85 Driggs Ave, Greenpoint
Rating:4 out of 5 L's
Is there any authentic, non—ironic quirk left in the Brooklyn dining scene? I didn't think so until I walked into Donia Cafe, a neighborhood joint serving solid Turkish and American classics at extremely affordable prices. I entered to find the owner in a tragic pose, sprawled out on a wooden banquette with his hand over his eyes; nearby, a little boy ambled about aimlessly, doing chores or pretending to, while cooks clattered in the kitchen.
After the owner and kid walked out, I realized I was the only one in the dining room besides the waiter, leaving me ample time to consider the soundtrack as I gazed out onto a leafy corner of McGolrick Park: it was like someone had plugged in a karaoke machine in back and wired the sound so it played throughout the entire restaurant. Soaring synthetic renditions of "The Summer Wind" and "My Way" filled the room, words replaced by tinkling piano keys and endless electronic wind chimes.
Eventually my friend and a handful of young couples trickled in. The tables here are the only things weirder than the music. Half of them are oblong and incredibly thin, making it hard to sit directly across from a dining companion lest your plates bump into each other. The others are round and made of copper, lips so steep you couldn't knock something off your table if you wanted to. Each one is topped by a ceramic pot containing rose water, slightly sweet with floral undertones (which, thankfully, can be replaced with regular water).
Turkish Delights: Donia Cafe
The kitchen doesn't try anything ambitious, which is fine for a neighborhood restaurant charging an average of $12 per entree. My kifta, also known as Turkish meatloaf, was wonderful, hunks of loosely packed lamb crumbly and juicy on the inside and slightly charred on the outside. It came with a pile of perfectly seasoned rice and nicely grilled tomatoes and onions. The chicken kabob sandwich featured sizeable chunks of chicken slathered in creamy hummus and a tangy tahini sauce, all packed into a none too stable piece of brown pita bread; eating it was worth the effort, especially considering the $7 price tag.
We complemented everything with a plate of savory boruk, three crisp pastries filled with three different fillings: mushroom and goat cheese, spinach and ricotta, and ground lamb. When the bill came, the total seemed like a mistake, much too low for how full we felt. We walked out satisfied, whistling "The Summer Wind" into the breezy night air.