Even considering Seattle's record-setting urban growth, and the culinary diversity blossoming lately, the availability of Turkish fare is still limited.
Sure, there are plenty of places serving up doner kebabs, but those fast-food outlets don't do justice to the country's centuries-old food history, which remains as delightfully vast as the former Ottoman Empire. But Turkish cuisine scored a run in February, when a new bakery, Miss Cafe, opened in the Pike Place Market, beside El Borracho, in a prime First Avenue space.
The spot was previously held by two short-lived Southern concepts, but this airy eatery has a refreshingly different raison d'être. This family-run joint wants to introduce Seattle to Turkey's version of pizza, aka pide, which isn't just tasty but almost entirely new.
"Pide is very popular in Turkey, but it's not known in the US at all," said Safiye Embel, whose mother, Meral, opened the restaurant after years of running a catering company in Ankara. A longtime chef, Anatolian foodie, and the first woman in her family to open a business, Meral has always wanted to introduce Turkish food to the uninitiated—and the Market's diverse mixture of tourists and locals offers a perfect platform.
Naturally, it takes some work explaining pide to first-time customers, says Safiye, but once people try it, most everyone jumps on the pide (pronounced pea-day) bandwagon. Just ask the internet, where well-fed customers are expressing their gratitude with five-star reviews on Yelp.
After all, pide—like pizza—has lots to love, with its cheesy base and medley of fillings baked into a long flatbread crust made from fresh handmade dough. Flavors run the gamut, from spicy ground beef to chicken to pepperoni to my favorite, a cheese pide dressed with strips of doner kebab. (There's also lahmacun, literally "meat and dough" in Arabic, a baked round of flatbread covered in minced meat and vegetables.) They're sliced up and served with salad and a yogurt-based sauce, Turkey's quintessential side, for dipping, resulting in a lightly filling and flavorful dish attuned to summertime eating, even more so than pizza is.
Heartier platters feature grilled chicken or spiced meatballs—far richer than your average Swedish offering—as well as the amazing Beyti kebab, a daily special named for the Istanbul chef who first conceived of grilling skewered meat over charcoal, wrapping it in dough, and serving it up, sliced lengthwise, beneath a savory blanket of tomato and yogurt sauces.
Aside from the menu, which stems from the Anatolian region of Eastern Turkey, like the owner/chef herself, Miss Cafe gets high marks for its friendly service and home-style vibe. "Miss Cafe is my mom's dream," Safiye said about the bubbly woman in a checkered head scarf who, despite speaking limited English, connects with customers through her outsize culinary capability. And while Safiye handles the marketing/advertising, her dad manages the books, and a younger sister works behind the counter, everyone who walks in the door is treated like family, with cheerful service, reasonable prices, and, if you're lucky, an extra piece of baklava.
Go now, because this refreshing Pike Place addition—whose name, "Miss," is inspired by the Turkish word for yummy—certainly lives up to expectations.