Drink of the week:
A bottle of Cankaya Kavaklidere Emir De Nevsehir '04 at A La Turka
, 3134 N. Lincoln Ave., on a Wednesday night.
The damage: $26 for a bottle or $6 for a glass.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? On Sunday mornings as a child, I would help my mom cut coupons for everything from Tide to TV dinners. At the grocery store checkout line, she would reach into her accordion-style folder and proudly hand the cashier a wad of clippings. Despite my upbringing, my mother's thriftiness is lost on me. Not only am I too lazy to cut coupons, but in most settings, especially restaurants, I'm embarrassed to use them. So when I recently received a coupon for $25 off a meal at A La Turka, I saw it as an opportunity to tackle my fear of frugality.
How it went down: To truly embody the Turks, you have to sip Raki, an anise-flavored aperitif that defines Turkish boozing as much as Ouzo does for the Greeks. To me, though, black licorice tastes like stale tobacco dipped in cough syrup, so I opted to order a bottle of Cankaya instead. Having never tried Turkish wine before, I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought of the time a friend gave me a bottle of wine from Tennessee. Neither place exactly evokes images of vineyards and grape-stomping.
Forced to order a bottle of white to sate my dining companion, Jen, I worried the wine would taste too sweet for my hearty A La Turka Special—tender sauteed chicken with onions, zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms drizzled with a yogurt sauce and paired with a smoky eggplant dip. To my surprise, Cankaya resembled a dry Chardonnay with hints of citrus and floral and a smooth, crisp finish. For all I know, Cankaya translates to Chardonnay in Turkish. Or, for that matter, so does Kavaklidere, Emir or Nevsehir.
Would I want to become a regular? Jen commented on how A La Turka's draped ceiling and colorful accents reminded her of when she stayed at a Bedouin camp in Israel. Unlike many ethnic restaurants that display a few traditional pieces and call it ambience, A La Turka belongs in Istanbul. We sat on the floor atop a bed of pillows decked with pink roses while we dined off an ornate silver platter. Chatty groups of friends and couples from the neighborhood talked over the Madonna-turned-Turkish soundtrack. Though slightly pricey, the food is memorable, and the server kindly took my coupon without a hint of judgment. Since A La Turka helped me conquer my coupon phobia, perhaps I'll go back to address another aversion—I'll fire up a hookah filled with anise-flavored tobacco.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.