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Tallulah, Chapel Hill

  • r

This was my 3rd time at Tallulah & the best. We had an all mezze dinner, but this time we ordered just a few plates at a time. This was key to enjoyment.
With the wine, Viognier we ordered Imam Bayildi, the eggplant was smoky & the flavour extremely subtle. Then hot mezze felafels, zucchini patties & cheese boregi. The felafels were rather heavy, but the patties, light & delicate with a yogurt sauce & the fried boregi had tangy feta & a ketchupy red sauce that I felt it didn't need.
By now I was full but my friend wasn't & he ordered vine leaves & more cheese boregi. The vine leaves again were subtle stuffed with herbs, al dente rice & toasted pignolis. I managed a few more boregi. Then turkish coffee (sweet, naturally) & baklava. I love turkish coffee & make it, and this was excellent, the baklava home made & subtle.
The service was attentive, the atmosphere relaxing. All the tables were filled outside -deservedly so. Our mezze that evening were all veg, but they have meat ones (very good) & seafood. So it's a great way to dine.
I've never had a turkish meal of this quality in nyc...

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  1. How are the prices at Tallulahs? I checked out the menu posted on the storefront and it seems a bit pricey. Is it worth it in comparison to the other similarly priced locations on Franklin St.?

    1 Reply
    1. re: inmybackpages

      I tend to order appetizers , rather than main courses. Their Turkish pizzas are reasonable. If it weren't for the fact that our kid goes for the chicken kebobs (which I think are a bit pricey) we wouldn't feel as though we were spending too much, not for a nice night out. Here's an idea for a fun evening out - okay, not cheap, but fun for a special date: go appetizer-hopping on West Franklin. Start at the Lantern bar - drink and app - then app at the bar at Elaine's (or later for dessert), then go to Tallulah's and share another app. w/ some of their bread or a Turkish pizza, followed by an order of baklava. The pizzas aren't particularly big & the baklava is definitely shareable. We once got four pieces in a single order.

    2. Tallulah's is a good restaurant, but I like even better Bosphorus in Cary. It's just as good and a lot cheaper.

      1. Thanks sse - that's exactly the kind of info I needed.

        2 Replies
        1. re: inmybackpages

          David; do you cook Turkish food? As I do & Tallulah is gourmet standard. So it's worth it to me. If mezze are $8.00- $7.00 I've had a 1st class meal.
          As for Lantern, my dad has grown 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in Ireland & the ones here aren't as good. I also cook veg & fish. So local Shrimp & Scallops are better at my house. Ditto veg dishes at Acme. I've ground my own Thai curry pastes in the past & we toast & grind our own masalas, & make Indian pickle & chutneys. So I expect a great deal when I go out for $$ or else tasty Jamaican & Ethiopian for less..
          Like Suse, I like appetizer dining as well. You usually get variety & the best & for less.. So I'd definitely love an evening out appetizer hopping. Great idea.

          1. re: Rory

            I'm sorry, help me out here. What do your dad's tomatoes in Ireland have to do with Lantern? I was trying to follow your post and got a bit lost there.

        2. You seem to be saying "thumbs up" on Tallulah and "thumbs down" on Lantern and Acme. I agree completely. I've said before that Tallulah is the best restaurant on Franklin Street. Still, I prefer Bosphorus. The food is heartier, perhaps less "gourmet," but prepared with a practiced, old-world hand, and, yes, a good deal cheaper.

          I don't cook Turkish food myself.

          1. Well said David. Our expectations. So yes, if heartier is okay, for sure go to Bosphorus. If you want the equivalent of haute cuisine go to Tallulah. Okay I'll make that distinction when I post in the future.
            Sorry Detlef, I had just looked at Lantern's 'special's' & they're offering an 'heirloom tomato' salad. I applaud this, just like I applaud the greenmarkets. But we grew our own quality produce: watercress, arrugula, lambs tongues & the heirloom tomatoes (plus chinese spinach, choi sum, & Indian greens & more..).I actually had a stall at the Greenmarket in Galway & sold baked goods in anticipation of our crop. Some of the tomatoes were bad & other varieties were fantastic.
            The heirlooms & produce at the greenmarket don't impress me; but that's expectations. Mine are really high & the local heirlooms have tough skins & so-so flavour. You can do way better.
            If I want peas & rice & chicken jump-up, I don't care if I eat in a palace or a basement. I can't really get that anywhere,( and mine just doesn't come close)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Rory

              I'm at least as confused now. I too, come from an area with amazing markets (Santa Cruz, CA). I mean, it's practically Eden out there. I also find myself pining for the days when I was surrounded by such bounty. Farmers around here have a ton of challenges that those back home didn't have to contend with; more pests, more rot, late summer rains, etc. So, yes, the resulting produce may not be as good. None the less, it's what we have and it's hardly bad. I've been getting amazing peppers, in particular, of late.

