Boston's Hidden Restaurants

Inna's Kitchen (CLOSED -- Now on Commonwealth Avenue)

19 Pelham Street, Newton, MA 02459
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Photo of Inna's Kitchen, Newton, MA Don't let anyone tell you that there are no good delis in the Boston area. It may be a common thing to hear in and around the city, and there are probably a few reasons for this, including the fact that there are very few delis of any kind inside Route 128, and the more popular ones seem to get mixed reviews from both diners and restaurant critics. But look hard enough and you will find some real gems out there, including two in the western suburb of Newton. One of these spots is a place that we have reviewed--the wonderful Barry's Village Deli in Waban--while the other is the focus of this review, a tiny breakfast and lunch spot on a little-traveled side street in Newton Centre called Inna's Kitchen. So which is better? Well, this writer isn't about to take sides, as both are excellent in their own ways (they are very different), but for dishes that you might not find in any other deli in the Boston area, Inna's may be the place to go.

Even driving by the place at 10-15 miles per hour (which is about how fast you can safely go on Pelham Street), it is very easy to miss Inna's Kitchen, as it is a tiny, narrow place in a small block of similarly tiny businesses. And peering into its windows might make you think that this is a little bakery, cafe, or market rather than a delicatessen, and you wouldn't be that far off, actually, as the eatery has a number of baked goods behind the counter and pre-made dishes in a freezer to take home with you. But Inna's is indeed a restaurant where you can sit down and order from a menu, albeit a dining spot with relatively limited seating.

While some of the food at Inna's Kitchen reflects the Belarusian roots of the family behind the place (Inna was born in Belarus and her son Alex learned from her cooking at an early age), there is a surprisingly wide variety of cuisines here, considering the size of the place. Here you can find dishes that you might find at Middle Eastern restaurants (chicken shawarma, tabbouleh), along with more traditional American items (breakfast sandwiches with eggs, cheese, and tomatoes), Central European dishes (potato salad with dill), and even some foods with African influences. Inna's Kitchen also focuses on gluten-free dishes, and offers some dairy-free products as well. Some highlights from the restaurant include golden brown blintzes with a mild and creamy farmer cheese inside; a sweet-tasting noodle kugel that contains a good amount of raisins and cinnamon and is about the best that you will find in the Boston area; fresh pickles that have a satisfying "snap" to them and a good mix of sweet and sour flavors; a matzo ball soup that contains a mazto ball, some shredded chicken, and that's really about it, but is tremendous; a sweet and sour cabbage soup that is thick and filling enough to be a meal unto itself; potato latkes that have a nice char and are so thin and tender that they can be cut with a fork; the aforementioned potato salad that has a nice sweetness coming from the abundance of dill used; a corned beef sandwich that consists of house-made corned beef with no nitrites, which means it is gray rather than red, but so tender and fresh-tasting that you may never go back to the "red" corned beef again; a slightly spicy pastrami sandwich that may even be better than the corned beef; a dense and meaty potato kugel that is a bit heavy--though not too heavy--on the onion; and cabbage knishes that have a complex mix of sweet, sour, and savory tastes. Inna's Kitchen also has daily and seasonal specials, with a few standouts including a terrific turkey/pastrami "burger" that combines the two ground meats together into an unusual yet delicious dish, a very offbeat but tasty dish called Shakalatkes (which has layers of eggs and potato latkes topped with shakshuka sauce, shredded feta cheese, and avocado) that is also a favorite at its satellite location at the Boston Public Market, and a pumpkin spice bread that is moist and rich. Other items on the menu include blintzes, egg salad sandwiches, chopped liver, brisket, shuba (a Russian salad), and honey cake.

For those of you who think that you have to travel to New York to find a good deli, give Inna's Kitchen a shot; between its welcoming staff (Inna is very down-to-earth), freshly-made food, and reasonable prices, this gives some of the best Manhattan delis a run for their money. And because it cannot really be seen from the main streets of Newton Centre, it is also one of those hidden gems that will make you feel like you are the first person to have discovered it.