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Nazif's Is Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Nazif’s Turkish Grill & Deli swings into action with olive oil, tomatoes, yogurt, sheep’s milk cheese, tea and more from its delicious Mediterranean crossroads cuisine.

 See inside Nazif's kitchen and cozy up to its massive wood-burning oven in our slideshow.

The sound of tiny silver spoons against the gold-trimmed glass cups of tea on every table at Nazif's was clinking across the room like dozens of wind chimes, the hum of dozens more conversations in Turkish purring underneath like the babble of a gentle river. Since opening in June, Nazif's and its popular Sunday brunch have become the meeting place for Turkish expats and their families, who crowd into the restaurant starting at 10:30 a.m. and often stay through the afternoon, drinking cups of chai and dancing to the live music that bounces cheerfully off the cool tiles and high ceilings.

My friend Jessica and I sat back from our plates, which were covered with half-moons of cucumbers and tomatoes jumbled together with salty cubes of white Turkish cheese — a basic Turkish breakfast — and warm piles of eggy menemen soaking up the olive oil from nearby mounds of red pepper- and eggplant-filled akuka, heavier dishes that are usually reserved for big affairs like Sunday brunch.

A sausage- and egg-stuffed pide is the Turkish version of a calzone, but better.
Tony Fields
A sausage- and egg-stuffed pide is the Turkish version of a calzone, but better.

Location Info

Map

Nazif's Turkish Grill & Deli

8821 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77063

Category: Restaurant > Turkish

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Details

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Baby lahmacun: $1.95
Shepherd's salad: $3.45
Mixed appetizer plate: $7.95
Sausage pide: $8.95
Pideli köfte: $9.95
Sunday brunch buffet: $14.95
Baklava: $3.95

READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: Turkish Delights at Nazif's Turkish Grill & Deli
BLOGPOST: Nazif's Brings Affordable, Amazing Turkish Food to West Houston

"This is the point in the meal at which we'd have a cigarette or two," Jessica said. "If we were back in Istanbul." Although I don't smoke, I enjoyed the idea of a mid-meal break and tried to picture Jessica's life in Turkey, where she'd taught school for a year and a half before returning to her hometown of Houston.

As we took a mid-meal break of our own, Jessica told me wistful stories of her daily life there through tales of food: waiters like those at Nazif's who allowed you to linger at a cafe table over cups of chai as long as you liked; the color-saturated markets at the base of nearly every building, where vendors would send kilos of mushrooms in baskets on rope-based pulley systems up to apartment dwellers; the sensory pleasures of endless bushels of tomatoes sweeter than she'd ever found in Texas, of produce so fresh it was still caked with dirt; and simit hawkers roaming the streets balancing trays stacked high with sesame seed-topped rings of bread and crying out "Simitçi!" as they went.

"They're so good," Jessica said. "People say they're like bagels, but they aren't. They're simple but wonderful." On the table next to us, Jessica suddenly noticed, there was a single simit on a plate, speckled black with sesame seeds. The bread hadn't been on the Sunday brunch buffet, although 50 other dishes were — including two types of bread and husky squares of börek with spinach stuffed between flaky layers of phyllo dough. She asked our waitress, but Nazif's was out of the simit. As with many of the restaurant's specialties — kebap, rice pudding — you have to arrive early to order it or wait until next time.

It hardly mattered, though, since we continued to cure Jessica's reverse-homesickness for her adopted Turkish home with olive oil-poached artichokes, smoky hunks of stewed eggplant, yogurt-topped potatoes under a dark green dusting of parsley and dill, fluffy bazlama bread coated with butter and strawberry jam — light dishes reflecting Turkey's warm climate in the summer and dishes that were equally attractive on that muggy Houston morning.

Jessica admitted at the end of the meal that although she'd been home for a month, she'd avoided Turkish food despite her longing for the olive oil, tomatoes, yogurt, sheep's-milk cheese and tea she'd come to love in Turkey, not wanting a bad meal to mar her memories.

