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Jun 25, 2008 04:41 PM

Best Turkish Restaurant in the State of Kentucky

One could wander through the hollers of Eastern Kentucky and the prairies of Western Kentucky for a good long while without coming across a good Turkish Cafe.

So it's with great interest that I make my way across the bridge from Ohio to Newport Kentucky intent on trying Cafe Istanbul.

One Levee Way is a big complex with all manners of tourist-y attractions.It's perched nicely on a bluff overlooking the mighty Ohio River.The view is lovely with all the paddle wheelers and small boats wending their way along the stream of muddy water.

Seating myself on the patio I'm quickly approached by a server with a menu...I place my order for a Efes[Turkish Pilsener],a glass of ice water and a Turkish coffee.

The lunch menu offers a special for $10.95 of a half order of Doner[Lamb and Beef Kebab]as well as a half order of Hummus.

The Hummus comes first and it's delicious.Garlicky almost to the extreme but nearly balanced with tart lemon and plenty salt.The Pita bread is good;pillowy and hot with little crusty edges.I ask if it's homemade and the server informs me they drive to Chicago to procure it.

The Doner arrives with a scoop of basic white rice on a big platter with the restaurants logo emblazoned upon it.The meat is good,nicely seasoned and of a generous portion.

Service is fine.The patio is basically deserted and the waiter checks regularly inquiring after my needs.

Ambience is fun.Tourists are strolling about and a light breeze is kicking off the nearby water.I'll never know why grown ups feel the need to wear shower shoes in public but I find them and the ridiculous noises their feet make when they walk amusing.

It's a day later now and I'm trolling through the campus of the University of Kentucky when I spy a small cafe in a new-ish strip center:Istanbul Palace.

I stroll inside and am warmly greeted in the near empty restaurant.I ask for a Turkish coffee and a glass of water and begin to peruse the menu.Whenever a menu item has the name of the restaurant in in I immediately go on point.Istanbul Chicken is intensely delicious and aggressively seasoned.It consists of two Kebabs of Ground Chicken,spiced with Red Peppers,Salt,Parsley and Lemon.It comes with some of the best French Fries I've had in a restaurant in many a moon.Hand cut and perfectly cooked the crispy exterior gives way to a very potato-y mealy inside.The Yogurt dip that comes with makes me want to take the ketchup bottle on the table outside and heave it onto Waller Avenue.Ketchup is always disgusting but especially so given the proximity of the delicious Yogurt sauce.

The Turkish coffee comes in a small brass pitcher and is a good three small cups of pure caffeinated pleasure.

Service is fast and friendly.The cafe begins to fill up right as I get ready to leave.A group of young Turkish girls are enjoying themselves immensely in the corner...a young Turkish mother is feeding her very cute little baby as the two cooks hustle about getting ready for evening service.

In the food fight between Cafe Istanbul and Istanbul Palace there can be only one victor.The Attaturk Award for intense deliciousness goes to Istanbul Palace in Lexington.It's of a much more humble stripe architecturally speaking but the flavors are far more addictive and the menu is also much more ambitious with many difficult to pronounce dishes which,if I lived in Lexington I would sample from broadly.

Kentuckians have flat got it made in the Turkish dining category with a scant 80 miles separating at least two good options.Are there any other I need to be made aware of?

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  1. Glad to hear both of these were good - I think Istanbul Palace is owned/managed by a longtime Oasis waiter.
    Hm. Now I'm craving some Turkish food...

    1. I tried the Istanbul Palace a couple of times when it first opened, and was a bit disappointed. I didn't think it was as good as Oasis, although there zucchini pancake was novel and pretty good. More recently, I've been going to Sahara in Beaumont Plaza. Perhaps it's time to give Istanbul another try.

      1 Reply
      1. re: StevenFro

        RIP: Istanbul Palace on Waller in Lexington has shuttered.

        Istanbul Palace
        393 Waller Ave Ste 16, Lexington, KY 40504

      2. Can't speak for the Newport location, but the Beavercreek, Ohio location was wonderful and is missed. I am pleased to know the Newport location still thrives. There is also one in Columbus, at Easton.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Fibber McGee

          Have you tried Pasha, which opened in Cafe Istanbul's location at the Greene? A friend of mine loves it and I understand the owner is related to the owner of the Easton location.

          1. re: FlyerFan

            I have not as of yet. Really have been meaning to.The thing that got me about Cafe Istanbul was they did have Doner Kebabs, which the person I was dating had earlier mentioned was her favorite.
            I hope the Newport location will endure.

        2. About 25 miles north of KY across the Ohio River just north of Cincinnati is a new place called Sultan's Mediterranean Cuisine--has been open about 2 months now--I have eaten there once and enjoyed it, but I am not an expert on Mediterranean or Turkish cuisine. Reviews, although still scant, have been uniformly positive. It is located in West Chester less than 1/2 mile west of I-75 at the Tylersville Rd exit in a little strip mall on the north side of the road just past Meijer and a Shell station.