Best New Restaurants 2022: Tulip Café
At this small Hayden Run spot, co-owners Hatice Kucuker and Hanife Evliyaoglu serve scratch-made Turkish fare such as manti, doner kebabs, borek, simit and pistachio baklava.
It’s a new eatery, but Tulip Café began as a business years ago when two Turkish women—co-owners Hatice Kucuker and Hanife Evliyaoglu—started selling beautiful breads and pastries at farmers markets.
Occupying a small but cute space in a Dublin strip mall, this brick-and-mortar Tulip is primarily a bakery and takeout operation with short-order-style savory dishes and inviting coffee drinks (like terrific Turkish coffee), but practically no place to sit.
Although “café” might seem like a somewhat inaccurate designation, after tasting Tulip’s standout fare, you probably won’t care what this lovable eatery is called.
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Tulip’s fantastic manti—supple little meat-filled dumplings in a haunting yogurt-tomato-butter sauce—demonstrates an expertise with dough. Ditto for the melt-in-your-mouth layered cheese borek, assembled with a pastalike, protein-rich dough made with 18 eggs.
Artistry with various other types of dough is likewise evident in somehow-crispy house bread cubes soaking up profuse juices in the huge Iskender doner kebab, a feast-in-a-bowl starring halal gyro-style meat, tomato sauce and yogurt; in the hefty Turkish bagel, a sesame-seeded, puffy wheel evocative of a jumbo soft pretzel; and in stellar desserts like genre-eclipsing pistachio baklava, distinctive tres leches cake and the fanciest, best Turkish delight ever.
Labor of Love: Tulip’s bestseller is the layered cheese borek, a tangy yet comforting casserole that’s easy to love (think: elegant mac ’n’ cheese) but hard to make. The sublime, labor-intensive construction enriched with ricotta, feta and sour cream involves boiling, shock-chilling, resting and stacking 10 layers of noodles later encased in house-made phyllo.
If You Bake It, They Will Come: After becoming friends through the Turkish American Society of Ohio, Kucuker and Evliyaoglu put their heads and baking talents together for fundraising events benefiting charities and TASO, an immigrant-aid organization. The off-the-charts sales begat a business whose farmers market appearances garnered intense encouragement from delighted customers, which led to the brick-and-mortar Tulip Café.
Not Lost in Translation: Tulip’s Turkish take on tres leches cake, a Latin-American classic, is the favorite dessert of co-owner/baker extraordinaire Kucuker. Like its inspiration, the cake is light, airy and saturated with dairy, yet structurally sound. Tulip’s inspired version also has Chantilly-like Turkish whipped cream, beguiling caramel icing and attractive geometric decorations.
2926 Hayden Run Plaza, Northwest Columbus
This story is from the February 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.