Mamaleh’s Delicatessen

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The Crew

Upon arrival at this amazing deli and restaurant, Rachel Munser and staff received us with actual hugs, and food in the form of hugs. Led into our own space, imaginative drinks and platters of treats began arriving, filling tables and bellies with distinctly Jewish flavors in copious amounts. Just when the students thought the end had been reached, pastry chef Rachel Sundit brought out her impressive creations. Starved, hangry, or lonely? This is a home away from home where the people will take care of you as if you were family. 

Shalom! This past Sunday, the culinary trip ventured to Mamaleh’s Delicatessen and Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Walking in, I knew this was going to be a stellar experience. All around I saw and smelled carved meats, fresh bagels, and various other typical Jewish dishes with which I’d soon familiarize myself. The restaurant area was very open and fluid, just like a Jewish deli. Within moments of arriving, we were greeted by Mrs. Rachel Munzer and Mrs. Rachel Sundet, two of the seven owners of Mamaleh’s. They both cordially introduced themselves and began to explain the mission and history behind Mamaleh’s, one of providing kosher cuisines with a modern-era spin on the classics. While they spoke, we were served our first platter of old-fashioned soda and egg creams, my favorite being the Dr. Brown’s cream soda. We were also presented with various Jewish plates that consisted of bagel chips, new pickles, latkes, tongue meat, chopped liver, salmon, pastrami, kreplach…the list goes on! My favorite dish was the mouth-watering latkes. I also enjoyed making my own sandwich with mustard, new and half-sour pickles, onions, pickled tomatoes, and lettuce. While waiting for the dessert, our club got the very unique experience of touring the kitchen, prepping areas, and even State Park— their sister restaurant. Mrs. Rachel Sunder, Head baker, gave us some very powerful and meaningful insight on the importance of loving one’s profession and shared her favorite aspect of the job: making bagels at 4:00 a.m., a testament to her dedication and passion for her work! Overall, I feel very fortunate for having the opportunity to not only taste delicious kosher dishes, but also, experience Jewish history and culture. This was certainly an amazing trip and one I will never forget. Gai Gesund!–Michael Griffin ‘18

Ever since I received Mrs. Bonin’s email on the next culinary art trip to Mamaleh’s Delicatessen, I could not stop looking up the menu and reviews of the restaurant from different sources, such as the restaurant website, Yelp, and Bon Appetit magazine. In the beginning, because I had not had any Jewish food before, I could only expected the Salmon bagel. However, I could not be more wrong on the variety of food selection.

On Sunday, December 3rd, we took an hour and a half bus ride to Cambridge, MA. Despite the long ride and an over-filled stomach from school brunch, I felt like I was so ready to learn and eat the Jewish food, including cow’s tongue. I am extremely fond of the decorations. The high ceiling and big windows create a welcoming feeling to the customers. Rachel, the restaurant owner, is so nice to arrange a more secluded area for us students to sit together and undergo the food-tasting.

The first course was the Jewish Pu Pu Platter. The chopped chicken liver on bagel chips is a truly amazing combination. I also love the knish with meat stuffing. Then, I tried the latkes, which is similar to hash brown and scallion pancake, yet different as it is eaten together with apple sauce and sour cream. As a person with a sweet tooth, I could not stop myself from reaching for the blintzes with warm raspberry preserve. Next comes my favorite– lox on toasted bagel! I truly enjoyed the salty lox and fresh tomato on bagel with cream cheese. Just as I thought the tasting was coming to an end, a new selection of smoked beef and beef tongue with bread, pickle, sauces, cabbages, and Swiss cheese was brought to the table. The tongue was amazing to eat on its own and the salted beef went well on bread with cheese. As a matter of fact, the chicken liver and beef tongue reminded me of Chinese cuisine at home as I could never find such exotic cuisine at school. Then, we took a tour to the kitchen, the fridge, and the underground bar– which was of such a different style! When we came back, more food was awaiting– the raspberry walnut and chocolate rugelach were just beyond words, especially to someone like me who really loves crusty and crispy sweet food! – Elaine Jiang ‘18

