A La Turka: Turkish Kitchen

Katia Pavlyuk


Among dozens of Italian restaurants, Irish pubs and chain establishments in Lincoln Park and Lakeview, it’s truly a rarity to find a Turkish restaurant. Located steps away from the intersection of Lincoln and Belmont, A La Turka: Turkish Kitchen has become a Chicago staple for authentic Turkish cuisine and great entertainment. The restaurant’s engaging atmosphere makes its customers comfortable while celebrating all types of events, whether it’s a birthday party, romantic dinner or a leisurely night out with friends.

Despite the ongoing political debate on whether Turkey is a European or Middle Eastern country, A La Turka shows no such boundaries in its food. Specializing mainly in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, A La Turka strives to prepare the best foods from both worlds. The cuisine has been influenced by diverse culinary styles, some ranging from areas once encompassed by the Ottoman Empire. This restaurant brings together the different regions of modern Turkey with its eclectic fare.

Appetizing spread at A La Turka

My waiter Fatos said, “The Meza Platter is really popular dish, no one really knows for sure who came up with it, but it does have combinations of different Mediterranean appetizers from different cultures.” The Turkish Meza Platter is really a good way to introduce Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine for people who have never had this type of food in the past. This substantially sized dish gives patrons the opportunity to pick five individual appetizers from a wide selection for just $22. A popular choice is the Feta Cheese and Olive Platter. Although this dish looks very similar to the ones often served in Greek restaurants, this dish is served with Turkish feta cheese. Mediterranean Eggplant, Stuffed Grape Leaves and Humus are also possible choices for the platter. These appetizers are not exclusive to Turkish menus; they are featured on various Middle Eastern menus as well. The best thing about Turkish cuisine is its ‘flexibility’. It offers a wide variety of lamb, chicken and beef Kebab, but also carries rich vegetarian dishes that are often too tempting not to try.  A La Turka uses eggplant, peppers, zucchinis, toasted almond and Turkish kasari cheese to transform these vegetables into real food art. Eggplant Istanbul and Eggplant A la Turka are only two examples of these culinary masterpieces.

The restaurant is designed to really represent the diverse Turkish culture. “The furnishings are all imported from Istanbul,” Fatos revealed about the interior design. The ceilings are decorated by long sheets of canvas, which drop down creating the atmosphere of dining inside an old style Ottoman tent. There are also floor-sitting tables, which are very significant to the Turkish tradition; they are all decorated by embroidered pillows of Turkish design. The whole setting is softly lit, with a lot of flame lamps complimenting the red colors of paintings and brick walls. The floors of the restaurant are covered with authentic ornamented carpets, which make the restaurant look even more charming. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that A La Turka’s ambiance is always low-key and relaxing.

Authentic low-sitting tables

This restaurant becomes a huge spectacle during the weekend. One thing that contributes to its popularity is their weekly belly-dancing shows. Some of the most talented female dancers come to entertain the crowds. And this really does bring a whole new aspect to dining that many people have never been privileged to enjoy. The dancers give attention to every table, and the customers are always invited to join them in this traditional Turkish dance style. So don’t hesitate. Make a reservation and experience the Turkish culture at A la Turka: Turkish Kitchen first hand.

Check it out:

3134 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
(Belmont/Ashland/Lincoln Intersection)
http://www.alaturkachicago.com

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Published in: on 05/02/2010 at 5:05 PM  Leave a Comment  

Santullo’s Eatery

Alison Holmes Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza and craft beer. But in the heart of Wicker Park, on the city’s Near Northside, Santullo’s Eatery offers some of the finest New York-style pizza and Brooklyn-brewed beer this side of the Mississippi. The restaurant’s slogan says it all “A slice of New York in Wicker Park.” The deep dish style and thin crust staples of the Chicago pizza scene are out and the big, foldable slices of the East coast are in. Santullo’s Eatery is a definite representation of Wicker Park. It is a fusion of fabulous food and hip rocker music—a reflection of the personal style of the restaurant’s owners Andy Barrett and Sean Mulroney, who not surprisingly own Double Door Liquors on Milwaukee Avenue (entrance on Damen)—a live music venue—a short walk from Santullo’s on North Avenue.

