Photo By: Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
A new cafe opened last week, bringing gyros, shish kebabs and falafels to downtown Los Altos.
Café Nur’s crystal chandeliers, orange walls and dark-wood furniture have transformed the former home of the Crêpe Maker at 280 Main St. Owner Yusuf Tosun said he aims to serve “casual Mediterranean” to local customers hoping to see restaurants with longer hours downtown.
Gesturing to the vegetable salads and skewered, marinated meats, Tosun touted Mediterranean food as healthy and pointed out, “You see what you’re eating on the plate.”
The cafe is currently open 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“We want to stay open late,” Tosun said, noting that his Café 220 on University Avenue in Palo Alto doesn’t close until midnight. “Los Altos is changing – once places stay open later, people will come.”
Tosun’s wife crafts the homemade pastries that tempt walk-ins from the broad front counter. For a breakfast like no other in Los Altos, she bakes acma ($2), which loosely translates as a soft Turkish bagel stuffed with a mild cheese.
“You grab this on your way to work, with milk or tea or a yogurt drink,” Tosun explained, and despite the feta-like filling, “it’s not really sweet, it’s not really sour. It’s a good size for breakfast, especially for ladies.”
In addition to preparing a Turkish-style blend of black, mint and Earl Grey teas on a two-level kettle simmering on the stove, he offers Turkish coffee, straight from the traditional petite copper pot with a long wooden handle. The coffee pairs with the homemade baklava, and kadayifi, a similar sweet topped with wiry shreds of pastry. In the savory corner of the pastry zone, gigantic square spanakopitas wrap spinach and cheese in a jacket of phyllo dough ($4.95). Venture farther back into the cafe, and little pots of dappled cream and mahogany pudding reveal homemade rizogola.
“We don’t have a wood-burning oven, but we still make it in an oven. We make sure that it gets brown on top and has that golden color,” Tosun said of Turkey’s answer to rice pudding.
Wash the sweets down with a glass of the house-made ayran, a chilled drink of homemade yogurt thinned with water into a tangy, smoothie-like consistency.
Continuing the crepe tradition, Nur’s menu includes a variety of sweet French treats. But its breakfast offerings have also expanded to include omelets and Turkish specialties such as shakshuka ($8.95), eggs poached in tomatoes with onions, peppers and spices. The “Turkish Breakfast” ($13) offers a virtual gastronomic tour of sausage, eggs, pastry, olives, jam, feta, tomato, cucumber, salami and a pot of tea.
The lunch and dinner menu includes a variety of Mediterranean standards, but also a pastry of dill, parsley and feta called sigara boregi, fried like a Turkish eggroll. Pots of the arni kokinisto (lamb stew) tempt from a shelf above the kebabs.
Tosun said they’re planning deli specials once the cafe has settled in, including a vegetarian moussaka with feta, eggplant, potatoes and red bell pepper. The layered, lasagnalike dish is made throughout eastern Europe in different styles, usually with minced meet, but Tosun said you don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate their spin on the dish.
Tosun came to the U.S. from Turkey at 23 and got his start in the food industry as a busboy. He worked his way up, serving at the Neiman Marcus restaurant and then Los Altos resident Freddy Maddalena’s Palo Alto spots, Maddalena’s and Café Fino, along the way.
“I never imagined I was going to have a restaurant here, and this is my third one,” he said, reminiscing about starting in a market in Turkey as a boy. “I grew up from scratch to do all these things.”
In addition to Café Nur and Café 220, he founded and then sold a restaurant in Fremont.
For more information, call 917-2313.