I know I keep saying I don’t really particularly care for Greek/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food and then going and eating it anyway. But seriously, I’m usually not a huge fan. Not that it’s ever bad, I just order a kebab every time and it’s like “Cool, meat on a stick with some rice. Check, please” The most notable exception to this personal preference is Bosphorus Istanbul Cafe in Fountain Square. I’ve been dying to revisit ever since foodie friend Abby introduced me this winter. And it’s not just me-this place has amazing ratings on Urbanspoon and Yelp.
Bosphorus is not in the “main street” of Fountain Square, but in a row of cheerily-colored houses just north off the interstate on East St.
The whole place has a warm cozy vibe that’s backed up by an owner who makes Regis Philbin look antisocial. You know when someone chats you up for five minutes when you call to make a reservation and has a “I AM TURK” license plate, they’re going to be a character. This guy does not disappoint. He wore a Pikachu tshirt and talked to EVERY person in the place-half of them understood his accent and ALL of them loved him.
I would estimate the cafe has about 20 tables, and both times I have been in, this little place has been packed with people (packed as in all tables occupied, not as in my-neighbors-are-bumping-me-like-sardines. Talking to you, Patachou.)
With reservations we were able to snag a spot on the deck on a perfect summer night. The service was a tiny bit slow but perfectly acceptable for such a rush hour.
We opted to try the Borek appetizer, “flaky pastry filled with feta cheese and parsley.” I was surprised to discover the pastry shaped in tubes like those Pepperidge Farm Pirouette cookies, but these were like little savory cheesecakes and every bit as delicious.
I would also note that they (an other appetizers here, like the falafel) are served on about a half cup of hummus with pita wedges. So if you’re debating whether to get the obvious hummus or try something new, ask the server if the “something new” comes on hummus. Two birds with one stone! On that note, the hummus is tasty but milder in salt and garlic than many. Definitely good, but if you’re a fan of super flavorful hummus, maybe try something else.
For dinner, I wanted stuffed eggplant, the dish Abby had on my first visit. For those of you who don’t know me, this may sound like a natural choice. However, I don’t think I have EVER ordered off the vegetable-eater’s menu in my life. The menu describes this dish as “Baby eggplants stuffed with onions, tomatoes, garlic, green peppers, roasted pine nuts, topped with cheese, served with rice.” It also has raisins and mushrooms, which you can clearly see in the filling but are inexplicably not listed on the menu. If I hadn’t tried Abby’s, I would never in a million years have ordered this dish, since 1. I don’t care for half the ingredients and 2. There’s no meat.
But it’s just awesome. It reminds me of golumpki and goulash’s love child born in Turkey. I really can’t describe it except to say that it’s delicious enough to make me reconsider every food preference I have. It also comes with deliciously seasoned rice (maybe a mild vinegar dressing, I’m not sure) and salad tossed in a tangy vinaigrette. Perfection. I was able to eat the whole thing at the urging of the owner, who said it was bad luck to leave food on my plate. How do you argue with that?
Phil got the beef kebab, which is what I had on my first visit. This is my standard order at any restaurant of this genre, because it’s never bad. But it’s hardly ever this good. Perfect char on the beef, perfectly (lightly) seasoned, simple and wonderful. Also served with that awesome rice and salad and some roasted vegetables.
For those of you who are health-conscious, please take note of the generous amount of vegetables and meat compared to the amount of rice. This is pretty typical of Bosphorus: appropriate amounts of food with guilt-free ratios of rice/bread to vegetable/meat. The prices are very reasonable and I don’t feel like I’m paying for fillers like rice and pita. I think our whole meal (minus dessert) was almost exactly $40 before tip, including 2 non-alcoholic drinks. Not at all bad considering every single thing I put in my mouth was oh-my-gosh wonderful.
We finished with baklava, of course. The pieces were perfectly small and delicious. Normally baklava is too sweet for me, but this seemed to have more vanilla and less honey than normal and was the perfect end to the meal.
Well, actually the perfect end to the meal was the hookah bar next door (literally in an attached building but owned by different people, if I’m not mistaken) If you visit on a weekend like we did, I’d recommend making a night of your trip to Bosphorus with coffee and hookah next door after your meal. Nice atmosphere, not too crowded, good music.
Please do yourself a favor and head to Bosphorus for your next dinner with friends or date night. It’s just so so good. Actually, please invite me.
A couple of notes because I’ve gotten questions:
1. Bosphorus is a place you could dress up to visit or a place you could wear jeans. I wore jeans this time and a dress and heels last time and felt totally comfortable in either, and there were people there in both. I know my girls want to know which places they can use as an excuse to dress up and this is one ;-)
2. As a personal rule, I don’t tell owners or staff that I’m going to write about their restaurants-at least not until after the meal. If I had a great experience and plan to write a glowing review, I have occasionally mentioned it if they ask how my meal was so they can read the review. However, I want to know how the experience normally is and how my friends will be treated if they visit. Not that I’m anyone worth bending over backward for, but just in case!