In this fickle dining city, along a street that has seen its share of ups and downs, Cafe Izmir’s fire is still burning. Two-dollar tapas on Tuesday nights are still a thrill, although we prefer to chill on a Sunday night and feast on one of two options: meat or vegetable. And then the parade begins. To start, of course, is hummus so garlicky it could kill a vampire, its smooth, creamy texture impossible to resist. Russian chicken salad, a family recipe the Nazarys would never dare reveal, is still a cool mound of chicken, potato, and bites of carrot, which add color and sweetness. But the mains are what continue to lure us back: chunks of chicken, seasoned and juicy; ground lamb formed into logs; and the zesty lamb wrap that tastes as good the next day for lunch. Grilled vegetables are a meal unto themselves, which is good news for our vegetarian friends, who too often are stuck ordering a salad when dining with carnivores. Corn, zucchini, squash, sweet potato, red onion, mushroom, tomato—all sauteed and grilled and delicious. The lone disappointment was the dry, stringy okra, which my friend described as “tree-like”—a transgression so minor it seems silly to mention it.
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