Cafe Istanbul fortifies us for a LONG walk.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, my girlfriend and I made our way to Sheepshead Bay, for what we thought was to be an interim stop on the way to an afternoon of sun on Manhattan or Brighton Beach.  Our destination was Café Istanbul, on Emmons Avenue.  Though we didn’t try the meats, I’m happy to report that the dishes we DID try were lovely.

As we had no desire to consume skewer after skewer of meat and then roast in the sun (too much like human-turducken, I guess), we kept our lunch light – fortunately, Sietsema’s most recent guidebook pointed us in the direction of some lovely appetizers, to which we added our own choices.  In this manner, one could easily assemble a cheap but flavorful lunch, especially if you charm your waitress into keeping your bread basket full.

Sietsema’s suggestions were actually for the nearby Bay Shish Kebab restaurant – his entry for Café Istanbul, despite the higher rating, was somewhat lacking in detail.  Fortunately, we were clued in on the hard-to-find eggplant delight that is Soslu Patlican ($4), which presents the aubergine in a gently spiced red sauce with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and green peppers.  It tastes almost Italian, and will go perfectly with the freshly baked pide bread that accompanies it to your table.

Also worthy of note were a pungent and spicy Acili Ezme ($5.50), which presents finely-diced onions, tomatoes, peppers and walnuts doused with herbs and pomegranate juice.  It’ll make you pucker up at the same time it burns – quite a lovely pairing of taste sensations.

I also enjoyed the Cacik ($4), which was basically a yogurt dip with chopped cucumbers, garlic, and “mint,” though I think they actually put dill in it instead.  My girlfriend made fun of me as I spooned it into my mouth, since it looked so much like I was eating Frito-Lay dip right from the can, but the waitress couldn’t keep the bread coming out fast enough for us.

I’d probably skip the hummus ($4) next time – it was virtually tahini-free, and its only accoutrement was a splash of some kind of red oil of mysterious origin.  I might also skip the mini-lahmajin pizzas (I forget what the name is on the menu, and they’re not on the take-out menu, but they’re in the $6 range), given that, by the time they arrived (three of them), we were pretty much too full to eat them.

The staff was also worthy of praise, besides totally spacing the bread delivery – our waitress was very friendly, and took the time to chat up my girlfriend while I was in the WC.  She claimed that the meats at Café Istanbul are the best in town, which certainly piqued my interest in a return visit.

I think our post-lunch activity qualifies for some kind of award, though.  After strolling all the way down Emmons Ave (past the original Roll-N-Roaster), we were suckered into the Shore Parkway bike/pedestrian path.  A little way into the walk, we paused at a rest area attached to a lovely strip of beach, and I caught a glimpse of the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge in the distance.

Three and a half hours and seven and a half miles later, we strolled into the Bay 116th Street station in Rockaway Park to catch a train back to civilization.  I’m not kidding – with only the lunch stop and pauses at the Shore Parkway rest stop and Neponsit Malls, we walked a total of eight and a half miles.

The lesson, of course: I’m out of my fucking mind.

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