 I used to follow an instagram account called “myjewishmother” that posted the completely stereotypical Jewish-mom things that this guy’s mom would do: send him boatloads of food, make his random friends matzo ball soup when they had a cold, email him links to law schools when he was studying English. Walking into Mamaleh’s, I realized that the stereotypes about massive quantities of amazing food were so accurate. My table managed to burn through not only our own “pupu platter” of knishes, gribenes, pickles, and kreplach, but Sam and I managed to finesse two other bowls of bagel chips and chicken liver and polish those off, as well. This was just the beginning. Next, the fresh latkes came and my verdict was finalized: latkes should have a generous portion of applesauce, and nothing else. Sorry, sour cream. Round three came, and I somehow was able to make room for the bagels and lox, but only because lox will forever be the key to my heart. Cream cheese, red onions, and lox on an “everything” bagel–you know the deal. And then, at long last, Boston Marathon-style heartbreak hill hit with the pastrami and rye platters. Sam and I rallied, built some heaving sandwiches packed with sweet, soft pastrami and tongue, Russian dressing, coleslaw, and tomato, and settled in to listen to Rachel talk more about the journey the owners took to owning this massive Jewish deli. We were wrong. We were immediately herded downstairs for a tour of the kitchen, and then shuffled along until we found ourselves in a dark, neon-lit bar also owned by Mamaleh’s. We confirmed to the bartender that we are all extremely underage, if they couldn’t tell from the fact that we were still covered in crumbs and sauce. We poked around the artistically kitchy bar until being sent back for dessert. The rugelah and the babka were the perfect cap to our visit. Thank you, Rachel, and thank you Mamaleh’s.

–Sydell Bonin ‘18

On Sunday, we went to Mamaleh’s Deli in Cambridge. I hadn’t really considered what we would be trying, but it definitely exceeded any expectations. First, they brought us a spread of the most unique drinks I had ever heard of. I was happy to recognize the Dr. Brown’s soda brand, although I hadn’t realized that it was so unique to Jewish restaurants. While it was sort of hard to really drink a couple of them, like the pickle soda, they were really surprising and fun flavors to try.

Then Rachel, the owner, brought out the ‘Jewish pu-pu platter’. I really liked the fried chicken skin (gribenes). The potato knishes were really nice looking as well, and I was surprised that they look visually similar to some Chinese meat buns that I’ve had before. We also had latkes, which I had never tried before, and I really liked them. We also had some really great desserts. I’m not really sure what they all were but I loved the cinnamon cake.

Rachel also told us about the history of Jewish delis and how they had faded but are now making a comeback. I have only been to one before in Indianapolis, and it was really cool to see the differences between that one and Mamaleh’s. We also got to see around Mamaleh’s kitchen and to their bar State Park. State Park had some taxidermy animals with party hats that I really liked. I was interested to see their kitchen and baking space as well, since it seems like they have such a great variety of food that they make. I really liked hearing about their head baker’s experience with working there and how even though she doesn’t like having to get there around four, the smell and satisfaction of making good food made it worth it.

The restaurant was both far more interesting and impressive than I would ever have thought, and I’m really glad we were able to try Mamaleh’s.—Ella Souvannavong ‘18

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon when we stepped into Mamaleh’s, their tables scattered with groups of young people taking a break to relax and eat a lox bagel. Rachel, one of the seven co-owners, greeted us brightly at the door and brought us through the modern-but-slightly-vintage style restaurant to our tables. We were immediately served an array of their specialty drinks, from egg creams to my favorite, the raspberry lime rickey. Over the next hour we were served different platters of Jewish deli favorites: knishes, pickles, latkes, and pastrami sandwiches, to name a few. Rachel explained each dish and that traditionally, many Jewish foods are fried in oil. The kreplach, or Jewish dumplings, were definitely my favorite.—India Roemlein ‘19

It was a strong start with special sodas: celery and pickle in the soda?! I could not imagine a sour taste in sweet soda. However, as I took a sip, I changed my mind. It was fresh – housemade on the spot – and I could feel the passion the bartender put in each flavored soda. Some sodas was comparatively flat, giving more space to taste the real flavor of the ingredient.

My stomach was already half-full from soda tasting, but there was one huge platter on its way to serve my stomach again. The platter consisted of different parts of chicken – chicken skin, liver and jus – and knish. I first tried fried chicken skin, which I could picture the taste of it before I put it into my mouth: it was crispy but not salty. It was not covered with extreme amounts of salt or different spices and perfect enough to feel the real taste of chicken skin. I dipped fried chicken skin into soft chopped chicken liver topped with schmaltz (goose or chicken fat). Kreplach, Jewish wontons filled with brisket, looked familiar for me, from an Asian perspective. One difference from Oriental dumplings was the shape and the fact that the wontons were dipped in sauce already. The flavor of sauce was soaked well into wontons as it was dipped in soup. Potato and meat knish was one of my favorites, topped with a harmonious Jewish mustard sauce. The outside was crispy, but the filling inside was tasty and soft.

Potato latkes topped with applesauce and sour cream was also my other favorite. The layer of potato was thick enough so that I could fully taste it and the skin was dipped-fried and crispy. As Rachel, one of the owners of Mamaleh’s, recommended, I put some of applesauce and some of sour cream at the same time, and it was heaven. Lox sandwich was also the best, topped with fresh cucumber, tomato and some savory capers.

