Sometimes it's important to stress what a restaurant isn't. Sofra Family Bistro, and that name is a tip-off, isn't vying to be a stylish contender, or a hipstery clubhouse where men in porkpie hats pick at some fashion plate and compare it to a dish they just ate in Williamsburg or Wicker Park. No, that's not going to happen here. Sofra sticks to a homey Middleton vibe and a quirky esthetic that is what it is, and doesn't try too hard. So if the dizzying decor can seem eccentric, just accept it.
While breakfast and lunch (burgers, club sandwiches, paninis, chicken wraps) are fairly predictable, the kitchen's specialty is a scattering of Albanian dishes served only in the evening. There is plenty to graze from if you're not itching for an Albanian dinner.
Among starters, the bruschetta plate is a lot of food for $6, and it sets the tone here; prices are relatively low, and portions are heaping. While the spongy, thick Italian bread made for a very heavy bruschetta, bordering on a sub sandwich, the basil, mozzarella and big chunks of fresh tomato piled on top were fine. And the hummus starter, served with cucumbers, olives and pita bread, was creamy and nutty, as good a hummus as you'll find in town.
Among main dishes, we tried to keep to the vaguely Continental theme by bypassing the salmon steak and rotisserie chicken and opting for the schnitzels. The jager schnitzel, more comforting maybe than Continental, was still satisfying. The typically overflowing plate was piled with slices of mostly tender pan-fried pork cutlets topped with a bushel of mushrooms and a sea of very brown, soothing red wine and sour cream demi-glace. And the wiener schnitzel, though it could have been more tender, was still good, wearing its coat of golden breadcrumbs and served, like the jager schnitzel, with a great mound of sweet-and-sour red cabbage and another mound of spaetzle (too gummy).
If you're really hungry, though, and if you are actually nostalgic for an Albanian smorgasbord, Sofra's mixed grilled platter is one of the best bargains around. At $26, it's by far the highest-priced item on the menu, but then it's designed for two, and if you attempt it alone you'll have leftovers for days. Among the best of the platter: rich, juicy Albanian sausages, made from a blend of ground beef, lamb and spices, that great hummus, and double-cut lamb chops marinated in olive oil. You also get a lot of red potatoes, grilled zucchini, grilled chicken skewers that are fine (though no rival to the prize kebabs at the Shish), and stuffed grape leaves (filled with a bland mash of rice, and the only big letdown).
If you have room after that, the dessert to get is, oddly, the New York cheesecake. A very thick wedge, solid but creamy, this is a true New York deli cheesecake. Though it ends the dinner on an unexpected note, that's in keeping with Sofra's comfortably singular style.