Name: Turkish Restaurant
Location: 258 Main St., Johnson City, NY 13790
Phone: (607) 644-9030
Price: Around $20 per person
I was driving through Johnson City yesterday on the way to pick up some Thai take-out from Sabaidee and noticed a new sign in the location of the former Green Owl Diner. The sign simply read "Turkish Restaurant," and I recalled quickly that Megan had seen the place a few weeks back and was looking forward to trying it out. Today, we decided to do exactly that.
I must admit that I am relatively inexperienced when it comes to the world of Turkish cuisine, and Middle Eastern food in general. I've had my share of hummus, had a delicious falafel wrap while I was in Paris, and am pretty well versed in Greek food (a staple throughout this area), but I'm not sure I'd ever eaten food specifically designated as Turkish until today. Let's just say that my first Turkish meal certainly will not be my last.
The Turkish Restaurant is located right in the heart of downtown Johnson City across the block from the Red Robin Diner. It's a good location with ample parking on the adjacent side streets and in a larger lot one block behind. The restaurant itself retains many of the diner-like qualities that the Green Owl likely had (can't say I ever made it there while they were open). It's a long, narrow restaurant with a coffee counter in the front which widens to a larger dining room space toward the back with booths on both sides. The old, wooden booths are not exactly the most comfortable in the world, but they get the job done.
We were seated quickly and took a long look at the menu. Admittedly, many of the dishes were not all that familiar to us, and Megan was disappointed that they didn't have falafel, one of her personal favorites. No big deal though. We ordered the hummus appetizer, and I went with the Doner Kebab entree while Megan elected to try out the Doner Wrap. For those unfamiliar, doner is sliced meat cooked on a vertical spit and is one of the signature staples of Turkish cuisine. I also decided to try out a Turkish coffee, as I've always been kind of interested in what those tiny cups would taste like.
The hummus, served with freshly-baked pita bread, came out first. And it was by far the best hummus I have ever had--rich, creamy, garlicky, and flat-out awesome. I am not usually too crazy about hummus, but this stuff won me over in one bite. The pita bread was warm, soft, and flavorful and was the perfect complement to the hummus. Had the meal ended with this appetizer, I would have been more than pleased.
But soon enough, the main course would arrive, and I admired the presentation of my kebab entree. Served with rice and a salad of lettuce, tomato, and sliced onion on the side, the doner was a fine choice of entree which I enjoyed immensely. The beef was well-seasoned and tender. The side salad and rice didn't do much for me, but this is certainly a dish I would order again. The Turkish coffee was tasty and served in the usual miniature cup. Not something I would order regularly, but for my inaugural visit to a Turkish restaurant, it was something I couldn't resist.
Megan's doner wrap was quite similar in appearance and taste to the Greek gyro and in my opinion was superior to any gyro/souvlaki sandwiches I've had in the area. The yogurt/tzatziki sauce was light and refreshing and not overpowering like it sometimes can be, and the doner meat was, again, of a very high quality. Thumbs up from me on the wrap.
When it came time for dessert, it's impossible for Megan and me to say no to baklava, so that's what we ordered. We were presented with three healthy-sized squares of the delectable pastry and were instructed by the waiter not to eat it with a fork, but to eat it with our hands and to turn it upside-down before taking a bite so that we could really get a good taste of the sweet honey. Better advice has never been given. I love a great piece of baklava, and this was some of the best I've ever had. Sweet but not syrupy, and not too brittle and flaky like some baklava can be, this dessert was right on the money.
Service at the Turkish Restaurant was phenomenal, and I was left with the impression that they really care about making great quality food and sharing their love for their cuisine with those who might not have experienced it before. A hostess took the time to explain all the various dishes to us before we placed our order, and our waiter, a well-dressed and well-mannered younger gentleman, was absolutely superb, helpful and attentive from start to finish.
I'd have to say that Johnson City's new Turkish Restaurant is a huge hit. Do not expect to be blown away by the ambiance, but the food is excellent and the friendly service is second-to-none. With its easy accessibility by bus, I could see this restaurant being a popular place among Binghamton University students, particularly the Turkish students who come to study at BU as part of the Dual Diploma exchange program. Frankly, I am surprised it has taken so long for a Turkish restaurant to make it to Binghamton given the large Turkish population on campus. But now is as good a time as any, and I am hopeful that this restaurant will make a go of it for a long time, because based on today's experience, I have no doubt that Megan and I will be regular patrons until our Binghamton days come to an end. I eagerly anticipate trying out all of their other offerings.