Three Meals and One Babka in Boston

I love babka, a proper handmade babka, and believe it is one of the most lovely bites of food on planet earth. Imagine something as buttery and rich as croissant dough, rolled out until it’s as thin as a bedsheet, brushed with warm chocolate ganache (cream and chocolate melted together), rolled into a thick cylinder, split with a sharp knife, then braided and laid into a loaf pan. A proper babka is such a thing of beauty. I’ve read the name refers to the ruffles of a Jewish grandmother’s dress because only a grandmother would have the time to make something so labor intensive, and a Chocolate Babka is clearly meant as a way to spoil a grandchild so the grandmother reference makes sense. Imagine our surprise when we found the best babka we’ve ever eaten, only three blocks from our Boston hotel. Bakey Bakery was such a delightful place and I loved its thoughtful design and stunning level of cleanliness.

Chocolate Babka at Bakey

On our second day we had breakfast at Cafe Bonjour, a short walk from our hotel. Amy had chosen it based on their reviews. Bonjour is a tiny place with indoor seating for maybe 60 and on this day the morning temperature was a balmy 27 degrees with a bit of saltwater breeze. The host smiled broadly then walked us to our seats at the counter, put his arms across our shoulders and pronounced: “My restaurant is full and so is my heart. Thank you for dining at Bonjour.”

Breakfast at Boston’s Cafe Bonjour

Wow. Of course I introduced myself and told him “that was the most memorable greeting I’ve ever had.” Hamid and his brother Driss have owned the Bonjour for many years, their reviews are very high and People rave about their food. Our breakfast was very good, fresh, and hot; however there wasn’t any farm to table this, or chef-driven that. Yet Bonjour gets better reviews than a few chef owned breakfast places only a short walk away. Why? Many restaurateurs forget this golden rule: I won’t come back because the food is good, I’ll come back because of the way YOU (the owner) made ME (the customer) feel while I was eating your food. And Hamid made everyone in Bonjour felt very special. He smiled, he thanked, he helped run food and when customers left his “Thank You” was very sincere. No wonder they were so busy and so loved.

Hamid Elmokri of Cafe Bonjour

We loved the North End of Boston because it’s full of Italian restaurants, trattorias, cafes, markets, and wine shops. Our first visit to this bustling neighborhood was dinner at Quattro, where we sat at the chef’s counter. When we arrived at this tiny restaurant I asked the gentleman at the door if it was his restaurant. “Si, signore. Welcome to Quattro.”

Every one of his tables was full and the focal point of the dining room was the brick pizza oven and the large grill. Pizzas fresh with tomato and basil laden aromas scooted past us as we took our seats. In front of us three cooks efficiently tossed beautiful pastas in saute pans while the open flames of the grill scorched steaks and fresh fish into submission. We were handed menus and a wine list and our host asked me, “Do you like it, the restaurant?”

“It’s perfect.”

Pizza appetizer at Quattro, Boston

Indeed it was. I love the sound of a happy restaurant. It’s a combination of glasses clinking, forks touching plates, wine being poured and happy conversations. When we left, our host opened his arms and said “Chef, thank you so much for being our guest.”

I gave him a big hug and he responded, “So this means you ah liked it, si?”

The waitstaff, the cooks that worked their magic five feet in front of us, and the management team made us feel important and I watched them make the rest of their customers feel the same way.

Perhaps our most anticipated meal was at Oleana, and it was easily the most intriguing meal we’ve had in 20+ years. Good friends told us this was the place we should go and it was spectacular. Again, though, it was the service that made us feel special. From our waiter to the hostess to the food runners, they were all engaged in hospitality. Oleana serves a hybrid of Turkish/Mediterranean cuisine with an emphasis of exquisite vegetables and eclectic wines. How eclectic? We had a bottle of red from the Canary Islands, a Malvasía Volcanica. Guess how many times I’ve seen a bottle of anything from the Canary Islands.

If you’ve had one too many meals with lackluster hospitality, take a trip to Boston. And if you do, drop me a note and let me know your thoughts on this great city. Many thanks to all of the folks we met at these restaurants and I believe they truly love their jobs.




Cafe Bonjour:



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