I could not expect more from it. All different ways to cook chicken, fish and potato was satisfactory. However, there was a huge dish coming. Deli sandwiches, served with pastrami, corned beef and tongue from cows, was surrounded with purple cabbage coleslaw and sour white cabbage coleslaw. There were also two different kinds of bread, always freshly baked in the basement of the restaurant which was originally the bar. The pastrami was salty, going along with sour coleslaw and some Italian sauce – mixture of mayo, ketchup and other ingredients.

I could definitely say dessert was one of the best parts. Blintzes are a traditional Jewish sweet served during Hanukkah season; Mrs. Bonin especially requested for us to experience this tradition. The cream filling inside was warmer than I thought and warm soft filling went along with raspberry sauce on top perfectly. In addition, I also liked the full plate of rugelach with raspberry walnut flavor. It was small baked rugelachs shaped as croissant and in each layer, the chocolate and ground walnuts filled the center.

It was a completely new experience for me to try Jewish food in my life, and I feel thankful that I could find this taste at Mamaleh’s. It followed along with the origin of its name: “Mamaleh’s”, a little mama’s love towards their children through food. –Scarlett Shin ‘18

Ever since moving into a Jewish neighborhood, I have always wanted to try authentic Jewish food, and Mamaleh’s Delicatessen helped me tick that off my bucket list. After an hour drive, we finally arrived at Mamaleh’s, a small and delicious restaurant. We were first served special sodas, though the chocolate syrup one was my personal favorite; it was also a fun experience for me to try out the pickle and celery sodas. Then we were served the Jewish pu pu platter, of which the potato and meat knish was my favorite. The knish had the same idea of a traditional Chinese baozi, which has meat covered in round-shaped dough. The dough was very buttery and the meat inside very flavorful. The two desserts we had gave me lingering tastes. The raspberry and chocolate rugelach were crispy and sugary. The cake was warm and silky. I believe that Mamaleh’s is a perfect place for both a friends’ and family party; I will definitely visit again.—Katherine Wang ‘18

 I have drunk soda and eaten bagels before, but to infuse celery or pickle into sugar water and to fry bagels into chips were totally mind-blowing for me. Mamaleh’s was a heartwarming deli restaurant featured in Jewish cuisine. The food was so delicious and definitely filling. Unable to remember the names, the salmon bagel, deli sandwich and assorted drinks are all highly recommended. Sitting in Cambridge, I glance out the windows at the flashes of traffic and turn back to see the glittering of glasses and plates, and everything harmoniously combines. I can easily imagine Mamaleh’s being a gathering place for colleagues and families at dusk. –Peter Liu ’19

Another Sunday, another adventure. This time, our Culinary Arts Club went on a trip to discover the fascinating culture of Jewish culinary arts. After a hour and a half bus ride, all of us arrived at the Mamaleh’s in Cambridge MA, with a groaning stomach. Sprinting into the restaurant, we saw a number of customers relaxing and eating in this spacious yet warm dining space with joyful smiles on their faces. The owner of the restaurant, Rachel, brought us to our tables after giving us a big welcome, and she presented us with a number of colorful homemade sodas. My favorite was definitely the Raspberry Lime Rickey. This bright red homemade soda contains the exact right amount of both acidity from the lime and the fresh sweetness from the berries, refreshing your palate. Other sodes were the celery soda, chocolate phosphate and different flavors of Dr.Browns, which is a traditional deli classic in the Jewish culture. Moving on to the appetizers, Rachel brought us several beautifully presented platters. These platters consist of: Gribenes- fried chicken skin with onions, different kinds of delicious pickles; Kreplach- a Jewish wonton filled with brisket surrounded by a fragrant base; both meat and potato Knishes; and last but not least, some absolutely mind-blowing chopped chicken liver with crispy bagel chips. It was heaven on earth. Every single item was so flavorful that we devoured the platters clean with cravings for more. Following the appetizers, we had some amazing Dunia’s Potato Latkes, which was crispy and crunchy on the outside with a warm and soft inside; some fresh salmon sandwiches; and some crispy gold Minnie’s Blintzes that melt in your mouth. For the main course, we were served with a selection of beef tongue, braised brisket and pastrami, two different kinds of bread and some homemade pickles, coleslaw, lettuce, etc… The beef tongue was absolutely amazing; it was surprisingly tender and flavorful with the exact right amount of saltiness. After this luxurious feasting, Rachel kindly showed us behind the stage, where all the food is prepared and stored. It was super organized. Everything is freshly made and labeled, the kitchen floor is shiningly clean, and their operating system is the definition of sufficiency. After all, this restaurant’s food was definitely one of the best restaurants I have ever tasted, and the three hours bus ride was definitely worth the time. –Sam Ding ‘18

