The first afternoon I went to Anatolia Doner Kebab, my friend and I were the only diners in the joint. We had free rein to take it all in: a six-seat semi-circular booth surrounded on all sides with other tables; walls decorated with prayer rugs, Adana Demirspor soccer club flags, and small ocean scene paintings for sale; a jinn to ward off the Evil Eye staring out from above a “Turkiye” sign hung proudly next to the register.
The falafel was cooked well, its outer crispness perfectly paralleled by a moist flavorful center. Hefty chunks of eggplant in the baba ghanoush made it burst with texture and flavor. The hummus was just right: creamy and smooth, with a great balance between tahini, chickpea, garlic and lemon flavors. The salad concoction was tinged with a slightly tart vinegar dressing, while the rice served as a mellow complement to fill out the meal. However, I really didn't like the dolmades that day. The leaf was predominantly dry and papery. When I bit into it, the rice was a stiff, gummy mass and it was tough to get a clean bite through.
On the front of Anatolia's paper tri-fold menus is the proud proclamation “Desserts made fresh daily!” To prove their point, you receive complimentary bite-sized squares of baklava with your check at the end of the meal, each about the size of a fifty-cent piece and dripping with clearish syrup.
Sweet but not oppressively so, with just a hint of lavender, the baklava had a wonderful nutty buttered flavor and a rustling crunch you can hear with each bite. Despite being served to us at room temperature, there is an inherent gentle warmth radiating from each square. In fact, the baklava proves so tantalizing that even my sweets-averse sweetheart devoured it when he and I went for my second visit a few weeks later. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
“We have a pretty big lunch crowd during the week,” I was told as I paid my bill. So that's when I decided to return.
As for the meal, my sweetheart ordered a Turkish tea and a falafel sandwich ($5.25) with a side of hummus ($4.99), while I opted for the grilled salmon special (served with rice, pita wedges, cacik sauce and a roasted green chile; $9) and Turkish coffee ($2.25). His tea arrived lickety-split, but the coffee took a bit longer. Our lunches were delivered before I received it. To compensate, my boyfriend was given his own Turkish coffee on the house. We saved them to go with our baklava, then tucked in to lunch.
As before, the sandwich was the perfect size for lunch. The fries served on top of the sandwich were cold and mushy, and, with the fries and the pita, the falafel-to-starches ratio was off-balance. Still, the falafel, hummus, and cacik sauce all got resounding YES votes, and the sandwich was gobbled up quickly.
This time as we left, I paid my bill to a very sweet middle-aged man. Indeed, smiles and friendly open banter are like eating utensils at Anatolia: always there at your disposal, and made to seem like an integral part of the meal, without which you simply cannot keep eating.
He told me in passing about their vegan sandwich, an “everything but the kitchen sink” catch-all, bursting at the seams with falafel, hummus, dolmades and more. He then asked if I was a vegetarian (no, but I'm happy to eat that way) before he showed me a cookbook picture of succulent squashes and eggplant, served on a bed of cracked bulgur. He pointed at the picture—so vivid that steam appeared to waft from the page—and asked me if I would eat it. I was flattered to be asked; after all, it's not too often that a chef asks you point-blank for menu input. I said yes.
And you know what? I look forward to going back soon to try it.