Best Restaurants 2011: The Turkish Table

How could there be just 2,000 Turks in Northeast Ohio and a 300 percent increase in Turkish restaurants in the past 12 months? Credit Yashar Yildirim and his pioneering Anatolia Cafe, open since 2007 in Cleveland Heights. All three newcomers have ties to Yildirim and his restaurant, and each draws from Turkey's regional cuisines, incorporating lamb, yogurt and lots of veggies.

The Connection: Owners Mehmet and Ashley Candan are family friends of Yildirim.

The Difference: "We cater toward the family," says Ashley, with Wednesday kids-eat-free nights, an in-house bakery and a menu geared toward cross-regional Turkish cuisine.

Order: Lahmacun ($10.95), a thin-crust Turkish pizza topped with vegetables and lamb.
35840 Chester Road, Avon, 440-937-0733,

The Connection: It opened this year as Anatolia's West Side sister spot.

The Difference: "People asked, 'Why don't you come to the West Side?' " manager Ilhan Oralas says of Yildirim's decision to open Alaturka. The menu duplicates Anatolia Cafe's with a focus on central and eastern Turkish cuisine.

Order: Homemade Turkish pide bread.
1917 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-298-9001,

The Connection: Sonmez Bozkurt was Anatolia's original chef.

The Difference: "The main difference here is the chef," says owner Cumhur Sasmaz of Bozkurt. While Bozkurt brought over many of Anatolia's central and eastern Turkish favorites, he added new offerings such as burgers and vegan dishes.

Order: The Istanbul Burger ($9) with ground lamb and Turkish spices.
2505 Professor Ave., Cleveland, 216-298-4450,

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