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Doner Party

Second-floor spaces are considered slow death by restaurateurs, who prefer a street-level place with plenty of windows. Inspired by an Istanbul neighborhood of the same name, Beyoglu turns undesirable real estate to its advantage, making an upstairs warren feel like a private club. The goofball proprietor works the room like a tummler in a Catskills resort, joking with patrons, turning a meal into a party. To further entice patrons, a beacon shines onto the sidewalk like the Bat Signal, searing the restaurant's name into the concrete. Next to the entrance, a video screen alternates menus, enthusiastic reviews, and glossy color pix of food. Adding to the arsenal of techniques, a tout even hovers outside.

How many times have you eaten in a Turkish restaurant and loved the appetizers, but found the main courses, mainly kebabs, too dry or too boring? Beyoglu remedies this by eliminating the entrées, resulting in a menu of two dozen meze, priced mostly between $3.50 and $6.50 and mainly vegetarian. Many of these are already familiar, like a particularly good hummus laced with cumin and topped off with a dribble of olive oil, and a Greek salad that features bonus artichokes and stuffed grape leaves. Less appealing is kisir, a tabbouleh emphasizing damp cracked wheat that can't cut the mustard, flavorwise, and a variation on steak tartare called cig kofte—blood-red boxcars of ground filet mignon that exhibit an unpleasant squishy texture. "Don't miss" selections include boreks (crunchy pastry flutes oozing feta), uskumru lakerda (smoked and pickled mackerel served like sashimi), and ahtapot salatasi (octopus tentacles bathed in olive oil and wine vinegar).

At Beyoglu, it's always a private affair.
photo: Joshua Farley
At Beyoglu, it's always a private affair.

Details

Beyoglu
1431 Third Avenue,
212-570-5666.
Open daily 4 p.m. to midnight.
Cash only.
Not wheelchair accessible.

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I lied about there being no entrées. Contrary to concept, a single main course is offered—doner kebab ($12.50). More properly called Iskender kebab, this glorious gut-bomb overlays cubes of toasted bread with slices of mystery meat, doubly drenching them in yogurt and tomato sauce. It's so filling, you might want to skip the appetizers.




BITES

Founded by a Jersey ex-cop, CROSBY CONNECTION (172 Crosby Street, 677-8444) rapidly became a favorite of Voice staffers when it opened last year. This take-out encampment features sandwiches and little else, dispensed under garden umbrellas and beside a snatch of suburban wooden fence, as the sandwich makers trade pleasantries with their lined-up clientele. No big surprises, other than a choice of excellent breads, fine cold cuts leaning toward the Italian, and mild innovations of the sort you might not even notice, like ricotta on a meatball hero, fresh basil leaves in unexpected places, and generous add-ons at no extra charge.

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