Zaftigs is a character. It is the doting best friend, the uncle who looks over your car every time he visits, the teacher with warm but stern eyes. Tucked onto a quiet block in Brookline, Massachuetts, it is world renowned, and yet walking into the door is a lesson in surprise. While the entryway is swathed in various awards and accolades, upon entering prepare for a genuinely unscripted experience.
We were visiting with a local regular – who greeted all the staff by name – which allowed us a peek into the intricate relationship between local Brookliner and Zaftigs. The website proudly proclaims “Let us be your Jewish mother”, and they take that statement seriously. We heard stories of children sick at home clamoring for the manager Lynn to serve them Matzo Ball soup, of waitresses that used to be babysitters, and of new mothers passing their children over to a staff member in order to use the restroom. The kindness and familiarity is comforting, and even as newcomers, we were welcomed into the fold with ease.
When it comes to food, Zaftigs is a restaurant after our own hearts; a contemporary version of a Jewish delicatessen that serves breakfast all day. Let me repeat that, there is breakfast all day. That means if you haven’t yet tried their banana stuffed French toast – which is Challah bread in a bourbon vanilla batter, served with date butter and berries – you can go anytime during their business hours tomorrow and rectify that serious problem.
It is one of our favourite past times to discuss with staff what the best menu options are, and they were incredibly welcoming of our inquiries. And with a menu that ranges from cheese blintzes to chopped liver, from the lupo sandwich (brisket layered between two potato pancakes with house-made horseradish) to stuffed cabbages, from sweet noodle kugel to matzo brei, you may find yourself in need of their recommendations and expertise.
We were seated in a cozy corner booth, with a view of the busy and packed restaurant. Which, according to manager Lynn, is lovely to see after the horrendous past winter that Boston endured. The insane amounts of snow meant that public transit was out of order for much of the season, leaving the restaurant short staffed. They remedied this issue by having a staff member on call to taxi everyone to and from their shifts, ensuring that Zaftigs was up and running through the snow storms. This is just one example of many that makes Zaftigs the absolute epitome of a neigbourhood joint.
Zaftigs now has two locations in Boston, and are working on expanding and developing their catering program. They are a Brookline institution, one that has earned its reputation through quality food and outstanding service, and continues to deserve it. The restaurant has welcomed in generations of Brookline families, watching babies grow, take high school jobs, and eventually bring in families of their own; they will welcome you with that same spirit.