If you accept the offer of tea, a çay bardağı arrives. The small, clear, tulip-shaped glass is filled with steaming çay (pronounced chai) the colour of honeyed crimson. Subtly flavoured with bergamot, it’s more than a hot drink marking the end of your meal. It’s an invitation to relaxation. To sociability. To connectivity. And it’s symbolic of Turkish hospitality.
“We want to create the culture of not just coming in to eat and leave. We want them to enjoy their time,” says Selim Yarar, who owns Meetpoint Restaurant with his wife, Mensure. “We offer tea all the time. If they accept it, it’s amazing — we like them to not rush, to slow their life, and basically (live) in the moment.”
Retired from their working lives in Ankara — Selim, a civil engineer, and Mensure, an accountant — opening a restaurant let them pursue shared passions for cooking and introducing Turkey’s warm restaurant culture to Waterloo Region.
“We wanted to bring that friendly environment of restaurants,” says their daughter, Damla. “We want to make friends. We want people to get together here, basically build a community. That’s the whole purpose of the restaurant.”
The 19-month-old Boardwalk restaurant is Meetpoint’s second incarnation. Originally in the University District, it was owned by Mensure’s brother, Ugur Akdogan, before closing in 2015. Akdogan is part of the casual upscale revamp, managing the restaurant, while Damla and her sister, Selin, are also involved, taking care of guests.
Important to Turkey’s complex culinary identity are its location and history. Along with the Fertile Crescent running through its southeast, it is home to rich arrays of edible plants and animals. Its physical location bridges Asia and Europe, where nomadic, migratory and sedentary groups created long-held social ties. Over 600 years, Ottoman Empire court kitchens nurtured and cross-pollinated culinary traditions with Asian, Baltic, Mediterranean and Islamic food cultures. Combined with its influence and local culinary practices, Turkish cuisine is justifiably identified as one of the world’s few great cuisines.
Meetpoint’s evolving menu touches on Turkey’s many flavours and specialties. You’ll find meze, kebabs and whole roasted fish, along with the millennia-long tradition of topped and stuffed breads. With the Yarars focused on quality ingredients, flavours are enhanced by the grill’s smoky char, tricklings of fruity-bitter olive oil, often gentle spicings, bastings of butter, and lemon’s or yogurt’s tartness.
Cold, refreshing, and with a lingering smokiness, the Grilled Eggplant Salad ($10) is an instant favourite. Rustically mashed roast tomatoes and eggplant, blended with peppers and onion, beautifully mixes lusciously soft and crunchy textures, with rich and sharp flavours. I admit to dotting it on köfte and later scooping into it with pita chips. I also admit to returning for more.
The Inegöl Köfte’s ($22) peppery mix of beef and lamb, shaped into finger-length meatballs, is redolent with smoke and reminiscent of ćevapi. They arrive, swaddled in a fresh-baked linen-thin yufka with buttery pilav studded with nutty toasted orzo, and roasted tomato and bell pepper. It’s accompanied by a green salad, topped with shredded magenta beets and snowy onion slivers, lightly dressed in tangy pomegranate dressing.
Deciding between lahmacun (lah-ma-djin) and a boat-shaped pide (pee-deh) was tough, but a Spinach Pide ($18) came home. Before baking, freshly rolled dough is heaped with fresh leaves, dolloped with ricotta, and scattered with pul biber. Afterwards, its golden crust is basted in butter, sliced and served with a dilled yogurt dip. Delicious.
Şekerpare (sh’car-paray) ($6) roughly translates to “a bit of sugar.” Part cookie and part cake, the walnut-topped semolina dessert perfectly pairs with black coffee. Drizzled with simple syrup, their buttery, pistachio-dusted Baklava ($6) is moreish.
At Meetpoint, the Yarars invite you to share in their delicious culinary culture, with a genuine welcome, filled with warmth and joy, that’s reminiscent of family.
“When guests came to our house, my mum always said, ‘Eat! Eat! Eat!’” says Mensure. “The restaurant is like our house. It (feeding others) makes us happy.”
1 The Boardwalk, #400, Waterloo
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Monday: closed.
Menu: Turkish cuisine featuring regional specialties, including salads and mezze selections, koftes and kebabs, pides, fish and desserts. Scratch-made dishes feature very good ingredients. Vegetarian, nonvegetarian, vegan options. Halal. Children’s menu. Wheat flour and products, as well as nuts, are in the kitchen. Diners requiring gluten-free options should inform the restaurant when ordering. Drink selections include wines, spirits (including raki), beers and coffees.
Payment: Cash, debit, Mastercard, Visa.
How to get your food: Patio dining, walk-up.
Preordered pickup: Please allow at least 30 minutes.
Delivery: In-house delivery for Kitchener and Waterloo (delivery fee waived). DoorDash. Skip The Dishes. UberEats.
Accessibility: The main entrance is wheelchair accessible, although the patio entrance from the sidewalk has a step. Push-button door opener at the patio; openers will be installed on the main door and the washrooms. Grabrails in the washrooms. The patio has good space between tables.
The Bill: $70.06 for one starter, two mains and two desserts.
Ordering food in the time of coronavirus: As restaurants are making decisions on a day-to-day basis, please check their social media or call them for updates. Lists of restaurants operating while dining rooms are closed can be found at bit.ly/3d2JV74 and wilmotstrongertogether.ca; a crowdsourced list is on Facebook’s Food In The Waterloo Region at bit.ly/3d1cKAX.