“The owners wanted to do something different from all the ‘trendy’ new spots popping up all over Wicker Park,” said Santullo’s manager Jeremy Kniola. “The rock-n-roll atmosphere represents ‘Old Wicker Park,’” Kniola said. The interior walls are lined with local artwork, posters of local bands, flyers for upcoming Double Door shows as well as a variety of classic Italian-style family photographs. Oversized leather booths create a comfortable space for groups or an intimate environment for two. While the long street-side tables are the perfect spot for people watching.

The casual and relaxed atmosphere is perpetuated by counter ordering, table delivery and a fun eclectic blend of staff. “The employees are a mix of creative people… musicians, artists and writers,” Kniola said. Considering Barrett and Mulroney also own the Double Door , it’s no wonder Santullo’s draws in a creative, loyal staff. “All [our] employees have been here for a long time, we don’t have much turnover,” said Kinola.

“I have been here for three years and it just works for me. I can wear what I want, listen to what I want and have a flexible schedule to rehearse, because I’m in three bands. It’s pretty good,” said Chef Joshua Shader. But despite all of the enticing aspects of Santullo’s Eatery, the food is the real draw.

A classic New York-Slice of Santullo's Mama's Meatballs

Handcrafted pizzas are offered in 20-inch “Classics” or by-the-slice. Every morning starts off with homemade dough, fresh mozzarella cheese and homemade pizza sauce. Then freshly chopped produce from local growers, high quality meats or vegan alternatives top off the mouthwatering pie. Santullo’s Eatery prides itself in offering a wide variety of gourmet toppings including sausage, pepperoni, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh garlic, artichoke hearts, Portobello mushrooms, spinach, and roasted red peppers. Though fresh mozzarella is always used, additional cheeses include Asiago, gorgonzola, feta and bleu cheese. Pizza by-the-slice is offered daily in cheese, pepperoni or sausage varieties with a rotating menu of daily specials such as Flat Iron BBQ, Margherita, Brickhouse, Great White and Mama’s Meatballs. Also offered is an array of Upton’s Naturals Seitan products (a protein-rich meat substitute) including Italian sausage-, chorizo-, bacon-, pastrami- and chicken-style Seitan.

Santullo’s Eatery also offers a variety of homemade soups, salads and toasted sandwiches. Sandwiches are served on a choice of potato or wheat bread or an Italian baguette. Choices include Spicy Chicken Sando, Roast Beef with Cheddar, Tuna Melt, The Santullo, Chicken Vesuvio, The BLT Classic and a “create your own sandwich” option. Salad selections feature chopped chicken, spinach, tuna, Caprese, and Santullo’s House salad.

In addition to New York-style pizza, Santullo’s Eatery also offers a selection of “Brooklyn Beers” (lagers straight from a brewery in Brooklyn) and other draft and bottled beer. Draft beer is served in frosted mugs or pitchers and ranges from crafts like Belgian Pale Ale and 312 to domestic classics such as Bud Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

While dining in at Santullo’s Eatery means an opportunity to experience the relaxed vibe of Wicker Park, takeout, delivery and catering options are offered as well. Santullo’s also offers daily specials that feature $4 special slices, $2 happy hour slices, and Lunch specials Monday through Friday from 3pm to 5pm. What a bargain.

So, Chicagoans, you don’t have to travel over 300 miles to enjoy an New York style slice of pizza. Check out Santullo’s on North Ave in Chicago’s own Wicker Park!

Check It Out:

Santullo’s Eatery
1943 West North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
773-227-7960
http://www.santullos.com


Published in: on 05/01/2010 at 6:58 PM  Leave a Comment  

Kuma’s Corner – “Best Burgers in Chicago”

A Distinguished Entrance to Kuma's Corner

Kelly Aarstad

Even after waiting a full hour for a table in a loud, congested pub, I’m excited when the hostess brings me to my table. I’ve been here before so I expect to stand at the bar and drink a couple more, but never have a problem welcoming the “quick” service. Because one thing is certain about Kuma’s Corner, and the food it offers, is well worth the wait.

