Does "Turkish diner" sound like an oxymoron? If you've ever stepped inside the oddly-named Brookline Family Restaurant Turkish Cuisine, the phrase probably resonates more than you would think.
At this casual Brookline Village restaurant, the portions are generous, the atmosphere friendly, and you can order a fried egg until the middle of the afternoon. The difference here is that instead of that fried egg, you could order any number of Turkish breakfast selections, like Pastirmali Yumurta, an omelet with diced beef and feta cheese.
Even on a weeknight, the tables are filled with couples, friends, and families. Tables of ten or so, crowded with aunts and cousins and brothers-in-law, are not uncommon. This is a diner atmosphere, snappy and spontaneous, but the food isn't burgers and fries.
Stuffed baby eggplants are meltingly smooth, cooked with tomatoes, onion, red pepper, and raisins that add a touch of sweetness. Spheres of falafel boast an ultra-crispy exterior under a spoonful of cool yogurt sauce. Eggplant salad is a smooth puree, served cold, at once smoky and tangy.
The menu is long and at times overwhelming. Skip right over the pasta, calamari, and fried clams—the treat here is found in alluring flavors revealed by recipes from the Turkish homeland. Doner kebab, thinly-sliced marinated lamb, is intensely meaty, if a bit oily; a crisp, pilsner-style bottle of the Turkish beer Efes, chosen from the small wine and beer list, is a pleasant companion.
A so-called Turkish pizza (known also as pideler) is one of the stars of the menu. Feta and Kasher cheeses—Kasher is similar to mozzarella, but with a tangier, round flavor—melt over an obelisk of light, fluffy dough. Toppings like ground beef, pastrami, and Turkish sausage are excellently spiced, and large slices of barely-cooked tomatoes add a layer of contrast.
The sizeable fish menu features mainstays like sea bass and trout, which are served whole next to rice pilaf or salad. Sardines are fried until crispy, a dozen or so to the plate, but their fishy flavor lacks any real depth.
Kol boregi, rectangles of housemade phyllo layered with a mild feta cheese, were somehow both doughy and impossibly chewy; the bottom where the phyllo had rested in the pan was as unyielding as a car tire.
Trays of housemade desserts like baklava or Kadayif, baked shredded wheat stuffed with walnuts and swimming in syrup, beckon once your meal is done, each a nice counterpart to a full-flavored Turkish coffee or tea. Enormous squares of thick milk pudding are deliciously burnt on the bottom, caramelizing the sugars in a lush reminder of flan.
Entrees range from $13.95-$17.95, meaning that treating all those aunts and cousins and brothers-in-law to even a casual meal could get expensive. Most of the portions are large enough to split, though, so perhaps the best thing to do is to eat family-style—which, based on the restaurant’s name, may have been the intent all along.
Brookline Family Restaurant Turkish Cuisine is open Monday through Wednesday 7am-10pm; Thursday through Saturday 7am-11pm, and Sunday 8am-10pm. 305 Washington Street, Brookline. MBTA: Green line (D) to Brookline Village, or Bus 65 & 66 to Harvard Street at Kent Street.