Fast Food International: Güllüoğlu
Editor's note: In "Fast Food International," Krista Garcia will take us around New York to the many international fast food chains that have landed in the five boroughs. She blogs at goodiesfirst.com.
Country of origin: Turkey
Locations worldwide: About 22 in Belgium, Estonia, Turkey and the U.S.
NYC locations: One in Midwood and one in Midtown
Established in 1871, this venerable Turkish confectioner didn't set up shop in the United States until 2005 when they arrived in Midwood, Brooklyn. A second location opened in Midtown last fall. Possibly the only business on this Coney Island Avenue block without the word "kosher" emblazoned on its awning, the handsome café is outfitted with a fireplace, small tables, and plush wicker chairs. Guests are just as welcome to linger over a cup of strong coffee as they are to grab shrink-wrapped boxes of Turkish delights from the counter display and be on their way.
Going with provenance over locavorism, the sweets aren't prepared on site but imported from Istanbul and then baked in-store. (They survive the journey just fine.)
Boasting 12 types of baklava ($10.95 to $19.95 per pound) Güllüoglu takes phyllo and nuts to levels unseen in much of New York. Variations include shaggy, cylindrical burma kadayif, triangular şöbiyet, stuffed with crushed pistachios and cream and atypical milky, hazelnut-filled sütlü nuriye. Moist and lightly honey-sweet, none have that typical cloying syrup-drenched quality. Some have a subtle, earthy tanginess—the result of butter made from sheep and goat's milk. You won't get burnt out after a few bites, in fact you might make a bigger dent in a box-full than intended.
There are also quite a few savory pastries; selection depends on time of day. Gül böreği ($2.75), named after a rose due to its round shape and petal-like layers, is less flaky, more dense and eggy with the texture of a crust-less quiche. Ideal for breakfast, these come stuffed with potato, spinach and feta or spinach and ground beef.
The same minced meat is used in other variations like the boşnak böreği ($1.43), a tubular turnover that's cut into individual portions.
Though I didn't see any on my visit, supposedly, Güllüoğlu also sells dondurma, the chewy Turkish ice cream that's so stiff it's eaten with a knife and fork. Perhaps a summer-only treat, I'll gladly return to look for it.
982 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10022 (map)