LTH Home

An excellent meal at Cafe Istanbul - Wicker Park

An excellent meal at Cafe Istanbul - Wicker Park
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
  • An excellent meal at Cafe Istanbul - Wicker Park

    Post #1 - December 22nd, 2018, 9:34 pm
    Post #1 - December 22nd, 2018, 9:34 pm Post #1 - December 22nd, 2018, 9:34 pm
    My husband and I enjoyed an excellent meal last night at the newly opened (2 weeks ago) Cafe Istanbul in Wicker Park (at Division and Damen). It's a tough location - formerly Pita Cafe (which we enjoyed for fast casual meals), and Shata Mediterranean (not so good, and only lasted a few months), have cycled through there in the past couple of years. We are excited to see Cafe Istanbul, a sit-down, white tablecloth sort of spot that initially seems out of sort with the somewhat run-down shopping center it is located in, but keeping in mind this is the intersection of Wicker Park and Ukranian Village, it's not a bad location.

    As soon as we sat down, they brought us freshly made Turkish bread (which they apparently make every few hours in-house) - super soft on the inside, lightly grilled crusty on the outside - absolutely fantastic with the complimentary eggplant and tomato dip they brought. I'm not normally a big bread person, but this bread was really really good. We shared the lentil soup as an appetizer - a large bowl for $5, blended nicely, spicy and flavorful, with a big wedge of really juicy lemon for a little acid to cut the savoriness.

    I enjoyed the Kusleme - basically a simple lamb kebab, but among the most tender lamb I'd had in a long time. I ordered med-rare, it came closer to med, but still super tender. It was served with a hearty portion of lightly seasoned rice, yogurt sauce, and a few pieces of a different Turkish flatbread. For $22, it's on the higher end of the price range for the amount of lamb I got, but the quality of the meat made it worthwhile (plus it was a large quantity of rice and flatbread). My husband had the Turkish Delight - a mixture of sauteed vegetables on a huge platter of hummus - super flavorful with bits of apricot mixed in.

    I think because they are newly opened, they brought us free Turkish tea and dessert (described as Turkish flan, but far less eggy and denser - perhaps with gelatin or tapioca starch?). It was ok - a bit sweeter than I prefer in my desserts, but a very nice gesture. The server, Sue, was really sweet (and speaks Turkish fluently). I was glad to see on a Friday evening especially around the holidays that they had 4-5 other tables while we were in, and apparently are starting to make a splash among the Turkish community. I believe they said the chef used to own/run Turquoise Cafe in Roscoe Village, is no longer affiliated there, and is now owning/running Cafe Istanbul.

    Overall we enjoyed our meal very much, and are so glad to have a little independent place like this in the neighborhood within a block of our house. We look forward to dining there more often and would like to see a little spot like this succeed.

    Cafe Istanbul
    2014 W Division St
    http://www.mycafeistanbul.com/menu/dinner
  • Post #2 - December 22nd, 2018, 10:31 pm
    Post #2 - December 22nd, 2018, 10:31 pm Post #2 - December 22nd, 2018, 10:31 pm
    bluepig wrote: far less eggy and denser - perhaps with gelatin or tapioca starch?

    Probably kazandibi. I love that stuff, but then I love pretty much all custard desserts. Custard desserts, count me a flan!
  • Post #3 - December 23rd, 2018, 6:55 am
    Post #3 - December 23rd, 2018, 6:55 am Post #3 - December 23rd, 2018, 6:55 am
    The food and service sound great, but as a matter of business the owner/manager needs to put out a clear consistent message that they are operating 2 locations, not just this newer one on Division, ASAP. Only bad things can happen with the mixed messages they're letting get out.

    I was originally made aware of this place by Da Beef's profile a couple months ago (http://chibbqking.blogspot.com/2018/10/cafe-istanbul.html?m=0), when they were only at 3037 N Clark. This WP location was in the works though
    They're planning on turning Cafe Istanbul into a brand and there's already a second location coming to the strip mall at Division and Damen

    The problem is that their website (at least the mobile browser version) only lists the Division address and phone number on the "Contact Us" page, despite
    Stop by at one of the two Cafe Istanbul locations
    in "About Us". Then, if you use their online ordering link that is run by the ChowNow platform, the only location listed is "Istanbul Grill" at the Clark St address. The only way to even see this is by looking into the pre-selected location (which I was doing to see if both locations are operating), that seems unnecessary, and no customer in hell would think they were ordering from Clark St based on what they'd seen to that point.

