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Mickey’s by Las Chicas May 17, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Foreign Cuisine.
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Mexican food outside of North America generally comes in varying levels of mediocrity, and Ankara is no exception. The options for satisfying your south-of-the-border craving are limited to the one and only Mexican place in town, Las Chicas.

It’s actually not as bad as you would think. I’ve always left Las Chicas feeling quite content. It’s a welcome change from the monotony of kebabs and other staples of Turkish cuisine. Is it authentic Mexican food? No. But without question Las Chicas plays a necessary role in the life of any expat living in Ankara, even if it does serve Doritos with its salsa.

This weekend I found that Las Chicas has been rebranded as ‘Mickey’s by Las Chicas’. As the Americanized name suggests (evoking Disney, I suppose), the restaurant has taken on the style and tone of the ‘casual dining’ establishments popularized by my native land. The menu still contains Mexican favorites, but now includes items very much at home in an Applebee’s or Chili’s.

The burritos at Mickey’s remain pleasing; I was quite happy with my ‘Hot BBQ’. The ‘Supreme Nachos’, while generally a standard, unimaginative appetizer in most places, were impressive because they feature homemade tortilla chips. These are not a common sight in Turkey.

The more conventional items on the menu, such as the fried chicken salad and sandwich, were about what you’d except: tasty, safe, but basically average.

The highlight of our meal at Mickey’s was the ‘Spicy Buffalo Wings’. Too often in this country the label ‘spicy’ is applied with excessive liberality, rarely appropriate in most cases. (Seriously, Turks, acılı adana is not spicy at all; you won’t convince me otherwise.) But these particular buffalo wings delivered good, strong flavor. They would be a respectable offering in America, and in Turkey they’re essentially a delicacy. I suspect my friends and I will be visiting Mickey’s again soon for some more.

Mickey’s by Las Chicas is located on Arjantin Cad. in Gaziosmanpaşa (Google Maps). There is another branch in Çayyolu. Prices are high in accordance with these more upscale locations. Appetizers range between 10 and 15TL ($6.50 and $9 at 1.54TL/$), and most main courses will run you around 20TL ($13). Alcohol is served, although it’s offensively expensive. It should be a crime to charge 7TL ($4.50) for a 33cl bottle of Efes.

Düveroǧlu Kebap ve Baklava Salonu May 5, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Desserts, Turkish Cuisine.
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I’ve eaten in more than twenty cities during my travels around Turkey, and I can say with confidence that Gaziantep stands out as one of the best. Located about 50 kilometers from the Syrian border, the Arabic influence is evident in Gaziantep’s cuisine and separates it from other Turkish cities through a distinctive use of local ingredients and spicing. Gaziantep is also particularly well known for its baklava, Turkey’s beloved layered dessert. Rumor has it that P.M. Erdoğan gets his baklava flown in each week from İmam Çağdaş, the most famous restaurant and baklavaci in the city. I can understand his preference: I would make the trip to Gaziantep just for another meal at that place.

Gaziantep-style restaurants are prevalent all over Turkey, but few replicate the quality of their inspiration. In Ankara, several people have recommended Düveroǧlu Kebap ve Baklava Salonu as a place worth trying for a taste of southern cooking in central Anatolia. So I did, three times, and was generally underwhelmed.

The food at Düveroǧlu is good, but unexceptional. The kebabs are similar in quality to most other places in Ankara, although I did appreciate seeing some Haleb-inspired offerings on the menu. The lahmacun is also a bit better than most. But in general I didn’t taste anything at Düveroǧlu that evoked the culinary superiority of Gaziantep.

Düveroǧlu’s saving grace is its baklava, which is admittedly quite good. It’s probably the best I’ve had in Ankara. However, this isn’t saying much since most baklava is disappointing after you’ve sampled the real thing in Gaziantep. Güllüoglu in İstanbul might be the only exception I’ve encountered to this rule.

Düveroǧlu has two locations in Ankara: the main restaurant is in Anıttepe and another branch is in Kızılay (Google Maps). The prices are very reasonable. Most kebabs are priced around 10TL ($6.60 at 1.51TL/$); four pieces of baklava cost about 5TL ($3.30).