If you go into Turkish Cuisine on Yadkin Road expecting to find hookah pipes filled with aromatic tobacco and waiters serving exotic Mediterranean dishes while wearing Fustanellas, the traditional kilt-like garb of the Balkans, you might be disappointed. But if you’re easily satisified with a down-home atmosphere in a place where the food is good and plentiful and the prices are reasonable, then this mom and pop style eatery is just the place to get your Turkish food fix.
Formerly the Turkish Grill, the restaurant at 5044 Yadkin Road is situated in one of those parking lot mini-malls so common along the routes into and out of nearby Fort Bragg. It’s a small establishment, with roughly 10 tables hiding under plastic table cloths with flowery designs. It’s the kind of family-owned restaurant found from Adana, Turkey, to Eden, North Carolina. What it lacks in fake franchise-style décor it makes up in good food.
Sisters Gul Mabrey and Ayla Fickett, along with Ayla’s fiancée, James Parham, run the little restaurant. Gul is the people person, always out front meeting customers; Ayla is the financial wizard; and James, when he’s not donning a parachute at his day job in the 82nd Airborne Division, does everything in between, he said. Gul and Ayla hail from Izmir, the third most populated city in Turkey. Nestled along the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea, the region is noted for its blended use of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices in the preparation of meals. The menu is divided into appetizers, kebabs, salads, mixed grill, desserts and beverages. Among appetizers are Dolma, grape leaves stuffed with rice and Middle Eastern spices; Ezme, consisting of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peppers, parsley, and garlic chopped into a fine, spicy relish.
The entrees, or Kebabs, include Kofte, consisting of seasoned and char-grilled beef patties; Lamb Shish, char-grilled lamb cubes marinated in “Turkish” sauces; and Falafel, a spicy dish consisting of dried, ground and seasoned chickpeas formed into patties and fried in olive oil, The entrees are served with a choice of Turkish rice or a Garden, Greek or Shepherd’s salad. And customers should save room for dessert. Turkish Cuisine serves the classic sweet favorites Baklava, Burma and Rolled Kadayif. For patrons needing a jolt, the restaurant offers Turkish coffee, along with Turkish Chai, regular coffee, fountain drinks and iced tea. The clientele varies, but many are military who may be familiar with Turkish food and look for the real thing, James said. Customer favorites include the Donar Kebab, a dish of ground lamb and beef cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The Lamb Shish and Hummus appetizer are also favorites, Gul said.
She said the food is all natural and is freshly prepared at the restaurant. While Gul holds a degree in clinical psychology and previously worked as a counselor, she said she and her sister always wanted to own and operate a restaurant. When the former owner of the Turkish Grill wanted to sell, the trio jumped at the opportunity. They renamed it Turkish Cuisine and they’ve been running the place since August. “We make everything ourselves. Everything I learned from my mother and she learned from her mother,” Gul said. And since family members are often called upon to help out, Gul said that everyone in the family knows how “food is supposed to be cooked.” Along with food, the restaurant offers a taste of Middle East culture. On the last Saturday of each month, Safiye Sevim, a belly dancer, entertains the patrons while Gul’s daughter, Stephanie, offers to read guest’s fortunes over a cup of Turkish coffee.
“It’s all family-focused fun,” Gul said, of the restaurant. By Jason Brady