              But again, what does this have to do with Lantern? Are you implying that rather than go to Lantern, someone should visit your home in Ireland and eat better tomatoes?

            2. regardless of expectations--this area is recognized nationally in the US for excellent produce. i grow good veggies at home, too, and work hard to do so; i still can't hold a candle to the very best to be had at the carrboro farmer's market.
              furthermore-- as difficult as the post was to follow, i'm not sure i echo the sentiment about talullah's. i've had shoddy service, along with mediocre, bland food on every visit.

              1. I agree about the fresh produce. It's terrific.The food here is consistantly better & fresher than in nyc, with a huge variety of choice.
                But as I said it's a matter of where you are at in terms of knowledge & experience.
                As to Tallulah's I don't know what you order. That's key. Eat a boring kebab, that's what you get. Check out Binnur's website to get some idea of Turkish cuisine.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Rory

                  first of all, i'm on this website because i get excited about food that i don't understand or see very often. i don't eat "boring food" as a rule. i went with turkish friends (one of whom is a culinary anthropologist in boston), and ordered as they did after asking them lots of questions about the cuisine, preparation, what they would be excited about eating, etc. they agreed with the assessment, and also agreed that the meat was overcooked and underseasoned all around. and, to top it all off, the service was really pretty bad--drinks not arriving for twenty minutes or more on multiple occasions, lack of knowledge about the menu, and a pervasive smell of cigarette smoke every time the server arrived at the table. the last time i endured this was a year ago, to be fair; but as it was a third visit, i won't be back. those are my expectations.

                  1. re: HeelsSoxHound

                    i won't go anywhere that charges $8 for a plate of hummus.

                2. While I enjoyed my one visit to Tallaluh's in terms of food, I too found the service snottty and spotty. These days, however, I expect NOTHING in terms of service from any restaurant. It is simply the modern American reality that professional waiters have been replaced by underprepared if friendly and well-meaning college kids. There is nothing to do but clutch your plate as somebody tries prematurely to remove it.

                  1. Do you go out Fri/Sat? I never do, hate the rush & hubbub. Tues, Thurs, Wed are far superior. I've always had very good service wherever I've been; Acme, Panzanella, Tallulah, Sandwich, Carolina Inn etc..
                    I always like to have my wine before the appetizer, it happened once the waitress forgot. Got it as my entree came.
                    so I make sure to order it before anything. It makes my evening but I really cannot expect the staff to be alert to that unless I'm at a private club.

                    1. I love Talullah's - but as other posters have noted, don't go for dinner on Friday or Saturday night. They turn it into a dance club on weekend nights, and it is disconcerting to try to finish your meal while the waitresses are already moving all the other tables aside and the DJ is setting up. Totally ruins the atmosphere, which I think is usually the best part of Talullah's. I like the food, but I go back often because of the combination of interesting food with a fun place to hang out with friends - interesting cocktails, good wines by the glass, flattering lighting :-).

                      I've also never bothered with Talullah's entrees, always ordered small plates - the salads especially are always interesting, and I always get the kefte (sp?). The one time I had their Turkish pizza I didn't like it - compare to the rest of the menu it's so heavy, and was loaded down with tons of bland cheese. But the others at my table liked it, so who knows.

                      And it isn't fair to compare a baked ceramic crock of Turkish hummus and Talullah's thick chewy bread to a Med Deli scoop from a giant bin with factory pita - I love both, but they are different foods, and the former is worth $8 to me, personally.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: dubedo

                        except that you can get really good hummus at other places, perhaps other cities for a lot less.

                      2. Hi Dubedo;
                        Thanks for making the point more eloquently than I can. The meat koftes are excellent. Maybe next time I'll try a seafood one - the mussels, never did the pizzas & won't, so thanks for the tip.
                        As for hummus, I've made it at home with the best indgredients but it doesn't taste the same. Their cooking is at a very refined level & I'm more than happy to pay for it. Just like French bistro vs. refined classic French cuisine.