Mamaleh's Delicatessen

By Molly McDonough · 03/27/2017    Cambridge · Bagels · Deli · $$

Boston’s social fabric is so deeply woven with Jewish culture that even those of us who didn’t grow up with a bubbie scolding “eat something already” tend to know our kugels from our knishes. It’s sentimental food: Passover dinners taught us to linger and savor meals. Matzo ball soup told the history of the Israelites. Reubens saved us from many a hangover.

Minnie's blintzes from Mamaleh's

Mamaleh’s brilliantly translates all of that into something just as nostalgic as it is novel—and it’s little surprise that the team behind hyper-successful Hungry Mother and raucous State Park could make chopped liver and egg salad sexy again. This shining example of success in concept has so many dimensions that we can’t imagine ever tiring of coming back.

On busy mornings we swing by the deli counter stocked with tempting mayonnaisey salads and smoked fish, sip stellar espresso drinks, and peruse the fridges of take-home items while awaiting breakfast sandwiches. On lazy weekend afternoons we cozy up at the bar with brunch offerings and slurp boozy milkshakes thick with scoops of Toscanini’s. And we never leave without a Raspberry Walnut Rugelach or a Cinnamon Babka, pastries so fresh they’d be at home in Boston’s most coveted bakeries.

Interior of Mamaleh's

The best place to savor Mamaleh’s culinary prowess, though, is at a table—preferably one big enough to fit many, many dishes. Don’t skip the rainbow-tinged fish plates, which are so much more than their fluffy homemade bagels; choose your own smoked catch and stack it to preference with schmear and a mix of tomatoes, onions, cukes, and capers.

If you ever make it to the next page of the menu without filling up on deli specials and sides (it took us a few visits to get there), you’ll meet a dizzying array of sandwiches in every combo of corned beef-pastrami-tongue imaginable. It’s all house cured, house brined, house smoked/braised/steamed… you get the gist. Which is all the more fitting—a meal in that bustling dining space may feel like eating out, but it also feels a lot like coming home.

Reuben sandwich from Mamaleh's

Behind the bar here is one of Boston’s best collections of slivovitz, Eastern Europe’s famous plum brandy. To judge its quality: Take a drop, rub it quickly between your hands, and sniff. If the fruit’s aromas come through, the booze gets extra points.

Happy hour is from 3 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. The deal: A Rachel dog and a tallboy for $7.95.

Mamaleh’s periodically hosts comedy shows in a room beneath the restaurant. Check twitter (@mamalehs) for the next event.

Must Haves

  • With a boost from the beef salami, this fluffy, mustard-laced concoction will forever persuade sceptics that breakfast sandwiches don’t need pork to be great.

  • The not-so-sweet soft cheese filling is perfectly juxtaposed with a browned, carmelized surface and a dollop of sweet-tart jam.

  • There’s a mushroom version for vegetarians, but we can’t imagine saying no to the image of that corned beef, kraut, and abundant Russian dressing spilling out from underneath marbled rye

  • Our favorite bagel platter variation. For staunch lovers of creaminess, smother it atop the schmear.

Fun Fact

In Yiddish, a “mamaleh” is a little girl. (For dozens of other Yiddish translations, visit the restaurant’s website.)

Tastes of Mamaleh's Delicatessen

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