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May 1, 2010 01:43 PM

Afendi Turkish in Petaluma

Gifted and gregarious chef Joe (Serder) from Real Doner has opened up his new sit down place across town. I posted a small review over in the review section but wanted to holler at all you meze loving hounds to make it to east Petaluma quick to try this place.

You won't be sorry, this place is a gem.

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  1. Friends told me last weekend that someone from the former Real Gyro in Santa Rosa was opening in this space. Having followed the Besir family's movements closely since that time to Eden's Turkish in SF's Tenderloin and to Real Doner in Petaluma, I was more than curious about exactly who setting up the new shop. I had a chance to drop by last Sunday and asked the hostess who the chef was. When she said, "Joe", and handed me his card, I asked if she would check to see if he could come out to say "hello".

    The restaurant had been open for 10 days at that point and offers table service. I tried to probe about the reasons behind the move, and Joe said, "Binnur's my sister, Vahit's my brother, what else can I say." It was time for him to be on his own, to create an eatery in his own vision. Now he can cook and serve his customers the way he wants. His menu is more extensive than at Real Doner and there is table service here.

    I already had plans for dinner and couldn't stay. Joe was disappointed that I couldn't stay for the nights bellydancing. He said that he's using halal meats here. When I asked if the bellydancer's muslim, his eyes twinkled and he said he'd need to ask her.

    I chose one of the desserts from the case to purchase. But par for the course, Joe refused to take my money and there was no tip jar yet for me to stuff with some cash. This was a semolina cake called seker pare or sugar cake.

    Scott has also mentioned Afendi's. i hope we hear some more eating reports soon.

    Afendi's Turkish Grill
    299 N McDowell Blvd, Petaluma, CA 94954

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Afendi is a great addition to the east side of Petaluma. I ate at both Real Doner and Afendi within a week of each other. The atmosphere is better at Afendi, but I thought the food at Real Doner was slightly better at the time I ate there. Granted Afendi hasn't been open as long and likely will improve, or maybe it was just that day. Real Doner had a wonderful lamb chop dish that was not available at Afendi, and I thought the meat was a little drier at Afendi. Again, nothing that couldn't be easily corrected. You really can't go wrong with either restaurant.

      1. re: Scott M

        I had to compare the Real Doner to Afendi's today so I ate at both. Lamb Kabobs at Afendi's and the same at Real Doner. I had a better experience than Scott at Afendi's. The meat was juicy and probably a tad better seasoned than the Real Doner. Maybe if the Real Doner could get a permanent chef it would be better? The family is nice so I hope they can. I saw a sign on Afendi's door about the belly dancing and think I will go there Saturday night a couple of friends. Should be fun.

        1. re: Mary Yu

          Hi Mary, welcome to Chowhound. I wish both of them well, but I will say that my better meals at Real Doner were when Joe was doing the cooking.

          I had a chance to sit down for a meal at Afendi's last week and have a longer chat with Joe. He looks so happy to be on his own. I hope that both families can make a go of it.

          P.S. He showed me a video of the bellydancer on his iPhone. He said the place has been packed during that time, so get there early.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Hi Melanie, I had a great time! The belly dancer is exotic, beautiful and quite talented. The food was great again. I asked Joe how he was able to keep his pace 7 days a week and he said he was training another cook. Now that I see Saffrongold's note below I am guessing the new cook was working on Mother's Day and hasn't gotten Joe's perfectionism down yet. I will have to ask him about that on my next visit. He is certainly fun to talk with!

    2. I went on Mothers Day and would say my food experience at Real Doner was better. At Afendi the charbroiled eggplant was in weird little undercooked tough chunks, the yogurt sauce was good , though. The feta on bread was alittle too bread-heavy and the rice pilaf was not as moist, hot or flavorable as at RD. Service was very attentive. I would give it a second chance based on the good things others have said here.

      1. This restaurant is simply the best thing to happen to Petaluma in the last ten years. The food is excellent, the service is attentive and accurate and charming, the prices are just, and the desire to please is everywhere evident. I have never had falafel nearly so good, and the baba ghanouj and kisir are peerless. This is a place where omnivores, carnivores, vegetarians and vegans can all be happy.

        Afendi's Turkish Grill
        299 N McDowell Blvd, Petaluma, CA 94954

        1. After picking up a holiday goose near Petaluma, I decided to stop for lunch at Afendi's. I ordered the eggplant salad (patlican salatasi - $6.95) and the "spicy veggie salad" (ezme salatasi - $6.95) for starters, served with warm bread and hot tea. I followed with an Adana (spicy ground lamb) kebab ($8.95). While the whole meal was very tasty, the ezme knocked me out. I could not get enough of it. It was better than any I've had before, and I think it was due to the ground walnut, which I had never seen before in other places, and how all the ingredients were so finely chopped.

          It was a slow day, so the chef-owner, Joe Besir, sat with me to plan my next trip to Istanbul. He must have spent 30 minutes talking about travel agents, hotels, bus lines and places to avoid, while I enjoyed my meal. We also discussed peppers, olive oils, his restaurant in New York, and how goose is prepared in Turkey. Eventually more patrons arrived and I left, promising to take him up on his offer to contact his travel agent. Meanwhile, I have an extra helping of ezme and bread waiting in my fridge for tomorrow's lunch.

          Afendi's Turkish Grill
          299 N McDowell Blvd, Petaluma, CA 94954

          1. Sadly this place bit the dust this week. There were indicators that it was hurting, ie quiet as a tomb when it should have been jumping. The food was great but it never took off.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Andrew H

              Oh no. I had a bad feeling when this thread popped up again. Please let us know if you hear where Joe lands.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                This is, for Petaluma, a true tragedy. My favorite restaurant in Sonoma County is gone.