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The Critic’s Enthusiasm

June 30, 2011

On Saturday, we couldn’t decide what to do. I wanted to spend the late afternoon out and about as a family, but Matthew was tired. But suddenly he suggested that we ride bikes down to the beach and get some dinner.

“I love you!” I answered. It was the best idea I’d heard all day.

So we slathered up with sunscreen and got the bikes out of the bike room and stuck the toddler in his froggy green seat and pedaled south on Ocean Parkway, a “true boulevard” leading through large buildings with lots of Russian immigrants, an Orthodox neighborhoods, and pockets of Persian Jewish wealth.

It’s pretty fascinating. It’s very Brooklyn — old school Brooklyn.

We live near Avenue H. You need to bike through the whole rest of the alphabet, plus more, to get to the beach. We’d only made it to Avenue R when Matthew stopped suddenly and looked at his watch. “It’s getting late,” he pointed out. Well, not really late, but he meant late in the sense of we have a child who normally eats at about 6:30.

How very strategic, I thought. You see, I had suspected that such a thing might happen at just about this latitude. Why? We were just a few blocks west of his favorite ever restaurant, Taci’s Beyti.

Now,  I divide the world into critics and enthusiasts. These categorizations are part of the framework of discussion in our home. I would not always characterize my husband as an over the top enthusiast: he’s more of a discerning sort, and I’m always pitching myself as the “enthusiast” to his “critic.” I do this in the shadow of his frowning brow, by the way: he thinks I’m pretty critical myself, I will admit. I will admit it enthusiastically. See?

Well. We all break character sometimes, and even when I’m looking forward to the boardwalk, I find myself uber-charmed when Matthew is helplessly passionate in the face of one thing or another. I think that the thing he may be most helpless in the face of is really delicious Turkish food. (To be fair, honey, Turkish is recognized by many experts — your wife among them — one of the world’s great cuisines: many heroes have probably fallen in its path.)

 

Taci’s Beyti is a special place for us, together and alone. It’s a special place even without us. Named after a kebab place called Beyti in the outer outskirts of Istanbul, it’s a place where Turkish people commute to eat amazing grilled lamb. Decades ago, I think they may have made the world-famous doner kebab famous. Richard Nixon ate there once, on his first trip to Europe.

In other words, the Turkish Beyti is a very well-regarded place on the absolute outskirts of a huge world city.

One could describe Taci’s Beyti in the same way.

When we were honeymooning in Turkey, we didn’t make it to Beyti, but we met plenty of Turks who had been to New York City. In fact, they pegged us for honeymooning Brooklynites, which was both fascinating and embarrassing.

“You live in Park Slope or Sheepshead Bay?” asked one rug dealer in the Bazaar, citing one yuppified neighborhood and another with a ways to go.

We live dead in the middle. He asked if we knew Taci’s Beyti, and we did. We’d celebrated our engagement there with family. We have a tradition of going with friends as a last-ditch effort at having fun before someone’s new baby is born. And our good friends who threw us a baby shower had it catered with food from there—at my insistence, I should add.

“That Brooklyn guy does Turkish grilled meat better than many of us do Turkish grilled meat,” said the rug seller.

Taci’s Beyti is full of mirrors and Russians who bring their own bottles of vodka. The lighting is terrible, it’s loud, the waitstaff are dressed in black, and children are as welcome as they ever really are anywhere. There is a sense of conviviality. The food is fantastic, and it’s byob, so it’s cheap.

The spicy eggplant stewed with tomatoes; the small lamb cubes with a grilled hot pepper, sumac’ed onions, and a blackened tomato; the karasli pide, which is like a fresh-cheese pizza; the shepherd’s salad with a lemony dressing and handfulls of fresh dill and parsley, shredded feta like snow atop it, though no one wants snow on their salad, and everyone wants this cheese.

Time and again, we fall for the famous french fries, and sometimes the spinach pies. We recently went with my parents and tried the fish: yet another revelation. We are expert at ordering there, but we need to go with other people in order to have them share the wealth of everything that we need to try. It is Matthew’s favorite place.

On the bike ride, I had suspected that things might go in this direction, and here we were.

“We could stop and get something a little closer,” he said. He pretended to think. “Taci’s Beyti?,” he wondered aloud.

He has a terrible poker face. His enthusiasm is catching. We ended up biking a few blocks east to Taci’s Beyti. Henry was in rare (read: terrible) form, and we had to drug him with lots of watered down sour cherry juice and lots and lots of kasarli pide. He had a great time. So did we.

We went to the beach the next day instead. We took the subway to avoid temptation.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lilo permalink
    June 30, 2011 1:25 pm

    We love Taci’s Beyti! Discovered it when we first moved the hood about six or seven years ago now (can’t believe we’ve been here that long!). The last time we went, with some Russian friends, the food seemed extra fantastic.

  2. June 30, 2011 1:43 pm

    Such a fun read and yum! I haven’t been but will be going there soon!

  3. June 30, 2011 2:29 pm

    I would like to go there with you, please.

  4. Amy Daniewicz permalink
    July 20, 2011 10:22 pm

    So cute, and also: YUM! I want to go!

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