S & S Restaurant, in Inman Square, gets eats name from the Yiddish expression “es and es” which means: eat and eat. A lot of serious eating has been done here; the diner is almost 100 years old, opening way back in 1919. You can feel the diner’s age. Big (the place is really sprawling – it must take up at least half a city block) and sturdy, S & S serves big, sturdy deli classics. Unlike the trendy bars and cafes that have popped up around it, you can feel the diner’s roots. I love quirky breakfast places (especially quirky pancake toppings) but it’s nice to go to a place that serves normal food instead of red bull frappes or oatmeal topped with peanut butter.
The decor is a nice break too – Cambridge (home to a student and a young professional crowd that favors ironic beards and moleskin notebooks) attracts whacky off-beat restaurants, cafes and bars that cater to a certain alternative aesthetic. S & S, in the midst of all of this, is refreshingly conventional. It’s outfitted with diner staples: comfy leather booths, old pictures, and circulating pitchers of coffee. People older than 35 eat here and the waitresses are grandmotherly and tattoo-less.
The menu is huge and full of deli classics: Matzo ball soup, Cheese blintzes, steak and eggs, stacks of pancakes, hot pastrami and swiss, burgers, salads, potato pancakes, traditional cakes and pies…the list goes on, expanding to include seafood and pizza. I came for breakfast (I had an omelet with tomato, onions and mozzarella) and while it was very good, I liked the experience of just sitting there even more. It was raining, the place was half-full, and a waitress showed up periodically to fill my cup of coffee. It was the perfect unhurried dining experience accentuated by the innate comfort of ordering food I knew I was going to like. And isn’t that what the diner experience is all about? Comfort food that you already know you’ll like? I’ll be back to get the cheesecake. It’s plain and classic and I know that I’ll love it.