Lezzet Cafe’s owners are from Turkmenistan, abutting the Caspian, not the Black Sea, reflecting a culinary tradition’s roots in Central Asia. But their BYOB spot on a quiet stretch of Frankford Road is all Turkish. They have wonderful lahmacun, thin flatbreads covered with the house mixture of minced beef, onions, tomatoes, and spices, like a Turkish version of Bolognese.
It arrives presented on a long board, with thinly sliced onion, parsley, and a wedge of lemon, and immediately you are in heaven. Pide—Turkish pizza, slipper shaped and thicker crusted—is ordinary and doughy. (I always want mine with an egg broken over the top.) But the lahmacun’s flavors meld in all the right ways, whisking you off to another land. In my case, to travels in Istanbul.
A kebab sampler comes with flame-grilled chicken breast (to which spices adhere like a thick chile rub) and the undulating waves of beefy Adana kebab, both a little dry. Neither compete with the koftesi, delicious minced-beef patties with almost gamy intensity. The pace of service and a certain unevenness remind you of the spot’s humbleness. Condiments include silky, smoky baba ghanoush; ajika, a Georgian seasoned tomato and red pepper paste to spoon on pita (there is fluffier); and cooling house-made yogurt tzatziki. You can try pan-fried beef liver with sautéed onions and flourishes of parsley, or a soft, spoonable roasted eggplant with the same topping as the lahmacun.
I’ve had better baklava; this is soggy and achingly sweet. The kunefe is a cheese-filled, shredded-wheat disc doused in simple syrup and topped with walnuts. With each bite, put your lips to scalding coffee thick with grounds and notes of chocolate. I’m with a friend who knows of a patch of preserved blackland prairie nearby, off Frankford. So we’ll be back—for that and for lahmacun and coffee.