A first look at North Center's Pide ve Lahmacun

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Lahmacun: you might want to have some breath mints on hand
  • Ted Cox
  • Lahmacun: you might want to have some breath mints on hand
I'd be happy if the Brown Line station at Irving Park were my el stop. Just steps away is the brand-new Pide ve Lahmacun, a bright commuter-friendly storefront that's kind of an anti-Starbucks, offering excellent coffee, brewed hot tea, and salep, a foamy Turkish hot drink traditionally made from orchid tubers. For $2.50 you can add to one of those a Turkish "samosa," freshly baked dough packets stuffed with feta or meat (all here halal) and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. But the house specialties are the street foods broadcast by the name: freshly made Turkish "pizza" you can top with an egg if you like.

"Turkish people are very picky about it," says Ikuko Aslan, wife of owner Sukur Aslan, who also runs the neighboring I-Cafe. "Some like it crispy, some chewy"—in other words, it's a matter of taste, somewhat like thin- and thick-crust. Here you have a choice. Lahmacun is a thin flatbread topped with beef and lamb and served with lemon, a little pile of parsley, and sumac-sprinkled raw onion. As with a New York-style slice, this can be rolled up and eaten on the run, though given its size—one covers the plate—you might want to sit down down and share it with someone. In fact, at $3.50 per flatbread, this would be one of the cheapest dinner dates imaginable.

Pide, on the other hand, is a hand-shaped oval of dough a bit similar to a calzone, but lighter, chewier, and topped rather than filled with a choice of ingredients—mozzarella, ground beef, feta, vegetables, or sucuk, a spicy dried Turkish sausage, thickly sliced and toothsome. All prepared to order, these take 15 to 20 minutes, but you could always have a starter while you're waiting—the chickpea salad ($6.50), served on a bed of spinach and lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon, was fresh and appealing despite the pallid winter tomatoes. Or you could call in advance for pickup.

Food can be also taken next door to the I-Cafe, aka Sukur's Place. A cabbie hangout, open till 5 AM nightly and often packed, it seems a world away from its quiet little sister.

Pide ve Lahmacun, 1812 W. Irving Park, 773-248-6344; Mon-Sat 7 AM to 7 PM.

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