Cafe Landwer: Giving Israeli Cuisine A Home In Boston

Michaela Santillo

In the months prior to its opening, Cafe Landwer enticed me with its large glass windows, bold yellow letters, and industrial charm. As soon as it opened, I grabbed some friends and decided to give this inviting addition to Brookline a try. Right across the Reservoir T-Stop, this charming cafe stands out amidst the mostly subdued Cleveland Circle.

Though you now know it as Cafe Landwer, the chain started as Landwer Coffee in Germany in 1919. After fleeing the Nazis to Tel Aviv in 1933, Moshe Landwer created Israel’s first coffee chain. In 2004, Cafe Landwerbecame the company’s first foray into casual dining, with the Cleveland Circle location being the United States’ second. Although it’s now operated by Federman and Sons, it’s still deeply rooted in its core as an Israel-based chain boasting a variety of flavors that don’t typically appear in a conventional Boston brunch. Tradition and quality are at the heart of the company, and it shows. But don’t be fooled—traditional does not mean boring. While they have classics like Shakshuka and the Landwer Breakfast at locations around the world, they make sure to stay locationally relevant by providing in-vogue offerings, like their açai bowl and Nutella latte.

The Landwer Breakfast and Vegan Breakfast are parallels of each other, with the necessary swaps to make the vegan dish fulfill its name. Each of the included dips offers an unique flavor: the tahini with salsa had twangy punch, the eggplant & tahini spread provided a more subdued blend, the cream cheese provided a more plaine palate pleaser, and the labneh with za’atar & chickpeas had a refreshing cleanliness. As a non-vegan, I was wary of the vegan yogurt with fruit jam. To my surprise, the consistency was smooth. The root salad that accompanied the dishes has a sweet balsamic vinaigrette. The chickpea flour quinoa omelette was a perfect substitute, nay, the preferred substitute, and the classic omelette actually fell short in comparison.

The menu incorporates an extensive range of other dishes that explore classics in a new and enticing way. I’ve had more than a few açai bowls in my time, but Landwer’s rendition stood out. Beyond the delightful aesthetics that the parallel lines of perfectly crisped coconut, chia seeds, banana, and granola offered, the super-berry base provided a powerful and energizing foundation for the bowl.

Biting into the pancakes was like resting your head on your favorite pillow: a perfect mix of stable and airy. These served as an ideal base for the accoutrements: Nutella, whipped butter, maple syrup, and fresh fruit.

The Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese mini breakfast sandwich served this pleasing pairing on a bun, which was a refreshing swap for the expected bagel base.

A seemingly simple tomato-based baked egg dish, the Mediterranean Shakshouka shockedme with its bold flavor. The tomatoes had an element of umami only achievable through a low and slow roasting process; the crumbled feta’s acidity cut through this flavor masterfully. The poached egg was cooked through just enough: solid whites while maintaining the runny yolk that broke when I plungedmy bread into it.  

Due to its roots as a coffee shop, Cafe Landwer boasts a robust beverage menu with a mix of classics and current trends. The cappuccino charmed with its full-bodied and balanced flavor, making for a comforting, pleasant experience. The nutella latte had a perfectly sweet, rich flavor to it without feeling overly indulgent. For those with a strong— and I mean strong—love of coffee, the Turkish coffee will not disappoint. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more fruity, The Famous Iced Tea was essentially a virgin Sangria: a sweet berry-like drink chalked-full of finely chopped fresh apples and oranges. For a bit of frozen fun, the Spirulina Smoothie subtly incorporates the famed superfood spirulina with an accompanying almond-milk aftertaste.Our visit involved pleasant conversation with the General Manager as well as our well-informed waiter. The passion that came from both of them was palpable, and came through in the service and quality of food. They’ve even decided to have chefs come in from Israel to spice up the menu with some new dishes that I can’t wait to return and try. The meal itself was a flavor-filled odyssey. My taste buds went on a journey similar to Moshe Landwer himself: started in Europe, settled in Israel, and then went on to discover new things in North America. As you adventure through Cafe Landwer’s menu, be sure to taste what makes them unique; though their açai bowl and omelette were decent, it’s ultimately their speciality dishes that capture the heart of both the restaurant and the customer.

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