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A Turkish Delight

A La Turka floors this foodie...literally.
Monday Nov 21, 2005.     By Misty Tosh
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Snuggling deeper into a plush cushion with my legs splayed alongside me, I took a sip of sweet Turkish white wine, scooped up another bite of tender eggplant and thought, "Now, this is why I love this city." A low-rise table covered in Turkish goodies, some chilled wine and the ability to eat while practically laying down: You just can't find that in any old town.

It was around 3:30 p.m. and time for a break from work (which sometimes necessitates a small glass of wine). I told producer/dining guinea-pig Chezne that we'd walk until I saw a restaurant I've never eaten at. No matter what, that's where we stop. She threw on her scarf immediately, delighted for an adventure (especially one that involved liquor).

We hadn't strolled down Lincoln Avenue for five minutes when I saw the specials board outside A La Turka. Lunch was still being served and the place was bone empty. In we go. Not expecting to be greeted by such a dark interior, I spied a waiter shuffling about all the way in the back who waved his hand for us to sit anywhere. We slided into the front window seat, a traditional Turkish-style seating area nestled near the floor, packed with big, body-length cushions and a table that's basically balanced on your knees. I loved it.

Attempting to keep it simple (and knowing that I hadn't had a vegetable in weeks), I ordered imam firinda, a stuffed eggplant entree covered in marinara and smothered in cheese. We also wanted to try the zucchini pancakes (if only to compare them to the little wonders at Turquoise Cafe) and Chezne insisted on sampling the hummus. While we waited on the food, we managed to squeeze in two glasses of wine, flip-flopping around like jellyfish on the cushions and snapping hideous photos of each other teenage-slumber-party-style.

The food arrived in a flurry of delightful presentation and service, and we just lay comatose as our waiter situated everything on the table. I couldn't wait to dive into the stuffed eggplant and I could tell it had been cooked for a very long time, perfect as I'm not a big fan of tough, hard eggplant. The eggplant was coated in a thick layer of oozing, white Turkish kasar cheese, and I grabbed piece after glorious piece of warm Turkish bread to dunk in the tomato sauce while picking my way through the soft eggplant stuffed with peppers, onions, pine nuts and Turkish feta cheese.

The fat zucchini pancakes (mucver) were definitely different than those at Turquoise Cafe: thicker, with more dill and more coating, almost like the casing on a perfect Baja fish taco. They were awesome, and when I loaded on a heaping spoonful of dilly yogurt dip and squirted them with a big squeeze of fresh lemon, I barely remembered zucchini pancakes of days passed. As we wound down our meal, our sweet waiter came by to ask me if I could turn on the fake flame machine in the window for him. "No problem," I said, as I pushed the button, "But what sort of dessert do I get for that? Perhaps a small piece of baklava?" He laughed and said sure, no problem, and promptly brought out an itty-bitty piece of the syrupy, made-in-house dessert. It shouldn't come as a big surprise that this girl has a new favorite lunch spot.

The Final Rave: Though the hummus was presented well, it had a slightly bitter taste: Stick with the fried zucchini pancakes. And wine.

Keep It Going:

Read it:
Use this online service to order your favorite Turkish olives, honey, breads and chocolates, delivered right to your front door.

Drink it: Sigara: A Hookah Cafe and Lounge
Show up at this exotic hookah lounge on Wednesday nights and you'll be greeted by fortune tellers and tarot card readers. Best grab some raki to face the reality that is your life.

Eat it: Cafe Demir
Known for its juicy kebabs, this tiny Turkish storefront dishes out a great hummus (which can be hard to find), as well.

Get crazy with it: Blue Cruise Yacht Charters
Sail the Turquoise Coast for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness sunken cities, explore hidden coves and catch fresh fish. Fatcake Misty Tosh explores back-alley eateries, holes-in-the-wall and seedy ethnic joints as she treks the city in search of the next raving dish. Join her in the quest.


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