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restaurant review: Zoe...s Kitchen Offers Bright Brunch Atmosphere

Flavor Doesn...t Entirely Live Up to Presentation, But Diner Still Worth a Try

By Jiji Gu

Zoe’s Kitchen

1105 Massachusetts Ave.

Cambridge, MA

617-495-0055

If ever you decide to forgo taking the T in favor of the #1 bus to Harvard Square, get off a block or two early at 1105 Massachusetts Avenue and go to Zoe’s Kitchen. It’s slightly hidden just below street level in a two-level shopping complex; we would have missed it, if not for the bustle of people just outside. For the Greek owner Theo Vallas, operating a restaurant has been a legacy — all the way back to his grandfather, who got started in the restaurant business in 1951.

Enough about the owners — let’s talk about the food. Two words describe the menu: decisions, decisions! The breakfast selection was enormous, but we had plenty of time to glance over the menu before being seated, since the line went out the door. A whole section on omelettes included 17 varieties as well as a create-your-own option, ranging in price from $5.25 for a basic three-egg omelet to more exotic flavors such as the Greek omelet for $8.75. Two pages were devoted to breakfast entrees, served all day, plus an insert with the day’s special breakfast offerings. Twenty minutes after we ordered, the food came, appetizing looking and generously portioned.

The smoked salmon benedict featured two dropped eggs, smoked salmon, and tomato on English muffin topped with hollandaise sauce. The English muffin was a bit rubbery, but the eggs and salmon were delicious with the sauce. The entree also came with home fries, which were cooked with reddish, paprika-like seasoning. The seasoning unfortunately wasn’t evenly spread, so that a bland mouthful one could be followed by a very salty one.

The Double Play ($8.25) included scrambled eggs, French toast, and homefries and either bacon, ham, sausage, chicken sausage or Gardenburger Sausage. If you’re vegetarian, you can opt for another side in place of the Gardenburger sausage, so we got buttered white toast instead. The meal was decent, but not remarkable.

The cheese blintzes ($6.50) consisted of four cottage cheese-filled crepes served with sour cream and maple syrup. The strawberries on top, for an extra $1.00, were a nice addition to the dish, though the crepes were slightly too chewy.

That morning, the menu featured a very filling breakfast special of three large banana walnut pancakes ($6.50). The flavor, however, was not very distinctive, and would been enhanced with a more generous topping.

The fruit platter ($7.95) included blueberries, strawberries, honeydew melon, cantaloupes, banana slices, grapes complemented with sour cream, and a slice of deliciously moist banana bread.

Drinks were the typical breakfast offerings, a variety of juices and milk. We were disappointed, however, to find that the bottomless coffee was not actually bottomless — the waitress never refilled the mug.

It was a gorgeous day outside, and this was reflected on the inside of the restaurant through the wide windows that offered a pleasant stream of sunlight to diners. In addition, the restaurant’s bright plastic cushioned seats, patterned walls, and colorful hanging lamps added to the cheery morning scene. The talking and laughter, unfortunately, were so loud that we nearly had to shout to communicate with the waitress.

Overall the prices were reasonable and the portions were large, although in general the food looked better than it tasted. The service and atmosphere were the best part of the meal. We had three different waiters serve us, and the table was cleared right after we got the check. All in all, it was a good experience and we decided that it might be worthwhile to come again for lunch or dinner.