The Grateful Deli may be dead, but it is by no means forgotten. So devoted patrons of the long-standing Cambridge haunt will be pleased to know that when Café Bay State opened recently in the Deli’s tie-dye-tinged space, owner Deniz Awdin left in place the larger-than-life mural of Jerry Garcia. The fat man still casts his twinkling gaze on diners in the bright eatery. The service is still attentive. The menu, however, has been spruced up with a pleasing selection of staples from a variety of international cuisines — the stuff that is cosmopolitan comfort food among urban eaters.
Vegetarians will find no shortage of greens, roots, and grains to choose from. A generous helping of Greek salad ($4.76) makes a suitable starter for the tabouleh roll-up ($4.50), a zesty assault on the taste buds. The pita bread is warmed to just-right temperature and is loaded with a tangy Middle Eastern blend of seasoned salad. The falafel ($5.71) is served with hummus that offers garlic lovers a welcome challenge. Not to be missed is the eggplant, sun-dried tomato, mozzarella, and roasted-pepper roll-up ($6.50). Smothered in warm pesto, the eggplant’s silkiness pairs nicely with the tart toughness of the tomato.
Lest carnivores despair, there’s also an ethnic rainbow of chicken roll-up options: barbecue, spicy-buffalo, teriyaki, and caesar ($5.71). Also, perhaps in tribute to the traditional deli fare that came before, there’s a full range of sandwiches, from pastrami and egg-salad to the classic BLT. Each is liberal with the meat and loaded with cheese. Choose your bread and your size ($3.55–$4.50 for a half-sandwich, $5–$5.71 for a triple-decker). But leave room for dessert: a special frozen-yogurt machine pulverizes your favorite cookie or candy into bits and blends it with soft serve ($2.50 for plain, plus 50 cents for each flavor added in). Not bad for an encore.
Café Bay State, located at 119 Hampshire Street, in Cambridge, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Call (617) 868-CAFÉ.