Passersby will nearly miss this down-to-earth Turkish spot, located slightly off the busy bar-and-restaurant strip of Lincoln Avenue. At first, it looks like a counter-only/to-go place, but peer back a bit further and check out the spacious though sparsely decorated back room where great service rules. If the weather's nice, a rather utilitarian array of benches and tables opens up on the patio, though beware of the mini-golf course-style fake grass. The hulking Dunkin/Robbins nearby doesn't exactly provide a breathtaking view, but the huge variety of reasonably priced cold and hot appetizers, kabobs, homemade specials and veggie entrees make up for the lack of visual appeal.
Chef Kurt Serpin, who hails from the Mediterranean town of Mersin, Turkey, buys his seafood and produce fresh every morning. American and Turkish customers love the traditional jajik (spelled cacik in Turkish)—yogurt, chopped cucumber, garlic, dill and olive oil—as well as the perfectly seared pan-fried mussels, which are nearly impossible to find outside of Istanbul. Killer kabobs rule the menu, especially the tasty lamb shish. Who could turn down the juicy, heavily marinated lamb cubes served alongside pillowy soft rice or bulgur (cracked wheat pilaf)? Another Turkish favorite is iskender, composed of homemade doner (lamb, veal, beef) served over pan-fried bread with butter and a yogurt-like "special sauce" ($12.95). Complete the meal with the slightly salty ayran yogurt drink or the super-strong Turkish coffee ($2).
Lounge in the back and space out to the lulling, beautiful Turkish language emanating from the TV in the corner. Chances are that Turkish folks can be spotted in this backroom at any time of the day, a sure sign that this place is as authentic as they come.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Alicia Eler