Jump to content

Cafe Istanbul, Turkish Buffet and Döner Kebabs on 20th and L Street Downtown - Closed

Recommended Posts


2001 L St. NW

Washington, DC 20036

Phone: (202) 331-2055

Web: http://www.cafeistanbultogo.com/

Cafe Istanbul never seems to have anyone in it, but it's a good choice for a sandwich if you're in the neighborhood. I can't vouch for the Turkish buffet or the average-looking pizza as I've tried neither, but the Döner Pita ($5.99) is the real deal. The meat, which is much more lamby than an American gyro, is sliced from the traditional rotisserie and served on homemade pita with shredded lettuce and your choice of the usual toppings, like cacik (tzatziki), tomato and cucumber salad, hummus, babaganoush, and tabbouleh. Cafe Istanbul's version reminds me of the döners I used to get in Frankfurt, where one is available on nearly every street corner. I haven't seen too many in DC, and I like the one here. I'm not sure I'd travel across town for it, but it's a nice alternative if you're nearby and don't feel like standing in line for a gyro at the Greek Deli.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll vouch for the buffet. :) It's been a couple of months since I stopped in, but the buffet is usually a lamb or chicken stew of some sort, accompanied by rice, your choice of vegetable and legume additions, and pita bread. It's always very nice quality and cooked by someone who clearly knows her way around a kitchen. I've never been to Turkey, but if I did go, and you happened to have a grandmother whose family get-together dishes just happened to be everybody's favorite, well, I would not at all be surprised if her cooking didn't taste something like this. I'm also a big fan of their Ayran, which they don't always have, but it's a very sour and tangy, almost kefir-like drink.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/8/2013 at 6:33 PM, RWBooneJr said:

Closed, sadly. This place was a great lunch spot in Midtown that nobody seemed to know about. Guess I'll have to find another place for my Döner fix.

On 1/14/2013 at 11:39 AM, RWBooneJr said:

Correction: it moved to Adams Morgan (sort of).

I'm hoping that people on the forum can help me sort through this. 

Cafe Istanbul, formerly at 2001 L St. NW, still has an active website listing that address:

Screenshot 2018-01-11 at 12.54.06.png

However, I went to Google Maps, and searched the street view for that address, and saw nothing. I also went to Minshall Stewart's website for the property (which they acquired in 2011, and renovated in 2013), and saw nothing.

A few days ago, I drove by the area where Snap and Spoon are/were in Adams Morgan, and there was a handwritten sign on Spoon (or was it Snap?) ending with the words "SORRY!" - but I didn't see what it said.

Does anyone know whether or not Cafe Istanbul still exists, in some form or another, and if so, where? There are several Snaps in the area, aren't there? Perhaps with the same ownership as Cafe Istanbul? And what does Spoon have to do with all of this?

I dialed the number on Cafe Istanbul's website, and the gentleman who answered told me I had reached Pizzaro, at 467 Florida Ave. NW. Given how similar the websites are in appearance, I'm under the strong assumption that this is the same ownership, but all this does is confuse things further.

With the possible exception of the damnable Pines of Italy (NB - Mario Batali is opening "Penis of Eataly"), this is the single-most confusing situation I've come across in 12+ years here.


Modern-Day Journalism at its finest,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Despite the name, in the end Cafe Istanbul was primarily a pizza place, at least in terms of menu space and what most people appeared to be ordering at lunch. Pizzaro also has a remarkably similar Turkish menu to this archived one for Cafe Istanbul and nearly all of the dishes in common have identical names. However, the first Yelp review for Pizzaro is dated 5/12/2012, which is before Cafe Istanbul's closing (and my original post).  Cafe Istanbul's first Yelp review is 9/27/2010.  I would bet it has, or at some point had, the same or closely related ownership. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...