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This Cambridge cafe is the only Mass. eatery to make The New York Times’ 2021 Restaurant List

Za'atar bread, or mana'eesh, shown with carrot salad with dukkah, left, and whipped feta maras oil at Sofra Bakery & Cafe in 2018.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/file

Craving some decadent pastries or delicious Middle Eastern dishes? The New York Times put its stamp of appreciation on a local cafe and bakery that may have what you’re hankering for.

Sofra Bakery & Cafe, on the border of Cambridge and Watertown, made The New York Times’ 2021 Restaurant List, an unranked roundup of 50 of the “most vibrant and delicious” eateries around the country. The article, which came out Tuesday, said the Times sent reporters, critics, and editors from the Food desk to scout restaurants nationwide, eventually whittling the list down to the flavorsome 50.

The main piece of advice reporter Priya Krishna gave for dining at Sofra? “Come early and order everything.” We’d call that a glowing review.


Sofra — a Turkish word that roughly translates to picnic — spans a variety of Middle Eastern cuisines, putting its spin on fare from Turkey, Lebanon, and Greece. The Times pointed to the Turkish-style baba ghanoush, made with eggplant, peppers, and tomato, and the muhammara dip, made with red pepper and walnut purée, as two standouts.

The real star of the cafe, though, the Times said, are the pastries, crafted by executive pastry chef and co-owner Maura Kilpatrick. Must-try sweet treats are the doughnuts stuffed with a tahini brown butter custard filling and the date turmeric cinnamon rolls, topped with a thick cream cheese glaze.

“Nothing is cloying, and the chef [and co-owner] Ana Sortun and her team put the utmost care into perfecting each element, down to the freshly milled grains,” Krishna wrote.

Along with the cafe offerings, Sofra sells spices, speciality items, and granola and nuts made in house from the shop’s retail arm, according to the restaurant’s website.

Sofra is the brainchild of Sortun and Kilpatrick, who helm the Oleana Restaurant Group. The celebrated Oleana Restaurant, near Inman Square in Cambridge, opened in 2001, and Sofra followed in 2008.


In 2016, the pair put out a cookbook outlining how to make Sofra’s delicacies, many of which are prepared using produce from Siena Farms, a Sudbury-based farm owned by Sortun’s husband.

The only other spot in New England on The New York Times’ list was Công Tū Bôt in Portland, Maine, a restaurant that serves a menu of Vietnamese favorites.

Dana Gerber can be reached at Follow her @danagerber6.