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Istanbul Grill

By Scott Millsop

The signage at The Istanbul Grill is fairly staid. Immigrant owned restaurants are often advertised with flashy, message intensive graphics. Nanyea, which is only a couple of blocks away, features strong African imagery, to convey its Ethiopian origins. But Istanbul Grill features just its name and the outline of a bridge. No need for flashy graphics. Just say “Istanbul” and it’s clear we’re talking about Turkish food. But the bridge hints at something else, and indeed, there is more to the story.

The Bosphorous Bridge is the link between Old Istanbul and New Istanbul. As reported by Herodotus, it was first proposed by Emperor Darius the Great (522 BC–485 BC). It wasn’t actually built until 1973. The history of Istanbul is long and important. It has previously been known as Lycos, Byzantium, Nova Roma and Constantinople.

Photos by Bobby Tewksbury

In today’s world, the bridge is the connector between Europe and Asia. As reported by Avaz Aripov, owner of the Istanbul Grill in Dayton, in the strongly Islamic old Istanbul if a man is holding his girlfriend’s hand in public they will get in trouble. On the New Istanbul side of the bridge, it is a modern, world class city that embraces vibrant life and that surely includes food.


There’s more to the metaphor. The Istanbul Grill is just off Dixie Drive which is the street that bisects Dayton into east and west. Dixie crosses the National Road at an intersection once known as the Crossroads of America.


All this geography is important. There are large cultural differences between these various norths and souths and easts and wests. But everyone loves good food. There is a large Turkish community in Dayton, and we want everyone to know this place. On both sides of the bridge and either side of Dayton there is a message here: This is about meat! Yum!

Check out the platter that will be served. Those are lamb chops! There is steak on there too. And chicken. And a sort of spicy meatloaf called Adona made from minced beef or chicken. To set some expectations, Turkish food is similar to Greek food. The spices are slightly different and there is a lot of enjoyment to be had exploring flavors. Many of the cooking techniques are shared. Here we can learn something both obscure and obvious. There is a very popular Greek dish called Gyros. It comes from the Turkish meaning “to turn” because that is how it is cooked. Avaz would like you to know that “baklava” is also a Turkish name.


They sell Pizza at the Istanbul Grill. They sell a lot of it. It’s delivered via Grub Hub and Uber and Door Dash. It’s a very good version of a familiar food. But they also sell Turkish variations, and they are not to be missed. Lahmacum is flatbread version topped with tomatoes, garlic, onion, peppers and parsley. It’s tangy when served with fresh vegetables and lemon. Then there is Pide, which is a billowy soft bread shaped in such a way that the cheese is thick.


We just described vegetarian dishes, so don’t despair if you’re all veggie and we’re praising meat. As we cleaned off the platter at our tasting, we found ourselves praising the rice as the best we’ve had.


The family owners purchased the building 2018 – an abandoned Mexican restaurant. Avaz says, “It was horrible.” He was told, “You own a construction business.” The Istanbul Grill opened in 2021.

It’s a family business for sure, with international vibes. The patriarch, Avaz was born in Uzbekistan. He grew up to age 19 in Russia before coming to America. He’s planning a vacation for later in the summer in which family members will travel the entire perimeter of Turkey. To be authentic you have to keep the roots alive. Turkish coffee. You’ve heard about it, but very likely never tasted it. Now is your chance. To be honest, it’s just thick, strong coffee. But it’s served with a small cube of sweetness called Lucum. Lucum might well be a new flavor for you. That makes it something special.

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