People who enjoy the type of frozen yogurt Café Podima serves might not know how best to describe it, and more often than not they use a pained arm motion — the same drawn-out slot-machine pull the servers use to blend a vanilla base with a selection of ingredients — to get their point across. People who’ve seen the machine in action know what they mean, and it’s easier than explaining the gigantic menu of mix-ins (ranging from Snickers to peaches to Nilla Wafers), the bizarre machinery involved, and the delicious and often low-fat result.
The frozen yogurt ($2.24; 48 cents for each mix-in) is reason enough to head to one of Café Podima’s two locations, but the menu is strong enough to warrant making time for a whole meal. Gourmet ingredients are combined with old stand-bys, the portions are generous, and the prices reasonable. A mesclun-mix salad ($3.81) was big enough to share as a side, and was fresh from the greens to the sliced beefsteak tomatoes. Sandwiches come on a choice of breads that, in addition to the usual suspects, includes focaccia and French roll. A sandwich of goat cheese, red pepper, eggplant, and pesto ($5.71) on thickly sliced, fresh focaccia made for a rich combination, and half could easily have been saved for later. The people behind the counter are also glad to create whatever their customers might dream up; on request, a white-tuna-salad sandwich ($5.48) was dressed up with wide slices of crisp bacon without a problem.
It’s tough to imagine not being able to find something on Podima’s vast menu; it offers personal-size pizza ($4.45–$5.85), calzones ($5.45–$6.85), pita roll-ups hot and cold ($4.76–$6.19), and sandwiches that are hot grilled ($6.19) or double-stuffed ($6). Side orders ($1.43–$2.38) range from the typical (coleslaw) to the exotic (jasmine rice).
It’s true that Café Podima’s new Cambridge location is the third restaurant to occupy that space in about a year, and menu holdovers from the most recent predecessor, Café Bay State, abound. The café’s current incarnation in the sunny corner location includes a few homey tables and a counter that offers a prime view of the fabled yogurt machine, so yogurt junkies can sit in awe as that arm crank works its magic.
Café Podima, located at 168 Cambridge Street, in Boston, and 119 Hampshire Street, in Cambridge, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Call (617) 227-4959 (Boston) or (617) 868-2233 (Cambridge).