It’s lunchtime on a Tuesday and Café Izmir is filled to the brim. This is considered a slow lunch for them – the busy days are later in the week.
Each day, businessmen and women come in droves to enjoy the fast, fresh food at the Downtown location of this popular Dallas eatery that opened in February.
The restaurant is simple, clean, and oddly comforting. The décor hints at its familial roots through the framed photos and handmade Turkish plates hanging on the walls. The light fixtures are fascinating in their own respect; colorful lanterns handmade in Turkey dangle from the bar, and giant iron pendant chandeliers hang from the ceilings.
The Downtown location is just one of four Café Izmirs in DFW – others are Greenville, Plano, and Terminal D in DFW Airport.
What differentiates Café Izmir from most chains Downtown is that it’s family-owned. And you can tell.
“In our culture it’s so warm and welcoming, and hospitality is such a high aspect of it. We try to embed that into our service,” said general manager Sammy Habibi. “It makes me feel like I’m at home. It doesn’t feel like work.”
Café Izmir is perfect for those yearning to be transported on a culinary adventure; the menu consists of grilled and vegetarian tapas, bowls, sandwiches, dips & appetizers, salads, baked flatbreads, and dinner course specials.
The menu is probably the reason Café Izmir sees lasting success in Dallas. It’s filled with family recipes and hasn’t been changed in the 20 years since its inception. These recipes come straight from owners Beau and Ali Nazary and their mother Nazy.
“Nothing is frozen – we don’t even have any big freezers,” says Habibi. The cousin of Beau and Ali explained that they have one small freezer for the ice cream – saffron gelato to be exact.
The dips are enough to build a loyal following on their own. Habibi says the Downtown location goes through 150 pounds of hummus (regular and chipotle) each day. You can even take tubs of hummus home with you – $6 for 6 oz., $14.99 for 16 oz., or $17 for 32 oz. The hummus is so good you could bathe in it.
The meat Dolmas are a standout dish – grape leaves are stuffed with beef, rice, and spices. They are bursting with flavors of mint and dill, and taste like a warm hug with a squeeze of lemon overtop.
Waitress Sarah Driver’s favorite is a simple dish – grilled Portabella mushrooms, and she brings them back to the table, beaming. “These are marinated in Beau’s mom’s sauce – it’s a secret recipe,” she says.
When they say secret, they mean it. Over the years, people have tried asking to purchase Mama Nazary’s recipes. Don’t even try.
The chicken meatballs are fluffy clouds that melt in your mouth. They are served with a tomato basil sauce and are a great complement to the flavorful, yet simple saffron rice.
Turkish coffee is the perfect end to the meal. It’s essentially a shot of espresso that is sweet, creamy, and chocolaty. It’s perfect when paired with the freshest, flakiest baklava.
If you’re in the Downtown area and are in need of some fresh and fast comfort food, look no further than Café Izmir. Be sure to swing by for happy hour Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m, and ‘Neighborhood Nights’ on Wednesdays. They also offer catering and corporate menus you can take advantage of.
Cafe Izmir is located at:
211 North Ervay Street
Dallas, Texas 75201