By Bonnie S. Benwick
Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011
Washington's downtown food scene continues to tick upward - including its options for late-night delivery, thanks to Mehmet Kocak. Within the past 10 months, the 35-year-old Turkish native has opened two takeout spots in Georgetown that bring pide, falafel and baba ghanouj to your door.
"My concept is fast, fresh Mediterranean," he says. "I want everybody to be able to try it and eat it. Day and night."
Kocak has tweaked family recipes from his relatives in the restaurant business back home in Corum. His garlic sauce with parsley butter and white pepper accounts for the welcoming aroma as you climb old iron steps to Eat & Joy, the mod, two-story eatery with WiFi. It's used liberally on the bread that accompanies salads and kebabs. And it just might be the key component that elevates his Turkish-style pizzas: the personal-size lahmacun (lah-MAHJ-un) and the canoe-shaped, built-for-two pide (PEED-eh).
Not to worry; Kocak and his staff gladly help with pronunciation.
The same house-made dough is used for both, but it's stretched half as thin for the crisp-bottomed lahmacun rounds ($5.95) that come with ground lamb and ezme, a bright minced salad of tomato, onion, mint, parsley, Tabasco sauce and olive oil that Kocak assembles daily.
Pides are his most popular item, and it's easy to understand why. He uses a combination of feta and shredded mozzarella to replicate Turkish kacer cheese on five of the six variations: spinach, cheese, sausage, eggplant and chicken ($7.95). Their generous sprinkling of ezme and seasonings melts in and creates a terrific upgrade from standard pizzas.
Of course, there are pizzas on Eat & Joy's menu as well (12-inch, $8.99-$14.18; 14-inch, 10.99-$16.36; 16-inch, $12.54-
$17.99), in addition to calzones ($10.25), salads ($6.95-$8.95), pastas ($9.99, with salad and bread), pitas, wraps and sandwiches ($6.99). The falafel pita offers double chickpea action by way of its hummus side, but of all the things we tried here, the dense chickpea dip seemed oddly bereft of any brightness.
Back in Turkish territory, we recommend the lamb and chicken kebab platters graced with well-marinated meats ($10.99, including salad, grilled vegetables and rice); cacik, a cucumber-yogurt sauce served with pita ($4.99); and borek, the crisped phyllo cigars with feta and dill rolled inside ($4.99 for four pieces).
Kocak also owns GoFresh (1211 Potomac St. NW; 202-333-4576), whose menu is primarily salads, wraps and panini. Kocak says that shop's most popular item (and traditional takeout fare in Turkey; who knew?) is a huge, twice-baked Idaho potato, whose insides are mixed with shredded mozzarella cheese and drizzled with garlic sauce, then crowned with customized toppings or one of four set combos, including spinach-artichoke; chicken broccoli; and Mediterranean-feta ($5.95, plus a vegetable side). Ezme can be ordered as an appetizer with pita ($4.99).
Admittedly, he's catering to a college crowd, setting up shop close to Georgetown University, offering Monday-Tuesday discounts to American University students and extending his delivery range to George Washington University downtown. ("At 11 p.m., it's crazy around here," he says.) But office dwellers as far east as 18th Street NW can order in as well - farther if the call for business warrants it, Kocak says. K Street lawyers and others who work through dinnertime, take note.