    The problem is exacerbated by the fact they let Yelp relocate the Clark St location's page to Division, making it seem like the former no longer exists, and they moved everything.

    Moral of the story:
    2 Locations
    #1 (smaller, I guess) 3037 N Clark, (773)698-6995
    #2 2014 W Division, (773)661-9487
    If you're crazy enough to order online for carry-out, verify which location actually took the order. I love Turkish food, especially the bread, and don't want to see anything get in the way of others enjoying it.
  • Post #4 - December 29th, 2018, 4:29 pm
    Post #4 - December 29th, 2018, 4:29 pm Post #4 - December 29th, 2018, 4:29 pm
    Went back for lunch today and this time brought friends - their lunch menu is an even better value as the portions are huge for a lower price. Again was given the same free dessert (Turkish flan, which I believe was indeed the kazandibi when I asked Sue the waitress what it was). Same terrific bread at lunch. Our only issue was that my lunchtime lamb chops were medium well instead of medium rare as ordered (although, at $16 for 4 big lamb chops on a big pile of roasted vegetables, still a great value). We also really enjoyed the grilled calamari appetizer - 4 big pieces of grilled calamari (bodies and tentacles) perfectly (not over) seasoned and perfectly grilled (not chewy) on top of a big herb salad.

    After a conversation with the waitress, Mustafa is the chef formerly of Turquoise Cafe, who is no longer affiliated there (though apparently she mentioned she has heard from former regulars that Turquoise Cafe is trying to pass him off as still being there). They say they are also NOT AFFILIATED with the Istanbul Grill or any other Cafe Istanbul that may be on Clark Street (they are apparently trying to get Google to update that these are unaffiliated properties), even though the food pictured on Da Beef's profile looks very similar to the food we had at the Division/Damen location.
  • Post #5 - December 30th, 2018, 8:52 am
    Post #5 - December 30th, 2018, 8:52 am Post #5 - December 30th, 2018, 8:52 am
    Based on our love of Turkish and the good reviews here, we ordered takeout yesterday from Cafe Istanbul. Overall, a very nice meal. The Iskender used lamb doner meat, and had a lot less yogurt and tomato sauce than our usual, Cafe Orchid, but was very good nonetheless. The Turkish Delight was a bit less exciting, being sauteed vegetables over hummus, but still well-prepared.

    One last thing: their bread is just about perfect. Wow.
  • Post #6 - January 19th, 2019, 10:57 am
    Post #6 - January 19th, 2019, 10:57 am Post #6 - January 19th, 2019, 10:57 am
    bweiny wrote:The food and service sound great, but as a matter of business the owner/manager needs to put out a clear consistent message that they are operating 2 locations, not just this newer one on Division, ASAP. ...
    their website only lists the Division address and phone despite
    Stop by at one of the two Cafe Istanbul locations
    in "About Us". Then, if you use their online ordering link that is run by the ChowNow platform, the only location listed is "Istanbul Grill" at the Clark St address. ...
    they let Yelp relocate the Clark St location's page to Division, making it seem like the former no longer exists, and they moved everything.
    Moral of the story: 2 Locations
    #1 (smaller, I guess) 3037 N Clark, (773)698-6995
    #2 2014 W Division, (773)661-9487

    I'm back to credit the owners for clearing this up for the most part, despite
    bluepig wrote:They say they are also NOT AFFILIATED with the Istanbul Grill or any other Cafe Istanbul that may be on Clark Street (they are apparently trying to get Google to update that these are unaffiliated properties)
    which comes off as impossible to believe. If they aren't affiliated, who the hell told all the reporters that went to the Lakeview location in the summer that it was just the first, and they'd be adding this exact Wicker Pk location in a few months? (http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/restaurants/ct-food-restaurant-openings-07122018-story.html) The claim they're unaffiliated is simply unbelievable (their own website still states "two Cafe Istanbul locations"; but they removed the online ordering link to Clark St, thank god). They may have very recently broken apart, but they came from the same people at a minimum.

    Any how, what they've done is rename Clark St to "Istanbul Grill", switching the awning, and getting a new Yelp page (http://www.yelp.com/biz/istanbul-grill-chicago). As far as a prospective customer should be concerned, the food looks very similar, if not the same, with Cafe-Division having a larger menu, with very slightly higher prices.

Contact

About

Team

Advertize

Close

Chat

Articles

Guide

Events

more