Conveniently located off of I-10, Old Times Kafe has been serving its breakfast and lunch since 1986. Now, they've got some company in the 1940s ranch house-turned-restaurant that's offering authentic Turkish cuisine.
Owners Ibrahim Aslan and Engin Saglam recently opened Turkish Grill House at 1485 W. Prince Rd. on January 1 of this year.
For those expecting Mediterranean classics like hummus or falafel on the menu, you won't find it at Turkish Grill House, but what you will discover are genuine Turkish delights not commonly found in the Southwest.
Aslan and Saglam, who are both from Turkey, had intentions of opening a restaurant here in the U.S. Saglam was spending time in Santa Monica, California — scoping out spots to open a restaurant — while Aslan had been living here in Tucson where he was getting a feel for the local culinary scene.
With the help of chef Zekeriya Tekes in the kitchen, the team decided to get things started here in the Old Pueblo. Tekes has been interested in cooking since he was a kid and now finds himself with 25 years of experience under his belt. From helping with dishes in a family restaurant at the age of seven to graduating from a culinary school in Turkey, and then on to apply all he'd learned along the way, Zekeriya has found a heritage-honoring home with Turkish Grill House.
One of the most interesting tidbits about Tekes is that he doesn't necessarily time how long he cooks certain meats and dishes, it's more of an intuitive feeling that's been cultivated with the length of time that he's focused his craft on Turkish cuisine.
Everyone involved in Turkish Grill House takes a lot of pride in the authenticity and traditionality of the menu.
A few of us from Tucson Foodie stopped by and once we arrived we were presented with hot Turkish tea at our booth, immediately making all of us feel like we were a guest in their home. Saglam was quick to recommend dishes on the menu that he thought we would appreciate — trying both popular dishes and others that they were really excited for us to try.
One of those dishes was the Ali Nazik Kebab, roasted beef, eggplant, yogurt, butter, garlic, tomato, and jalapeño. Eggplant, Yogurt, butter, garlic, TomatoDon't be afraid of that jalapeño hanging out along the edge of the plate because the flavors throughout the dish distinguish the heat nicely.
Plus, they wouldn't let us leave without trying their desserts. A huge hit at the table was a sweet treat simply named Pumpkin Dessert. The dessert is just straight-up squash that they cooked by boiling it down, covering it with sugar, and letting it crystallize itself. It's something so simple, natural, earthy, and true to them.
We had to try the baklava, too, which was a nice, nutty finish to go along with everything we tried from the menu (see below).
The Prince Road location has been off and running for nearly two months now and there are already talks of opening at least one additional restaurant in the city. Meanwhile, plan a visit to the spot just off I-10 and inside the classic Old Times Kafe.
Also, we'd be dropping the ball if we didn't mention the incredible playlist we witnessed during our first visit. The tunes ranged from '90s R&B to '80s bangers with some classic "oldies" thrown into the mix, too.
The restaurant is open from 3 p.m. - midnight on Wednesday - Monday (closed on Tuesday).
Turkish Grill House is located at 1485 W. Prince Rd. For more information, visit oldtimeskafe.com.
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