Cafe Divan

A snug and stylish Turkish cafe.

From June 2006 Cheap Eats

Named for Istanbul's still-snazzy Divan Hotel, this snug cafe on Wisconsin Avenue in upper Georgetown proves that style and substance are not incompatible. The glass-walled dining room looks like a page out of Metropolitan Home, the people-watching crowd is a mix of old and young sophisticates, and the food goes well beyond Turkey's greatest hits.

Besides perfectly fried sigara borek, cigar-shaped rolls of dough deep-fried and oozing cheese, the kitchen turns out (on weekends only) the rarely seen sous borek, a delicately layered affair of house-made dough and parsley-flecked feta baked in the wood oven. There's also a lovely iman bayaldi, the classic stuffed-eggplant dish, sweet with tomatoes and glistening with olive oil, which easily surpasses the timid eggplant salad.

Doner kebab, thin slices of meat shaved from a large roast of lamb and veal cooked on a vertical spit, is especially good, whether you have it solo or in a dish called iskander kebab, in which the meat is tossed with bits of pita and tomato sauce. Two other can't-miss lamb dishes are kuzu guvec, a hearty lamb-and-eggplant casserole, and lamajun, a thin, crispy, open-faced pie with ground lamb and piquant bits of pepper. Lighter fare includes boat-shaped "Turkish pizzas" sporting the unlikely but delicious mating of kasseri cheese and fried eggs.

Kazan dibi, a silky rice-flour pudding with a scorched crust–the Ottoman answer to creme brulee–is a sweet finish.


Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.