3586 Main Street, Barrio Logan
They say location is everything, but thanks to using my smart phone in an unfamiliar part of town I happened upon a pretty decent Turkish restaurant with what might be considered a lousy location. Lezzet Café may be found between Barrio Logan and National City, on the back side of the 32nd Street Naval Station, along a strip populated by budget tire shops, and right next door to an Adult Emporium promising nude girls and sex toys.
Safe to assume it's not the first place adventurous eaters think of, even to look for Turkish cuisine. Nevertheless, I found myself venturing onto its spacious and pleasantly appointed back patio and found myself — forgive the broad-minded cultural association here — in sort of an oasis of tasty dining.
I know little about Turkish food, and anything familiar I might just chalk up to being pan-Mediterranean. But the family-owned place is prepared for people like me, and my lovely and helpful waitress patiently walked me through the menu.
Of course there are kebabs and dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves), as well as a few handmade pasta dishes including pelmeni (akin to ravioli, they say) and manti (dumplings). These are exclusively beef dishes, and while they sounded delicious, I was alone and hoping for a little more variety of flavors. So I gravitated toward the gozelme — Turkish pancakes.
Pronounced goes-elm-ee, I would liken these more to quesadillas. For ten bucks you get three to an order with a choice of fillings, including beef, potato, cheese and spinach. My waitress suggested I could get beef and cheese, potato and cheese and spinach, and that settled it.
The buttery, house-made tortillas showed up with yogurt as dipping sauce, pressed flat with plenty of grilled onion included with both the ground beef and mashed potato servings. Each were tasty in their own way, and quite filling. I was surprised to find the potato was my favorite — it was creamy and smooth within the tortilla, best suited to capture the simple lot of flavors going on.
I stopped eating for just long enough to check out my surroundings. Pleather booths were built around a large patio, with open wood beams holding up draped tapestries for shade. On this warm afternoon with a mild Santa Ana wind blowing, the ice in my water melted fast, but I stayed comfortable enough, wondering whether I'd ever make it back to try those dumplings. If I don't, it won't be the dumplings' fault, more the unlikelihood that I take this particular exit off the freeway again anytime soon.