I hate being told what to do. Particularly at brunch. I’m an only child—and a Bitch—so of course I hate it.
This was how brunch began at Ankara, when I was brunching with my parents and the real boss, our Maltese-Shih Tzu, Daisy Mae.
As we sat down, the waitress sternly explained the rules of brunch. We all had to participate in the bottomless and endless brunch, if one of us wanted to do so. Or we must order lunch. And we had to decide right now.
I was exhausted—a busy week of work followed by my parents arrival, you see. It was pouring rain. I just wanted a cup of coffee, a glass of water, and some eggs. I didn’t feel like sitting down and immediately being told what to do. I already had my parents there for that. And, who wants rules at brunch?
We were invited in to brunch at Ankara, which offers a bottomless-and-endless brunch for $37. Brunch includes a starter of sweet and savory Turkish appetizers, followed by whatever you want on the menu. This $37 also includes Turkish tea, mimosas, Bloody Marys and vodka drinks. It’s actually a great deal—as it basically includes everything.
But, you don’t have to order everything.
The waitress was, in actuality, absolutely lovely. We simply began on the wrong foot. She’d clearly been instructed to be very clear on the brunch rules—lest people take advantage of the great deal. She proceeded to charm the pants off all of us: carding my 65-year-old father for his Bloody Mary, befriending the bossy puppy, and impressing me by generally being attentive, good-natured and lovely. She was also absolutely beautiful—I had half a mind to ask her if she was single and set her up with my most eligible guy friend.
Brunch began with the Chef’s selection: Kalamata olives marinated in extra Virgin olive oil. Labneh, strained yogurt dip; Htipiti, the traditional Turkish red pepper dip with Feta, Thyme, and olive oil. Of course, there was hummus, which was delicious. It was all served with delicious, hot and fluffy Turkish bread—served with honey, raspberry jam and butter. Slathered with butter and honey, this bread was immensely satisfying. I’m accustomed to the traditional Turkish spread—Istanbul is one of my favorite cities—and we all have our favorites. For me, it’s the red pepper spread and the olives. My mother loved the hummus, but eschewed the yogurt dip. My father enjoyed them all.
For the main course, you can order omelets or eggs. Mom ordered the Aegean, with spinach, tomato and feta. Dad ordered the Mediterranean, with tomato, green pepper, and kasar cheese. I ordered the scrambled eggs with spiced beef sausage.
The eggs were all lackluster. Each dish was incredibly dry and lacked flavor. So much so that my mother sent hers back—politely requesting a different dish—the Mozzarella omelet—and asking that it be cooked properly.
“I think this about a C, guys, I’m sorry.” I said to the parents—apologizing for not bringing them somewhere awesome for their visit. My mother is the type of woman who cries for the team that loses the Super Bowl. She sees the good in everything and everyone and is nice to pretty much everyone. Her patience and generosity astounds me. I acquired her generosity of spirit but not her patience.
“Make sure you mention that the restaurant as incredibly clean and the service was impeccable.” she said, feeling guilt by association for the forthcoming lackluster review—despite moments earlier being supremely dissatisfied with her dry eggs. “Will you at least give them a C+? They deserve the plus.” she said.
The food at Ankara is average. I’ve honed my palate over the years of writing reviews and luckily the dining options available in Washington have improved over the years as well. The food is authentically Turkish—and I like Turkish food. The ingredients are not the best to begin with and the preparation is just lackluster—at least for the entrees. The dips and starters are great—good for happy hour, maybe.
We hadn’t yet made it to the desserts, which were pretty good and authentically Turkish. We had all three desserts: Baklava, rice pudding, and an apricot dish. They were served with Turkish tea, which was delightful. The apricot dish was dried apricots stuffed with a walnut, topped with pistachio crumbles, and served with a sweet Marscapone spread. This dessert was the waitress’ favorite, and it was ours too—it was unique and delicious.
I will say a few strong things about Ankara: it’s great for groups—the restaurant and its patio are enormous. The bottomless is affordable—$37 for all you can eat and drink. It’s a great spot if you’re a young 20-something with a tight budget and you want to go to brunch with you friends.
The Bitches say: C+. Ankara offers authentic Turkish food in a lackluster restaurant that’s incredibly clean with great service. There’s an enormous patio and a cheap bottomless and endless option. If you want Turkish brunch, bottomless brunch, or Turkish brunch with bottomless, go there. If you want a gourmet or fine dining experience, do not.
1320 19th St. N.W.
Ankara serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.