A Taste of Turkiye
Anatolia Doner Kebab Restaurant
By M. Brianna Stallings
You can learn a lot about a restaurant when you're one of the only people there.
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.
I ordered the vegetarian plate ($8.50) with hot tea. For just $1.50, you get a potent, floral Turkish tea, served fast in a small glass with a dish of loose sugar on the side. The vegetarian plate came with a lot of food for the price—falafel, baba ghanoush, hummus with fluffy pita wedges, dolmades, buttered rice, side-of-the-plate salad with lettuce, onions, tomatoes and shredded red cabbage, and cool minty cacik (tzatziki) sauce.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
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.
My friend, meanwhile, went all meat all the way, with the beef doner kebab sandwich ($5.99), served in a pita with the same salad mix, and topped with fries. There were hints of cumin and cinnamon flavoring the long string-like strips of beef with a tender juicy center surrounded by a crisply toasted exterior. The sandwich makes a good lunch, since it's neither skimpy nor heavy.
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.
This time, my fella went with me to Anatolia for lunch on a Wednesday afternoon. There were about eight other diners there at the time, mostly middle-aged people from nearby offices, as well as one talkative bloke who was clearly a beloved regular.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
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.
My salmon turned out to be more the size of a dinner. Although I did find it irresistible—moist, pink and flaky—the salmon itself was still too over-seasoned for my taste. Too much spice overwhelmed the flavor of the fish, but then, after breaking it up into smaller pieces and mixing it with the rice and the cacik (which cooled and complemented the salmon nicely), the meal was much more palatable. Back to that decadent baklava and Turkish coffee: Dip part of the baklava in the rich, round, thick coffee, take a bite, and then wash it all down with a sip of Turkish tea. It's a must.
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.
Anatolia Doner Kebab House
521 Central NW, Suite I (on 6th, between Central & Copper)
Hours: Mon-Thur: 11 am-9 pm; Fri-Sat: 11 am-1 am; Sun: Noon-5 pm
Food Styles: Greek and Mediterranean, Turkish, Vegan, Vegetarian
Atmosphere: Friendly but utilitarian, catch-as-catch-can
Price Range: up to $10.
Extras: Free call-in and delivery service downtown.
The Alibi recommends: Beef doner kebab sandwich, vegetarian plate, lots of Turkish tea
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