New York City

Where to Eat Turkish Food in NYC

Where to Eat Turkish Food in NYC


We’re sitting in the dining room of my favorite Turkish restaurant and the off-menu mixed appetizer platter lands on the table with a thud.

If you wanted to be charitable, you’d call it a pile. Nameless purées and vegetable stews edge up against each other, propping up sticks of fried dough. I’m ready to dig in, but other folks at my table aren’t so sure.

“What is this exactly? How are we supposed to eat it?”

Mixed appetizer plate at Sip Sak [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

The answer to the second question is one of the golden rules of good eating out: There’s no one ‘right’ way to eat anything, so stop worrying, dig in, and let your tongue sort it out.

As for the first question: To the first-timer, Turkish food is full of unfamiliar names, but you already know everything that’s on the plate. Yogurt. Eggplant. Tomatoes. Lamb. Loads of olive oil. These are ingredients we all know and love. The Turks just do it better.

Vegetable-rich, grill-friendly, gently-spiced-yet-full-flavored Turkish food has never built a rep in New York like Italian, Greek, or even Levantine cuisines (hello, falafel). But once you taste the extra depth and creaminess in a bowl of yogurty cacık, there’s no going back to tzatziki. Few cultures have greater fluency with kebabs, and Turkish bread-baking is just as sophisticated as French or Italian.

Lamb adana kebab at Sip Sak [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

The problem, I suspect, is a lack of celebrity endorsement and trendy gimmicks. Turkish cooking, with its focus on doing as little as possible to great ingredients, is the opposite of a gimmick, and American eaters aren’t familiar with Turkey’s celebrity chefs and culinary boosters. So let’s take a minute to give Turkish food some overdue love by highlighting a few must-visit restaurants across New York.

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