And, truly, the food was really good at Istanbul Cafe. It was not busy at all when we arrived, though it was Tuesday evening. The interior is quite trendy and pleasant, and I especially liked the veneer wrapped vertical posts in the dining area.
The service was friendly and quite prompt. We started with a small appetizer platter, which included tabouli, hummus, babaganoush, ezme, and dolmates if not a few other items. And, they were all great. The babaganoush variation here is a bit different, and you can taste the mayonnaise they put into it, tho it is still very tasty. I'm not sure I would have picked out the mayo, but it was noted on the appetizer's menu. I'm not sure there was much tahini in the babaganoush, or at least I couldn't pick it out. But all of the items on the appetizer sampler were great, and they provide you a full basket of warm pita, so you don't feel like you have to conserve the pita you're given.
Mom had the mixed kebab platter, which came with all of the meats they offer. The Better Half wanted the gyro (doner) kebab, and I had the stuffed cabbage. All of the grilled meats were really tasty, but I wouldn't go back for the stuffed cabbage. I guess I am used to stuffed cabbage with more rice and tomatoes in them, and these were just some meat. They were okay, but nothing very special. The yogurt sauce provided has a great taste, but was more watery than I prefer, but had lots of good garlic and spices in it, and wasn't overdone with the cucumber taste.
The prices are in line with most other Mediterranean places locally, with most entrees in the $15-$18 range. And, the portion sizes are ample enough to definitely leave you feeling sated. As we were talking about Istanbul Cafe, I wondered if, from my perspective, that Mediterranean isn't some of the most consistently well performing restaurants of any cuisine type I most likely frequent in the city. You have a few good choices just on the NW side of the city alone, between Athens at 86th and Istanbul Cafe. I still feel like Santorini's in Fountain Square is my favorite, but Saffron Cafe is my favorite gyro/shwarma in the city.
The verdict: 4 belly rubs (out of 5). Tasty, filling, savory, no real low lights.