Ode to Sofra
I’m one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason. For example, two years ago I was knee deep in wedding planning and hadn’t yet discovered A Practical Wedding- so stressed, broke, and generally disillusioned with the concept of weddings I figured I should at least try to look at dresses. Hearing rumors of a good second hand wedding shop in Watertown I caught a bus from Harvard Square and was dropped off in front of a random, nondescript cement building near a funeral home and an Armenian pizza place. The shop was a bust (second hand polyester dress for $800? uh, no) and my frustration must have showed, because someone’s mom whispered to me on the way out: “Honey, there’s a place across the street with homemade donuts."
Behold: Sofra, a modern Turkish bakery from Ola Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick on the Cambridge/Watertown border. From the moment I laid eyes on the cheery, modern exterior and stepped through the glass doors I knew this was my kind of place. There’s the decor (exposed wood, marble counters, copper drum tables), cellophane sleeves of Hurricane Cookies, cartons of Sienna Farms eggs, bottles of argan oil (like olive oil sized, not the teeny tiny stuff Whole Foods sells for your face), and Moroccan spiced pecans- all before you even get to the register. There the pleasures keep coming- the menus (hand written on simple brown paper) offer up such wonders as house made chai (except they don’t spell it like that), a mezze bar with house made crick-cracks (crack is right, they are like crispy everything bagel chips you dip in stuff like yummy beet tzatziki), stuffed flat breads, and what is perhaps their most noted dish: shakshuka ("eggs poached in tomato with curry and pita crumbs"). Me, I’ve never actually had the shakshuka. I feel in to a habit almost immediately at Sofra- everything looks equally delicious so I zeroed in on the what looked most delicious to me and haven’t veered since: cup of their chai (sooo good, I don’t see how one could top their chai), Persian spiced donut (an impossibly fluffy sugar donut with sprinkles of mystery spices), and a spinach lamejun (a flat bread with spinach and mint oil). Fair warning: the lamejun is a weekend-only thing.
This is not to say Sofra is perfect. As various reviews on any website will tell you the service is hit or miss (more hits lately though!), the space is super cramped and if you do score a seat (you lucky bastard!) you’ll start to notice people swarming you like sharks, waiting for the moment you put your napkin down a final time. Maybe its just that I like the hunt and am unfazed by competition for space with strangers (thanks for the training Market Basket!) but this doesn’t really bother me. If I want to lounge around with my mezze I’ll just make a reservation at Oleana. It does suck that if you are the brunch type (Boston seems to have an obsession with brunch but I can never get it together in time to be out and about before noon on a weekend) the space and menu both make Sofra an ideal spot, if you want to sit on your friend’s laps. Perhaps I just prefer to find myself at Sofra when I least expect to, like that first time. Sofra is like one of those really frustrating friends (probably an Aquarius) that you think is totally friggin awesome but can be elusive and/or flaky? You love them regardless, because isn’t part of love accepting faults?
And when I find myself relatively close by on a random Friday evening and score the last passion fruit tart with a lemon reduction, sit on one of those antique rug benches,and sip on a espresso shot I don’t care about whether I’ll be able to come back anytime soon (or if someone is going to block me in the miniscule lot or whether that Cambridge mom is going to keep asking her toddler whether he’d like extra foam on his hot vanilla milk) because I am infatuated with that moment. That’s the thing with love, good food, or great company- the gift of being present is worth suffering a little for.
Extra: Just when I thought Sofra couldn’t get any better, they’ve revamped their coffee menu and are now offering Counter Culture. Not as if you need an excuse to trek out to Watertown for Sofra (or I hope you don’t after reading this), but there’s one on a silver platter (er, espresso saucer…)