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Review: Not your bubbe's latkes  - but almost kosher in Brookline

 Loaded Latkes with smoked salmon and dill sour cream

Loaded Latkes with smoked salmon and dill sour cream. Photo by Sasha Patkin.

With Kelley McLaughlin.

Zaftigs Delicatessen
335 Harvard St., Brookline

“Knish Happens," "Love you a latke," "Almost Kosher," and "Got Matzo Balls?"

Zaftigs in Brookline knows its brand, and its tongue-in-cheek T‑shirts are as iconic as the fresh takes on Jewish cuisine that it serves.

With the high holidays upon us, we were in the mood to have some traditional Jewish noshes when we stopped for lunch. Zaftigs' menu offers an abundance of such choice in the matter, and we could not resist ordering appetizers as well as mains.

When we sat down in our booth the diner was packed, especially for a weekday lunch. We were seated quickly, and did not wait long for service either. While the space is dark, everything else about it, from the counter service bar to the chrome accents to the quirky "luscious lady" artwork that pops up everywhere, radiated diner chic.

A "zaftig woman" means a voluptuous woman in Yiddish, and an icon of such a woman also appears on the menu, helpfully pointing out "Nanny's Favorites".

The cheese blintzes:

Cheese blintzes

In true diner style, our food arrived quickly, generous portions still crispy from the griddle.

The cheese blintzes, which were warm and well-filled, came with a lovely mountain of fresh, room temperature berries. The naturally sweet, bright taste of the berries perfectly complemented the rich cheese filling, and also added necessary texture. It seems like a small detail, but we also really appreciated that the berries were served at room temperature rather than chilled, so they did not take away from the warmth. Eating these blintzes gave us both that idyllic "weekend morning breakfast" feeling, midday on a Tuesday. As a starter, blintzes come two to an order, which is perfect for an appetizer, but we definitely regret not ordering the full size serving ($12.95).

Homemade knishes:

Homemade knishes

The homemade knishes (we chose potato) were fluffy on the inside and well-seasoned, not dry or dense at all, which is truly an accomplishment for a potato filling. On the other hand, the outer dough was a bit soggy and pale. Overall they were fine, but compared to everything else they seemed a bit boring.

The matzo brei:

Matzo brei

The matzo brei, which is matzo crackers pan-fried with scrambled eggs, came with cinnamon sugar for dusting and beautifully crispy garlicky home fries. The matzo brei itself is plain, though still comforting. But if you sprinkle some of the cinnamon sugar over top, it takes on new life. Sweet, cinnamony eggs with bits of crunchy matzo are an unexpected delight.

And last, though definitely not least, the Loaded Latkes, which we ordered with smoked salmon and dill sour cream. These were probably the best latkes at least one of us has ever had, and they were plated beautifully. They were a glorious golden brown and oh so crispy, thick but not dense, and bursting with a well-balanced blend of onion and potato flavor. The dill sour cream adds a lovely creamy tanginess to the mix, really lifting the flavor instead of making it heavy. These are not your bubbe's latkes, and can also be served up in a variety of other combinations, including with bacon, with chili and cheddar cheese, with barbeque chicken and bleu cheese, and with black beans and pico de gallo.

Zaftigs offers a large selection of good quality food in an unpretentious diner-like setting. It is a modern take on a Jewish deli, though it is important to note that the food is not kosher (and in some cases, not even almost!).

The wall outside of Zaftigs Delicatessen in Brookline:

The mural outside Zaftig's

Review from the Independent Review Crew.



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Zaftigs is awesome.

It is one of the places I miss the most. Zaftigs and Christopher’s, fwiw.

We live in VT now. There’s good/great food here, but nothing like Zaftigs.

Voting closed 12

I went there for one of my birthdays (I think it was 2014 or 2015) and the food was pretty good. Bagel chips, Dr. Brown's cream soda, a corned beef/pastrami sandwich, and a potato knish - perfect for cold day in November.

I've got to admit, though, that Michael's down the street is better. Even though it's more crowded and they only take cash, I feel the food is fresher.

Voting closed 18

The old Pizza Pad in Kenmore Square, of all places, once had great potato knishes, back in the 70s. For those of you who, like me, are aging denizens of the Rat and are saying "I don't remember the Pizza Pad having potato knishes, I don't even know what a potato knish is", there was a time the Pizza Pad was twice the size it later became, and one side had knishes, chickens on rotisseries, etc. By 1980 it had shrunk and pretty much sold only pizza and beer.

Voting closed 7

...sort of like "a little pregnant"?

Voting closed 9