I did a search for posts on Turkish cuisine a few weeks ago. I'm from Toronto originally, but currently live in Windsor. A few posts mentioned the Balkan Bistro, which had relocated to Windsor from Toronto about a year ago. I was ecstatic, since Windsor is quite lean in the ethnic diversity department, restaurant-wise. I was also disconcerted, because the double-whammy of a poor economy here in auto-industry hell and peoples' reluctance to branch out and try new things does not bode well for the Balkan Bistro. I sincerely hope they can survive these tough times.
Three of us dined there last night. I was a fan of Turkish cuisine already, having travelled there for 5 weeks, a number of years ago. The Balkan Bistro did not disappoint. The food was fantastic and the prices were so reasonable. I should add that the portions were quite generous. Three of us shared a half dozen mezes, then a single mixed Turkish plate (meat-lover's bonanza) and were stuffed silly. The food portion of the bill couldn't have come to more than $43 or so (before taxes), yet we took home leftovers. Add to that a bottle of wine and we made it out of there for around $100 with tax AND tip! Imagine! The heritage house that is home to the Balkan Bistro and its owners is a warm and inviting space. Even though the food isn't necessarily elegant, the ambiance most certainly is. This place is an absolute gem, yet the location is surely problematic (the former Alan Manor), since it is off on its own on a dark street in the Sandwich area of Windsor (nowhere near downtown). I don't think the owners really grasped the geography of Windsor when they chose their location. I pray that they will succeed and thrive here in Windsor, since the food is dynamite. I'm posting this as a call to Windsorites and those visiting to seek it out. Warm, convivial hosts await.
For those wondering what we enjoyed, the array of cold mezes consisted of: Haydari, which is similar to Greek Tzatziki, Patlican Salata (garlicky eggplant), Karisik Sebze Ezme (a mashed mix of eggplant, peppers and other veggies which has a real kick to it), dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with sweet and savoury rice pilaf), and humus (ultra thick and downright addictive). The mixed Turkish plate (which came with a lentil soup or salad to start) featured kofte (grilled meatballs), Hunkar Begendi (which I believe is a stewed dish of beef, topped with a creamy eggplant sauce, eggplant kebab, chicken shish kebab, stewed vegetables and rice pilaf. It was massive and, according to my meat-eating co-diners, outstanding and very true to the meals we enjoyed in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, which is the origin of the chef and owner.
50% of the menu is dedicated to pan-Mediterranean cuisine, which was done deliberately to cater to less adventurous palates. Although we chose to avoid this side of the menu, I'd wager that those choices will prove no less tasty as the Turkish options. I heartily encourage all who wish to have a great dining experience to give Balkan Bistro a try. I know I'll be back for another Turkish meze fix very soon!