Thursday, June 13, 2024

The lox at Mamaleh’s Kibitz Corner is marinated carrot. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Virtually around the corner from Mamaleh’s, the Jewish-styled deli in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, is a sister Mamaleh’s – this one, the Kibitz Corner, a vegan pop-up version.

In this space that was Vincent’s Southern bistro and wine bar until the end of February, the decor is lighter, with white walls and pink throw pillows replacing the previous incarnation’s dark, woody coziness. I’ll miss the stately den vibe that was the signature of Vincent’s and before that Cafe DuPays. But this changeup makes sense for the many events and gatherings that Big Dipper Hospitality Group co-owners Rachel Sundet and Rachel Miller Munzer expect to hold at the Corner. 

Those include private rentals but also Mamaleh’s events such as cooking classes, the Rachels say – most likely kicking off with how to make babka, a sweet bread that originated in Jewish communities in Poland. There’s no mistaking the theme: There’s cool artwork on the walls where you can measure your height in bagels, and affixed prominently on the front door is a sign that says “Proudly Jewish,” with free replicas at a kiosk bar for customers.

The food includes egg sandwiches, chopped liver, bagels and lox, matzo ball soup and a corned beef Reuben – all vegan, mind you. Wheat-based proteins and other plant-based products are employed as “meat.” The lox are finely shaved and marinated carrots; the chopped liver is made of mushrooms, walnuts and lentils; the matzo balls are basically chopped veggies.

The Kibitz menu’s vegan Reuben, which comes on a toasted rye with a tangy mound of sauerkraut, more than impresses.

The decor at the former Vincent’s has been brightened for Mamaleh’s Kibitz Corner. (Photo: Tom Meek)

The slate may be reminiscent of Lehrhaus, another Jewish deli-style pit stop that offers a few vegetarian spins on Kosher classics, but the experiences don’t feel redundant.

There are also vegan pastries to be had at the Kibitz Corner. On my stop-in there was a fresh batch of rugelach that had just come up, and braided challah bread. 

Given the hours of operation – Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. – the outdoor dining area and the open feel, one could see themselves coming in, setting up their laptop, having a coffee and bagel to begin the morning and, after the sun rises above the yard, moving on to a Reuben or a Rachel (like a Reuben, except with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut). Alcohol is available.

The vegan test kitchen concept runs through July, when the Rachels say they will evaluate how things are going and what adjustments might be needed. Pop-ups and test kitchens have become more and more the way to try culinary concepts without deep costs. Tweaks and changes are likely along the Kibitz’s sail into summer, which is your chance to nosh on some pleasantly surprising meat-free deli fare.

Mamaleh’s Kibitz Corner, 233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave., Wellington-Harrington near Kendall Square, Cambridge 

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.