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The Kosher Table
Cafe Shira - CLICK to see a larger, detail view of Cafe Shira, a Great Kosher Restaurant

Café Shira
134 Bala Avenue
(one block off Montgomery Avenue)
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
(610) 664-5570

Photo copyright Elan Kornblum courtesy of Great Restaurants Kosher Edition

A Delightful New Spot On The Main Line
Long awaited restaurant was worth the wait.

-- Lisa Kelvin Tuttle

When I first heard that the Trager family was planning on opening a kosher dairy restaurant on Bala Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, I was practically counting the days. In an area with so many Jewish families and so few kosher eateries, Café Shira — named for the Tragers' 13-year-old daughter — fills an important need, but not just because it is kosher. The food also happens to be terrific.

On my first visit just days after the grand opening in early June, my friend and took in the warm earthy color scheme and the simple, pretty artwork which includes a collection of beautiful multicolored blown-glass urns. The place was packed during a Friday lunch hour. Since the restaurant does not take reservations, do call ahead to see if you will have to wait for a table.

I quickly surveyed the appealing assortment of appetizers-many with a Southwest flavor, such as the Home made Fresh Spring Rolls stuffed with black beans, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and jack and cheddar cheeses, served with avocado dressing; and Quesadillas, a flour tortilla stuffed with roasted vegetables and cheeses, served with pico de gallo, sour cream, and the excellent fresh house guacamole. 

We decided upon a light lunch-my friend chose a simple traditional Caesar salad ($8.95), while I went for the Grilled Veggie Burger ($6.95). It was anything but ordinary, topped with avocado, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers and cheddar cheese on a crispy baguette. I have to say it was the best I've had to date.

On my second visit, hungry for a snack, my nine-year old son and I stopped in to sample the Nachos Supreme-a huge portion for an appetizer, great for sharing, with melted mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole ($7.95). We left satisfied, with our leftovers in tow.

Café Shira's menu is so big and so tantalizing that it really will take quite a few visits, or a large group that's into sharing, for you to get a feel for the breadth of the great food. Café Shira has a great selection of pastas (all accompanied by garlic bread and a small salad); they also turn out the area's finest gourmet pizza at very reasonable prices. My kids tried the Five Cheese Pizza (marinara sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, goat cheese, cheddar and feta; $8.99 for the small, which serves 1-2 people and $10.99 for the medium, which serves 2-4). Some other varieties are the Grilled Portabella Mushroom and Roasted Peppers Pizza (marinara sauce, portabella mushrooms, roasted green and red peppers, sliced roasted garlic, caramelized onions, and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses); Smoked Salmon Pizza (topped with rich dill sauce, smoked Atlantic salmon, and caviar); and Herbed Artichoke Pizza (marinated artichokes, caramelized onions, olives, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce).

Our favorite by far, though, was the fresh grilled fish, and way diners can compose multiple combinations of sauces and side dishes. First, choose a fish-either Rainbow Trout, Red Snapper, Sea Bass, Atlantic salmon, or Tuna Steak (prices range from $12.99 to $15.99)-then choose a sauce: Lemon Butter Sauce, Lime Tomato Garlic Sauce, Warm Mango Salsa, or Pan Asian Style. Last, choose two side dishes: Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Grilled mixed Vegetables, Small Caesar Salad, Small Garden Salad, and Pasta with Marinara Sauce were on the menu the night we were there. My snapper was (as the menu promised) grilled to perfection, served with perfect chunky-creamy mashed potatoes and the grilled mixed veggies with the delicious lime tomato garlic sauce.

We couldn't let the evening go without dessert. Café Shira boasts its own pastry chef and the goodies are both sumptuous and pretty to look at: try several varieties of Home made Cheesecakes (selections change daily; $4.50); Warm Apple Crisp (fresh apples, cinnamon and brown sugar, served warm with vanilla or chocolate ice cream and caramel sauce, $5.75); Chocolate Mousse ($3.25); and Fresh Fruit and Berries (fresh seasonal fruits and berries served with crème fraiche and brown sugar, $4.50).

The prices are very reasonable (dinner for four was about $50.00), the offerings are all fresh and creative and kosher to boot. The next time you're looking for a dining spot on the Main Line, give Café Shira a try!

Café Shira is available for private parties up to 75 people and provides full-service catering on or off premises. All major credit cards are accepted, and the restaurant is handicapped accessible. Café Shira is under the supervision of the Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia.

Until we eat again . . .


Lisa Kelvin Tuttle has professional experience in the gourmet, catering, and health-food fields, as well as being an experienced kosher camp cook. Her greatest pleasure, though, is cooking Shabbos dinner for family and friends. She is Communications Director for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and resides with her husband, Alan, and sons Adam and Jeremy in Wynnewood.

All questions concerning the kashrut of the establishments featured in this column should be directed to your rabbi.

Previously on the Kosher Table