Akdeniz Turkish Cuisine
19 West 46th St, New York NY 10036 (between 5th and 6th Aves; map); 212-575-2307; akdenizturkishusa.com
Veggie Options: Most appetizers and salads, 2 entrees
Cost: Appetizers $6-10; entrees $13.50
As much as I may be guilty of claiming there is no good food in Midtown, even I know that's a lie. It's just harder to find. So when I do find something legitimately good, I get pretty excited. Around the corner from the diamond district and Rockefeller Center, Akdeniz Turkish Cuisine serves Turkish fare that earns very solid marks.
Given that their menu is very kebab-laden it may seem like they have little to offer for vegetarians (trust me, the vegetable casserole is just as passable as it sounds). But the vast majority of the appetizers and salads are meatless, and we found we could make a very satisfying meal out of them alone, with plenty of options to spare.
We started with a round of Cheese Pastries ($6.95), which was a wise choice indeed. Unlike other appetizers of the "cheese covered in stuff and fried" nature, these are filled with feta cheese and plenty of fresh dill. As far as cheese sticks go, these really pack a delicious punch.
The Shepherd Salad ($7.50, cheese is extra) shines in its simplicity. This mound of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions and parsley dressed in fresh lemon juice and olive oil puts lettuce-ridden salads to shame. You can order it both with or without salty grated cheese on top; either way it is highly satisfying. I couldn't stop dipping bites of their (very good) bread in the delicious puddles of lemony goodness that my salad left behind. It may not look like much, but this is truly as good as a Mediterranean salad gets.
There is no lack of eggplant on the menu at Akdeniz, but since we had to choose we went with what sounded most epic: the Stuffed Baby Eggplant ($9.95) filled with tomatoes, onions, pine nuts, garlic, and peppers. Served cold, this slippery pile of eggplant and onion was quite good, though I wished the sad bits of carrot garnish weren't so adept at creeping into my forkfuls. The fried eggplant with tomato sauce is even better (less oily more flavorful and tomatoy).
There are so many more dishes that we didn't try (like the baklavah!), but so far everything I've had here has ranged from solid to excellent. Akdeniz has certainly earned a place on my short-but-growing list of reliable Midtown eats.