anatolia cafe

I’ve heard of Anatolia Café, but have never given it a second thought. My uncle and his partner would often rave about it, and I know others that have been fans since it was originally located in a forgotten strip plaza in South Euclid (it now sits comfortably on Lee Rd amid wonderful eateries and of course the theater). But for whatever reason, I was never tempted. Until recently. After hearing praises from so many about the area’s first and only Turkish restaurant, I figured I had to see for myself what all the hype was about.

I met two of my cousins for dinner on a very snowy Wednesday night, which almost added to the experience. We settled in, got straight to non-stop chatting and catching up and did something I’ve never done before – I let someone else order. In fact, I didn’t even open the menu except for a mere second. This is very uncharacteristic of me. I love to study each dish on a menu and read it from cover to cover, even after I’ve decided on a dish. In this instance, I let my cousins, whom both have been on several occasions, order apps and trusted the server with my dinner.

We started off sharing a mix of appetizers: haydari (yogurt dip with walnuts, garlic and fresh dill), stuffed grape leaves (rice, currants, pine nuts and dill), kisir (cracked wheat salad with red and green peppers, parsley, onions, olive oil and lemon), babagannush (eggplant blended with fresh garlic, tahini, and herbs), and hummus served with hot bread.

A small order of this was plenty for three to share and a nice way to start the meal. I thoroughly enjoyed each one, but was left wanting more of the babagannush. I could snack on that all night and be beyond content. The haydari was a close second with lots of fresh dill. The hummus I felt was just okay; I’ve definitely had better.

For dinner, our server quickly suggested the lamb adana, a house specialty. Chopped lamb, lightly seasoned, served over chunks of homemade Turkish bread swimming in thick yogurt with a light tomato sauce. This might be my new favorite comfort food. What a wonderfully different dish with great layers of flavor and texture. And there was so much food on my plate, I had to take half of it home (which was still quite good the next day). I’m happy I didn’t look at the menu. Though next time I will (and I will be back) because I need to try more Turkish favorites. They offer a lot of other lamb and beef dishes, seafood, and chicken specialties (and I’m told the lentil soup is the best around!).

The space itself is warm, cozy and larger than anticipated. There’s a small wine bar and what appears to be a nice summertime patio currently trapped under two feet of snow. Service was prompt, too, and more than happy to offer suggestions and explain certain dishes.

Never again am I going to wait this long to try something.

6 Comments

  1. rockandroller
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, they have changed many things since they were in the S Euclid location. As W siders, that was certainly not easy to get to and the “new” one wasn’t much better, but we went out of our way regularly to visit the old one. The new one left us very disappointed, and we went for a special occasion as well. They no longer make their own pita or their own yogurt, and other shortcuts were evident. This was also the first time their lamb had tasted “gamey” to us. Overall it was disappointing and not worth the (long) trip back. I had heard from some other food lovers that things had changed after the move, and not for the better, but we were sad to witness it ourselves. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Posted January 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    That’s too bad – that’s the first negative thing I’ve heard about them. But I will say this, they told me the bread and yogurt were both homeade family recipes that they make daily.

  3. Posted January 12, 2010 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    I ate at the old location a couple of times, and have visited the new location a couple more. I love the new space, and found the food good every time I ate there-no matter the location. The new space is more open and inviting, although a little less old worldly. I could easily eat here several times a week and be perfectly happy.

  4. steve
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Michelle,
    I have eaten at both places and my opinion is that everything is the same. I also think that you can find better hummus, although my favorite comes from Dearborn, MI which has a very large middle eastern population. You already know my feelings about the wine.

  5. Hema
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    glad to see you got the baba. theirs is SO good!

  6. rockandroller
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Interesting. I could certainly see a difference when we went, but maybe since then they went back to making those items in house.

    From a chowhound thread (3 different posts):
    Anatolia is not as good as it was in the old location but it is still absolutely wonderful. I would say that they are running at 85% off what they used to. The salads on the app platter were all the same at the new place as they were at the old place and while they were so, so good, they were not all of what they used to be. The flavors didn’t pop as much, almost as if some things were under seasoned relative to how they used to be. They have stopped making their own bread and yogurt. The yogurt that they’re using is really good but the bread is not. Back when they made their own pita it was so wonderful and when they stopped making their own and moved to pita from Alladin ( I think that’s where they were getting it from) I could still enjoy it but now they are using some sort of commercial- Sysco pita style bread and I think it’s awful.

    I finally went to the new Anatolia location. Yes it was still delicious, but I did notice the yogurt was not as good. A bussing staff told me me in broken English that it was quite time consuming to make. So I wrote the owner/manager an email about this as I did not want to bring it up when I was there b/c I did not want them thinking I was looking for a handout. I explained the homemade really made the difference. Anyway he/she (?) responded back they make some yogurt homemade, but “they cannot keep up”. I think this is a pity as the homemade items are what really put this place above all others. Now it is just another good restaurant.

    I am told that they no longer make their own pita bread, either. Bummer.

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