Patrons of Kuma's Corner

Kuma’s Corner, is a heavy metal pub/restaurant that lives up to its reputation. Of all the burgers I’ve ever eaten, I’ve never had a burger quite like a Kuma-style burger. It’s a 10 oz. patty topped with quality ingredients that are carefully prepared, which has been chosen time and time again as the ‘Best Burger in Chicago’.

It’s not just the sizeable portions of meat that sets it apart. Every ingredient used is carefully chosen and of the highest quality, no shortcuts here. It’s the superiority of the products as well as the creative mixes of ingredients that put Kuma’s at the top of the list.

With over 22 variations of burgers to choose from, there’s no doubt that everyone’s going to have at least one favorite. This menu tends to change up regularly to keep its regulars on their toes. “We’ll be changing our menus in the summer; we’ll be dropping some burgers and adding some new ones.” said the waitress Jessica Deans about Kuma’s upcoming summer plans. There is no doubt that some of Kuma’s Corner burgers will be greatly missed by its regulars, on the other hand, however, the development of the new menu only suggests the creation of some new favorites.

The Slayer - Can You Find the Burger?

The burger I’ve come to love is the Slayer. As the menu describes it, it’s a “Pile of fries topped with a ½ lb. Burger, Chili, Cherry Peppers, Andouille, Onions, Jack Cheese, and Anger.” Anger is exactly what comes to mind when I see this monstrosity. It’s so awesomely overwhelming; you have no idea what angle to attack it from. “There’s so much going on with this burger, the whole meal is on the patty…I love it,” said regular customer Ryan Graham. But I should mention that if you wanted to personalize this beast or any of the other burgers, forget it. The way it’s described on the menu is the way it comes, so tough it out.

A lot of burgers on Kuma’s menu are a bit intimidating, both in name and size, but there is no need to be worried. There are plenty of other items on the menu that’ll fill you up. Take their BBQ Pork Fries for instance, a delicious heap of fries, piled with Monterey Jack and loaded with BBQ Pork. Even their soups  like their chicken noodle will put Mom to shame. They change their soups frequently but you can be assured they’ll be stocked with the finest ingredients.

Now, let’s talk beer. What other beverage could go better with a mean burger like the one you get at Kuma’s Corner than a cold one? They have a whole array of beers, ranging from all sorts of lagers and ales that call all sorts of places home, starting with Bavaria and ending with hometown Chicago. This time around, I’m having the Bavarian beer Schneider Weisse, which has a strikingly similar taste to bubble gum with an 8% ABV (Alcohol By Volume). Most of the beers available here have a high ABV. They even have the Colorado beer, Decadent Imperial that has an astounding 10% ABV. You can be sure that all of these beers have astounding tastes. And for those of you who like your good ol’ PBR(Pabst Blue Ribbon), it’s available as their macrobrew.

Along with all the great beer they have to offer, they have a fully stocked bar. For all the whiskey drinkers out there, they even have Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve on tap!

Glimpse From Behind the Bar

While you’re letting your food digest and knocking back a couple brews, you can take in the atmosphere. While listening to rock bands like Black Label Society, Meshuggah, and My Dying Bride, you can check out all the paraphernalia that decorates the heavy metal pub. You’ll find Kuma’s mascot, The Bear, everywhere throughout the bar. There are paintings of bears, statues of bears, and even heads of bears (no, not real bear heads). Accompanying the bear are guitars, skateboards, and even paintings of vampire bondage chicks. The pub itself is surrounded by pale yellow walls and has wooden hardware and tables. Giving it that old school feel with a heavy metal edge.

The wait may be long, but the good booze should be enough to hold you over until you’re able to sink your teeth into a juicy burger. If ground beef isn’t your choice of meat they also offer boneless chicken breasts, garden burgers, and chicken tenders as a substitute. Unfortunately, vegans are out of luck. Food starts at $7 and beer begins at $5 (with the exception of PBR at $3). For both quality and quantity in food paired with a great beer or spirit, check out Kuma’s Corner.

Check It Out:

Kuma’s Corner

2900 West Belmont

773.604.8769

www.kumascorner.com