Mamalehs, an interesting name, especially for someone—me—who sticks to the basic, more well-known restaurants. Although I was a little reluctant to try out Jewish food (my only understanding of Jewish food was pastrami, corned beef, and lox), I did not let that stop me. The smell upon arriving at Mamaleh’s was amazing; I was intrigued right away just by that; various meats had been soaking for hours, some even days. Mamaleh’s isn’t just a deli, it is also a sit-down restaurant that offers your deli food and some more comforting sit-down meals. Soda flavors that I would never even think existed–like pickle soda celery soda, and an array of various cream sodas including black cherry—were all peculiar but excellent at the same time. These were drinks I would have never tried or wanted unless I had gone to Mamaleh’s. The food we were given was anything from different kinds of pickles to various meats, desserts, bagels, and fried chicken skin. Although there are no Jewish delis like this around here, I’m sure after my trip to Mamaleh’s I will look for them when traveling.–Alex Sienkiewicz ‘18

 Having never been to a Jewish Deli, I ventured to Cambridge, MA with an open mind and a hungry stomach. When we first arrived at Mamaleh’s, the aroma of Challah and fresh meat overwhelmed us. Sitting down in the side room of the deli, I was not expecting the feast that was being prepared for us.

One of the gracious owners of the restaurant, Rachel Munzer, explained the background of the deli and the food’s heritage itself. We were given four courses of exquisite Jewish cuisine. The aesthetically pleasing spreads were elegant and delicious. My favorite dish was the pastrami sandwiches. The slow cooked pastrami was juicy and delectable. I must have eaten at least three sandwiches before I had to take more pastrami from the other platter when I ran out. Normally, I would not buy pastrami at the grocery store, but after enjoying the delicious meat prepared at Mamaleh’s, I made it a priority to get some for my house now.

Unique to Mamaleh’s, their homemade seltzers were something I had never tried or thought of trying before. My favorite seltzer was the pickle seltzer as it had a distinctive zing to it and was quite quenching. We were allowed to try various seltzers prepared by the Mamaleh’s bartender such as pickle, vanilla, cucumber, etc. I would highly recommend trying these drinks, as they are very good.

After ravaging through countless rounds of lox and bagels, cow’s tongue, and homemade seltzers, I felt I could not possibly eat more. Then, the pastry chef Rachel Sundet came out with her prepared desserts, and my appetite grew again. She explained her love for baking and gave us an extensive tour of the kitchen and preparation of the foods. This was one of the most interesting culinary experiences I have had to date; we truly got a look into the Jewish heritage and the lives of the owners. Mamaleh’s is an exceptional restaurant, and I would recommend it to anyone travelling through the area looking for great food.—Spencer Kelleher ‘18

If you asked me to describe Jewish food in a Jewish style diner before Mamaleh’s, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. At first glance, Mamaleh’s looked like a fancier version of your typical American diner with old-fashioned posters, a classy bar, and sleek tables. The only Jewish food I knew was matzos with applesauce during Passover. To describe the overall food experience, it was the extended version of Passover food. From the applesauce to the pastrami, these were all foods I enjoyed, but I never knew they were popularized by the Jews.

While the smoky cow tongue melted in my mouth, and the flavors of the pickles spread, the most interesting item I had was the flavored sodas. The flavors of the soda were so unconventional, it reminded me of the jellybeans in Harry Potter. However, all of the sodas tasted exactly like what I expected, but better. It was something I’ve never experienced and whether it was chocolate, pickle, or celery, I managed to enjoy every single one of them.

Another interesting part about Mamaleh’s that I’ve never seen from a restaurant was its administrative aspect. A crew of us headed downstairs to the bathroom peeked into the kitchen initially. However, Rachel kindly showed us all aspects of the kitchen, whether it was curing of the salmon in the fridge or her daily routine. It made me realize there is more to restaurant than just the cooking. –Adam Suh ‘18

The owners of Mamaleh’s successfully use its space to shape the atmosphere and function of their restaurants. When you walk from the courtyard into the deli, the first thing in front of you is a glass deli counter displaying a smorgasbord of deli treats: at least three types of lox, house-made bagels, and an incredible variety of pickled things. Following the counter, there is seating for casual diners extending the length of the deli. While the finished products are displayed in the glass counters, the kitchens that produced them are tucked neatly and efficiently down below. Smoked and cured meats, as well as all of the baking components and house-made sauces, are made and stored down there, allowing the deli above to function so well in the space given. The layout of the restaurant allows for a range of services to be performed, from casual dining to hosting a large party such as ours, allowing for a successful and wonderful restaurant to continue serving wonderful food.--Arthur Shipman ’18

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