[Snacking by Wilfrid: October 28, 2009]
This cheery little storefront take-out spot hard by Grand Central has hopes of being a chain.
This may not be as much of a stretch as it sounds. This really is a take-out place - there's nowhere to stand and eat, let alone sit, and on a late weekday lunch-time trade was brisk. I especially noticed large trays of kolache (I believe that's the plural) going out the door, presumably to local offices. I didn't quite expect the minimalism, so I took my swag across the street and ate in Grand Central Station. Why not?
As I understand it, kolache were originally sweet through and through, filled with cherries or prunes, and certainly Mama offers a sweet selection - peach amaretto, for example. But it was the locally-accented savory varieties which caught my attention. All use the same, mildly sweet and squishy dough.
The conventionally shaped, if innovatively stuffed Reuben gives the game away. Kolache share some common roots, surely, with the knish. The concept is similar, although the dough is sweeter, and Mama's offerings at least are light in comparison with a typical knish. The appeal is surely the same. (The website tries to throw you off the track by talking about bagels.)
Anyway, the Reuben bulged with thin-sliced pastrami - okay, nothing sensational - cheese and sauerkraut which was a touch more vinegary than that atop the Street Dog. Perfectly pleasant. Other fusiony riffs include Texas sausage, sweet Italian sausage, a the pizza "works"; there's a vegetarian selection too. Prices? Friendly. $2.99 for an item, or $5 for two - definitely the way to go. One is too small for a lunch.
An improbable keeper, I think.