Sofra Bakery and Cafe

By Emily Nichols · 10/19/2016    Cambridge · Cafe · Middle Eastern · $$

Where’s a shakshuka emoji when you need one? Trust us: After mopping up these eggs poached in a saucy tomato bath with Sofra’s pillowy pita, you’ll be looking for one, too

Did we lose you at shakshu-what? That’s shahkSHOOkah—fun to say, more fun to eat. Turkish, Lebanese, and Greek cuisines all rendezvous on Sofra’s menu. If you’re not fluent in Middle Eastern fare, you may be wading into the unknown when it’s time to order. Embrace it. Better yet, close your eyes and point. Everything is superb, whether you pronounce it right or not. Take the “zhoug,” a vibrant green sauce of pureed parsley, cilantro, and Hungarian wax peppers that came dolloped on our shakshuka. We were so mesmerized we took home a half-pint from the carry out case. That’s right: Sofra doubles as a specialty store with prepared foods, preserves, spice blends, and stacks on stacks of baked treats just begging to come home with you.

Sibling to Oleana and Sarma, Sofra is the casual concept of James Beard winner Ana Sortun’s restaurant trio. The counter service setup lends itself well to going back for round two . . . or three. Hey, you won’t get any side-eye from us. Flatbread-wrapped shawarmas, falafel, savory pies, and other hot items are prepared to order in the humming open kitchen. Before 11 on weekdays and ‘till 3 on weekends, patrons line up for Turkish breakfasts and bacon-and-egg sandwiches with halloumi and feta butter. While you wait there’s just enough time to ogle and make your picks from the meze bar behind the counter, a dizzyingly beautiful spread of salads and purees composed of vegetables, nuts, cheeses, and yogurt. Don’t miss the electric pink beet tzatziki. It’s as delicious as it is dazzling.

A word to the wise: Sofra is crowded. It should be, because it’s damn good. When the weather cooperates, seating capacity doubles with the addition of bistro sets dotting the sidewalk and a small deck packed with café tables. Your elbows will be bumping your neighbor’s, but go ahead and get friendly—you’re going to want to ask what they ordered.

If you arrive to a packed house, divide and conquer. Assign one member of your party to table-scouting and another to ordering. Or, play hooky and go on a weekday.

If those cookbooks by Ana Sortun and pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick seem just a tad intimidating, don’t despair. The duo regularly teaches classes in the kitchen after-hours; check Sofra’s website or TFL’s event calendar for upcoming dates and themes.

Just across the street is Mount Auburn Cemetery, an ideal post-meal destination to walk it off.

Must Haves

  • It doesn’t get much better than the browned crust and hot, melty insides of these falafels, all ready to be tucked into a pita with some hot pink beet tzatziki and bright green arugula.

  • Without frivolous veggie toppings for distraction, this smaller, easier-to-eat stuffed pita brings the focus back to the meat.

  • Delicately stacked egg, halloumi cheese, and bacon (well worth the 50-cent supplement) between house-made brioche buns slathered with feta butter.

  • You can never go wrong with any of Maura Kilpatrick’s crusty creations, but the tahini-brown butter donuts are our reason to get out of bed.

Fun Fact

In Turkish, “sofra” translates to an inviting space for a meal—a picnic, a prepared table, or a kilim rug on which to enjoy a feast.

Tastes of Sofra Bakery and Cafe

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