The sauce is one that will stand out for me and I bet would be fabulous on any pasta, whether Prince spaghetti out of the box or artisanal and fresh. 

The pickup at a to-go window was pretty seamless (I got chicken shawarma for lunch and mezes for dinner as well), but for a place that has great lunch fare, Sofra does not open until 1 p.m. Also, the heating instructions were perfect, but affixed to the bottom of a thick tin container I had to hold up to read, or flip it over. A bit odd but no biggie, and an inconvenience I forgot rapidly after I dug in. 

Sofra is owned by executive chef Ana Sortun and executive pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick. Sortun is also the owner and chef at Oleana in Inman Square and involved with Sarma, the popular Turkish-infused restaurant and night spot in Somerville. Sofra means “picnic,” and I can’t wait to get back to a time when grabbing and going for a picnic at Fresh Pond or dining outside at the cafe patio (now being used for takeout orders) is a thing. What I really miss besides those sweets are the yogurt lassi-style concoctions.

Sofra Bakery & Cafe (1 Belmont St., Strawberry Hill)

Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.