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Restaurants & Bars

North Dallas Embraces Selda Mediterranean Grill After a Kitchen Fire and 10-Week Closure

The beloved North Dallas Turkish restaurant has seen booming business in the last two months, as regulars and fans flock back.
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Fire slowly built within the walls and ceiling of Selda, until a crisis point this February. Brian Reinhart

This spring, Selda Mediterranean Grill closed for more than two months following a devastating kitchen fire. But North Dallas’ beloved Turkish restaurant is back—busier and better than ever.

Catastrophe struck on February 25 inside one of the restaurant’s kitchen walls, behind the pizza oven Selda uses to bake pita bread and Turkish-style pizzas. The wall was covered with a metal plate, which nobody could remove to identify the problem, both because it was scaldingly hot and because it was bolted on.

“This restaurant was made in 1978,” says Selda chef and co-owner Şirzat Demir. “They put plywood behind metal. The metal gets hot, and the wood is slowly, slowly burning. It wasn’t just that day. But that time it got really hot. So I called the fire department.”

Firefighters had to remove a significant portion of the structure to find the problem: a fire had ignited within the walls and ceiling. According to a volunteer fire organization’s Facebook page, “The fire was located around the vent hood in the roof and burning the truss beams.”

Putting the fire out entailed gutting a significant portion of Selda’s kitchen. The restaurant closed for 10 weeks to repair damage. In that time, Demir and his partner chef-owners, Habip Kargin and Vedat Tayfun, decided to turn misfortune into advantage. They made kitchen upgrades and gently remodeled the dining room, giving the space a fresh, lightening white coat of paint. They spruced up the bathrooms, installed new flooring, and tweaked menu items. “It was time to do a renovation anyway,” Demir says now.

In the months since Selda reopened on May 5, it’s been better than ever, in its’ chefs opinions. (We agree.) It has also been busier than ever. When I visited in June my table was seated right after a party of at least 14 (one of my guests remembers it being 22). On weekend nights, the patio fills with guests partaking in hookah.

“After the fire, I thought we would be losing customers, but, thanks to God, they know us,” Demir says. “They kept coming here.”

Selda is the successor to Pera Turkish Kitchen, the long-running Dallas mini-chain that was run by Kargin. He teamed up with Demir to open Selda, and Tayfun joined the partnership a little later. Kargin and Demir are from Mersin, on the southern Mediterranean coast, while Tayfun is from Turkey’s far north. Not surprisingly, given the addition of new talent to Pera’s already strong kitchen, Selda is now the best Turkish restaurant in the Dallas area.

If you knew the printed menu before the fire, look out for a board of “specials” outside the front door. (As far as I can tell, the specials are always available.) They include hunkar begendi, stewed tender lamb on a bed that looks like mashed potatoes, but is in fact a mix of smoked, mashed eggplant and cheese. (Ali Nazik is a similar dish, but without cheese.)

The former Pera opened as Selda in late 2020, between the first and second waves of the coronavirus pandemic. That timing gave it a lesson in overcoming hard times.

“If I saw two, three tables, I’d say, ‘Oh, we’re making money today!’” Demir jokes. “I came from that place, I’m not going to forget it. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., I’d see two people. But when you try harder, everything comes easier. If you give up—if I gave up that time, I would be done.”

Selda Mediterranean Grill, 6006 Belt Line Rd.

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.
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