With restaurants, the difference between ambiance and character is like the difference between a portrait and a candid yearbook photo: the one captures you at your best, the other gets you just as you are. What Eagle’s Deli has is character. For that matter, scratch the snapshot analogy — Eagle’s, named for the Boston College mascot, has personality enough for the whole damn yearbook. BC sports paraphernalia — framed jerseys, autographed footballs, and so forth — lines one wall; another is plastered with signed Polaroids of the deli’s " student body " — the regulars, from actual students to workmen, grandpas, and grandkids.
Around here, even eating hamburgers involves educational gradations. At the freshman level is the Godzilla Burger ($8.25), a one-pounder topped with four slices of cheese and accompanied by a pound of French fries. Then there’s the larger Cowabunga Burger ($14), the still-larger Almost There Burger ($18), and, finally, the rule-the-school Reilly ($25) — three pounds of beef and 12 slices of cheese alongside a whopping five pounds of fries (it’s named, according to owner Robert Chiller, for the first of only two men who’ve ever finished one).
Rest assured, gigantism doesn’t afflict the entire menu, which consists mainly of classic blue-plate specials and down-home diner fare: sandwiches, dogs, brisket, ham, and meat loaf, plus all manner of sides — including crumbly, buttery-sweet homemade cornbread — available for a song in the key of $6 to $8. The similarly priced hearty breakfasts, which seem to have an especially large following (no insult intended), combine eggs, toast, bacon, pancakes, and, of course, home fries — glistening, crackling, and appallingly good ($1.50 as a side). For the health-conscious — well, there’s nothing for the health-conscious here, but an unexpectedly succulent barbecued-steak-tip salad with olives and peppers ($7.50) makes for good pretending.
Eagle’s Deli, located at 1918 Beacon Street, in Brookline, is open Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., on Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sunday, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Hours change during the school year. Call (617) 731-3232.