Cafe Efendi goes straight to the heart of what Hal calls "the Ottoman kitchen"—not Turkish, not Greek, not Bosnian, but the big, delicious melting pot that all started with the Ottoman empire.Rich. Opulent. Steeped in history, yet stylishly modern. Words you'd use to describe Alpharetta? Maybe, maybe not, but Cafe Efendi is all of these things—and once you walk through that big wooden door, you couldn't be further away from a shopping center in the 'burbs. Cafe Efendi built up a following so loyal, they followed the restaurant right to their brand-new location, where owner Hal has transformed the interior into an intimate den of terracotta, gold brocade, earthy woods, and stained glass. But beauty, as you know, is only skin-deep. Fortunately, Cafe Efendi goes straight to the heart of what Hal calls "the Ottoman kitchen"—not Turkish, not Greek, not Bosnian, but the big, delicious melting pot that all started with the Ottoman empire. Sounds like the stuff of history lessons, no? Well, it doesn't stop there: Hal gave me some rather fascinating lessons on the background of a few dishes. Like the kebob that was developed at the Iskender family's Turkish restaurant in the 1740s... a restaurant still owned and operated by the same family today. Or the history of the tomato in Ottoman cuisine. Ottoman food, as it turns out, tastes even more delicious with a side of history.
And I'm drop-dead serious when I use the word "delicious." Aromatic, savory meats like the Adana kebab, a ground lamb shish kebab cooked on a hot metal skewer that cooks the meat from the inside out, make up the mangal (grill) portion of the menu, while falafel, musakka, and fried eggplant give a taste of home cookin' classics. As I was getting the lowdown on these dishes from Hal, a platter of kofte and a cold bottle of Turkish beer materialized right before my very eyes. With a few swift scoops of my pita bread, my tastebuds got the real-deal intro to the Ottoman Kitchen, too. World history never tasted so good.
Falafel Plate, $10.95
Adana Sis Kebab (Lamb), $13.95
Inegol Kofte, $13.95
Doner Kebab, $13.95