"This was perfect," she beamed, sipping the last of her Turkish coffee. Jessica offered a compliment in Turkish to a family next to us on their two beautiful, giggling children as we left after nearly three hours spent at Nazif's. She felt at home once again.
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Much of the reason that Jessica and the expats who crowd Nazif's feel at home can be attributed to owner Nazif Farsak. Although the tomatoes he gets here may not be as furiously red and ripe as those in Istanbul, his commitment to finding the best ingredients (including locally raised lamb for his urfa kebap and kuzu çöp i) and making everything — even the pide dough — from scratch shows in the wonderful food at his namesake restaurant. Eating at Nazif's can't be compared to eating in Turkey, thanks mostly to its location at Westheimer and Fondren in a plainly Houstonian strip center, but it's as close as you'll get here.

That said, Farsak — who's a constant presence in the restaurant — is smartly reaching out to average Texan diners as well with daily lunch specials that offer a tremendous amount of food for shockingly low prices. On a return visit, I took along a pizza- and burger-loving friend who'd never so much as tried Greek food, let alone Turkish food — a glorious jumble of Mediterranean cuisines thanks to its location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Perhaps thanks in part to the great density of Middle Eastern restaurants in Houston, my friend not only found the Turkish food relatable — who among us hasn't had hummus by now? — but relished every bite.

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13 comments
sjmarsha
sjmarsha

Well, I think I need to try this just for the They Might Be Giants reference alone. The mouth watering description is just a bonus.

solmazbulut22
solmazbulut22

Traveling and food is my passion. I have been eating many restorants all over the world. I could define Nazif's Restorant is a definitely gourmet restaurant. Because food is highest quality and flavor, prepared well and presented in an artful manner. Most importantly, kitchen area and bathrooms are extremely clean. They also have life music on Friday and Saturday Nights which is so much fun. Meanwhile, such a friendly and comfortable atmosphere people starts dancing and singing Plus, they have free organigal Turkish tea :)

ozge.gurcanli
ozge.gurcanli

This place is amazing ! I am Turkish and I have been looking for the best Adana kebap since I have been to US (2006). I tried many places in New York, Chicago and DC. I have recently moved to Houston. Thanks to your review, I decided to try Nazif's. The best Adana kebap ever in US! If you are looking for a lowkey but delicious dinner, give it a try. You will be back !! (Bathroom was fine when I was there)

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

This was a fantastic review, Ms. S. I can't wait to try this spot.

essenvolljetzt
essenvolljetzt

took your recommendation and tried Nazif's...more wonderful than you described even! love that spicy lahmacun (turkish pizza), and the fact that it's a byob operation. in the monthly rotation now. thanks!

Anna M. Stone
Anna M. Stone

Check out Cafe' Rita on Dairy Ashford between Memorial and I-10.

thorwilliams1
thorwilliams1

I was there a couple of weeks ago for a dinner party.  the men's room was 2 inches deep in water,  the women's room had a sink that was out of order.

needless to say,  after discovering this, we left...  

how could they allow such poor sanitory conditions?  makes you wonder, how were the employees taking care of their hygene?  

timblack2
timblack2 topcommenter

Gotta be Jessica Walters you're talking about. Small world.

del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

We ate there recently, and can vouch for the quality, service and value of the food!  Superb.. and since it's BYOB  a good wine is perfect with this delectable food!

solmazbulut22
solmazbulut22

This is so rediculus !!! Because, I have been in Houston almost 4 mounths and I eat there at least 3 to 4 times a week. This incident happened one time only and could also happenes in our house. I can not believe you put this here. You seemed like extremely judgemental. Bytheway, I am from Turkey and you should know that Turkish people do not eat if the place is not clean !!!

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Annnnnd then I read this... Yikes!

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@thorwilliams1  

If the bathroom was filthy with a sewage problem then that would be a testimony to the restaurants authenticity.  Like Jessica, I also lived and taught in Istanbul.  The city is a feast for the senses.  Anyway, I look forward to trying Nazif's.  Thus far I've been getting my fix at Istanbul Grill. Good Turkish food but without the dysentery.

 
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