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Burger Story March 23, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Foreign Cuisine.
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Turks often ask me for examples of traditional American cooking. Such examples are difficult to ascertain since our cuisine is in many ways an amalgamation of the different culinary styles brought to our great country by numerous waves of immigration. One distinctly American food, though, is the hamburger. Originating in the late 1800s, the exact birthplace and inventor of this sandwich remain subjects of dispute. But through the popularity of American chain restaurants, it’s impact on dining both in the U.S. and around the world is uncontested.

There is more to a burger than the Big Mac or Whopper. Many who are used to these fast-food staples often forget that all burgers are not created equal. Restaurants across America create far more intricate, gourmet versions that incorporate top-quality meats and special ingredients, such as blue cheese, jalapeños or even lobster. In Ankara, the options for high-end burgers like this are quite limited. The recent opening of the Kentpark A.V.M bought a new place for those craving beef-laden deliciousness. Appropriately named Burger Story, this establishment delivers the goods for those seeking American-style tastes here in Turkey.

Burger Story’s menu offers about a dozen options ranging from the classic to the more complex.  The cornerstone of these burgers is the excellent meat. You’ll immediately notice the fresh-ground difference. Several burgers are also topped with some nice sauces, a welcome addition in a country where the food is too often sauce-less.

I’ve visited Burger Story twice in the past few weeks and was really impressed with the more traditional offerings. I’d highly recommend the caramelized onion and mushroom burgers. The cheese streak, rokfor soslu and “White Castle” are also quite good. However, avoid the falafel “veggie” burger; the flavor is dry and overpowering from the excessive starch.

You might be enticed by Burger Story’s milkshake selection. While better than most in Turkey, they’re sadly underwhelming if you’ve ever had a proper milkshake in America. They lack the thickness that, for example, separates a chocolate milkshake from chocolate milk. My friends reported otherwise after a different visit, but I still expect more consistency for the premium price.

Burger Story is on the ground floor of Kentpark (Google Maps). To the chagrin of my bank account, it’s on the pricey side. Burgers average between 15TL and 20TL ($10 and $13 at 1.53TL/$).

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LeMan Kültür January 5, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Foreign Cuisine, Turkish Cuisine.
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Named after the satirical Turkish comic book series, LeMan Kültür provides some much-needed novelty to the Ankara dining scene. This popular eatery bustles with city’s student crowd and offers a pleasing fusion of Turkish and international cuisine. Amidst the artistic décor and pulsating music, it’s a fun place to share a meal with friends before heading out for a night of revelry in the clubs and bars around Sakarya Cad.

The food at LeMan is good, but by no means life changing. It could be described as something comparable to the American “casual” dining franchises (T.G.I. Friday’s, Applebee’s, Chili’s, etc.). LeMan’s menu is large and diverse, with options ranging from pesto tortellini to Chinese egg rolls to chicken fajitas. They provide welcome alternatives to the staples of Turkish dining that pervade most Kızılay restaurants. LeMan also puts a twist on some of these favorites, a good example of which is the köfteli sandviç. Topped with an excellent eggplant-garlic-cheese sauce, this sandwich has been something of an addiction for me and many of my friends over the past year. It revitalizes the ubiquitous köfte meatballs found all over the city with a dynamic flavor that manages to satisfy both your taste and your appetite. And at 8.50TL ($5.80 at 1.47TL/$), the price cannot be beat.

LeMan Kültür is located on Konur Sk., off Meşrutiyet Cad., in Kızılay (Google Maps). There appears to be another branch in Bahçeli (Google Maps), but I can’t comment on its similarity or quality. Prices at LeMan are reasonable and range between 6TL and 14TL ($4.00 and $9.50). A good variety of alcohol is also served. For those who are tired of Efes Pilsen (i.e. every non-Turk in Turkey), there is Tuborg on tap.