I've always felt a little sorry for Brighton; it's a lovely residential neighborhood, but seems short on decent places for a quick bite. Living next to Allston's embarrassment of budget-restaurant riches must help, but that doesn't quite replace being able to walk to a casual breakfast or lunch joint. A neighborhood needs its own affordable, independent restaurants that trump the typical chain outlet or back-up-the-Sysco-truck pub, serving food that tastes like somebody gives a damn. So I was pleased for Brightonians when I finally stumbled across Cafe 57, an easy-to-miss storefront opposite St. Elizabeth's Medical Center.
The idiom here is healthy café meets Greek-American counter-service sandwich shop, and the mother/daughter ownership team executes crisply across a range of sandwiches, salads, soups, small plates, and pastries. Breakfast offerings range from egg/cheese/meat sandwiches ($2.25–$2.99), to three-egg omelets ($3.50, plus 50 cents–$1.50 per filling), to quality Greek yogurt with honey ($2.25) and steel-cut oatmeal with dried fruit ($2.45). Filter coffee ($1.45–$1.95) and espresso drinks (99 cents–$3.05) make for a fine wake-up call. Lunch kicks off well with deep-flavored, homey soups ($2.95/cup; $3.95/bowl) like rich, dark-brothed vegetable and subtle chicken lemon. Fresh-tasting sandwiches include an excellent, craisin-studded chicken salad ($6.25) in a generously filled wheat wrap. Steak Delight ($6.75) is representative of the hot sandwiches: a quality steak bomb made memorable by a good baguette. Fries ($3.75) are hand-cut and cooked to order, and taste it. More of these terrific fries accompany souvlaki bites ($3.75/one four-kebab skewer; $4.75/two) that are moist and unusually tender, as they're made from marinated pork tenderloin.
Salads ($4.75–$5.75) are sized to make a goodly but not overwhelming meal: the unsurprising standout is a Greek salad with above-average feta and olives. The home-style flavors continue with baked goods like house-made cupcakes ($2.50), muffins ($1.50), and most endearingly, koulourakia ($3), three braided, buttery shortbread cookies made by the family's actual grandma. The space is airy, sunny, and window-lined, with 20 seats, a couple of comfy armchairs, and free Wi-Fi. Residents should be thankful for a new, locally owned cafe they don't need to board a bus to enjoy, especially given the care in the cooking, the overall high quality of ingredients, and the owners' extraordinarily cordial service. It's not in my own neighborhood, but Cafe 57 is so tasty and charming that I expect I'll be making the trek from downtown back there soon.
Cafe 57 & Grille, located at 5-7 Henshaw Street, in Brighton, is open Monday–Friday, 7 am–4 pm, and Saturday, 8 am–4 pm. Call 617.783.5757.