Anatolia Café brings authentic Turkish cuisine to Cedar-Lee district
Anatolia Café, the Turkish restaurant formerly located at Cedar Center, recently moved into its new home in the Cedar-Lee commercial district of Cleveland Heights. Known for its fine food and attentive service, Anatolia Cafe now has a larger space and sophisticated new décor to accommodate its growing clientele.
When I made my first visit, the restaurant had been scarcely open a week. I entered into a high ceiling foyer that faces a row of brightly lit display cases filled with Turkish pastries and entrees. Behind the display cases, the open view kitchen is immaculate. I watched cooks busy charring eggplants on a long grill and slicing lamb doner (Anatolia’s version of shavarma) off of a slowly turning rotisserie.
The hostess led me under high brick arches into the dining halls. The restaurant bustles with activity and happily feasting diners. A blazing fireplace in the back adds a nice touch. The walls are painted a burnt orange hue and covered with beautiful hand woven rugs, Ecru paintings (a traditional Turkish marbling technique), copper urns and other artifacts from Anatolia, the region encompassing the Asian part of Turkey between the Black and Mediterranean seas. You can feast your eyes on the interior of the restaurant at www.anatoliacafe.com.
The menu features traditional Turkish dishes with a smattering of Middle Eastern standards. The food is prepared with the freshest ingredients, unadorned by heavy sauces or fiery spices. My husband and I ordered the Mixed Appetizer, a sampler of haydari (homemade yogurt dip), stuffed grape leaves, kisir (cracked wheat salad), eggplant with sauce, ezma salad dip, babagannush and humus served on a large platter with traditional Turkish bread. Each appetizer had a wonderful distinct flavor. For entrees we chose Karni Yarik (stuffed eggplant with ground lamb) and Kofte (grilled ground lamb). The stuffed eggplant was exquisite -- moist and savory. The Kofte had a robust lamb flavor subtly enhanced with onion, parsley and spices. Anatolia’s lamb is USDA Choice #1, locally raised and properly aged in Detroit. You can taste the superior quality. For dessert we couldn’t pass up Baklava, the crown jewel of Turkish pastry.
We selected a wine from the Anatolia region. The light bodied Karasi Red, Kalecik 2002 complemented our Turkish dishes well. (Note: An intimate merlot-colored wine bar is located is on the opposite side of the restaurant. An outdoor patio will open this summer.)
Prices overall are moderate. After sharing an appetizer, two entrees, dessert and a bottle of wine, we paid $70 including tip. The lunch menu is a bargain with many half-sized dinner entrees and sandwiches priced under $10.
The most popular dishes on the menu are stuffed eggplant, lamb sauté, shish kabob, sigara borek (light pastry dough filled with a blend of feta cheese and parsley) and fresh whole fish grilled with lemon juice and olive oil. Health-conscious eaters and vegetarians will find many suitable items on the menu.
Anatolia’s conscientious and courteous wait staff comes from Turkey and Russia with a few Cleveland Heights natives in the mix. Most have worked at the restaurant for years. With 22 years of experience as a waiter, owner Yashar Yildirim knows the importance of good service.
Not surprisingly, Anatolia enjoys a large and loyal clientele that includes young professionals, families with children, doctors from the Cleveland Clinic, professors from Case, musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra, and local artists and writers.
Yildirim chose the Cedar-Lee location because he admires Cleveland Heights’ sense of community. Cleveland Heights residents, he said, have the sophisticated palates of New Yorkers and appreciate good food and value. He likes the Cleveland Heights’ ethos of patronizing locally owned businesses. When building his new restaurant, Yildirim made a point of using 80% local subcontractors.
Anyone looking for exceptionally good food at reasonable prices and a warm welcoming atmosphere will appreciate this new restaurant. Seeped in culture and culinary art, Anatolia Café offers an authentic Turkish dining experience for Cleveland Heights residents.
Anatolia Café is now located at 2270 Lee Road at Kensington, in Cleveland Heights, OH.
Business Hours: Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – Midnight; Saturday & Sunday: 12:00 noon – Midnight 216-321-4400 www.anatoliacafe.com