Around the World in Houston: Discover Turkey

Photo courtesy of Houston Turkish Festival

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

Enjoy traditional music and dance at the Houston Turkish Festival, nosh on döner sandwiches, köfte, and lahmacun (think of it like Turkish pizza), register for cooking and language classes, and experience the essence of Turkish culture without leaving Houston.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • American Turkish Association Houston Founded in 1979, this local nonprofit offers a variety of social, educational, cultural and charitable activities, and aims to provide assistance to Turkish citizens living in Houston.
  • Raindrop Turkish House Founded by Turkish-Americans in Houston in 2000, this nonprofit women’s association now operates in six states: Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and New Mexico. The foundation aims to cultivate friendship and promote understanding of diverse cultures, establishing bridges between the Turkish and American cultures and communities by providing easily accessible educational, social and cultural services. Register for cooking and language classes, coffee nights and more.
  • Arts of the Islamic Worlds at MFAH The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston exhibits and interprets art from the Islamic worlds, with its collection including sacred and secular art, like an early-16th-century tondino made in Iznik, Turkey.

Turkish Food & Drink

Restaurants & Cafes

  • Basha Kabab This Med Center spot serves a mix of Mediterranean, Halal, Turkish and Middle Eastern specialties, including shish kabab, lentil soup, lamb kofta, and baklava.
  • Beeezzz Doner & KebapCheck out this westside food truck, which slings quality doner and kebap plates, wraps, and sandwiches late into the night.
  • Crisp Doner Cafe Located next to George Bush Park, this casual cafe specializes in beef, lamb, and chicken doner kebap cooked over a wood chargrill. Save room for the oven-baked rice pudding, another house specialty.
  • Dogarz Doner Head to Midtown for gourmet döner sandwiches in a fast-casual setting.
  • Empire Turkish Grill This elegant Memorial restaurant offers a bouquet of Turkish flavors, with entrees from lamb sis kebab and filet mignon adana to erista Turkish pasta and kremali tavuk (chicken with cream), plus an $11.95 lunch special.
  • Ephesus Mediterranean Grill Over in Katy, Ephesus offers a blend of Turkish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eats, from sis kebab and chicken with cream to kunefe dessert.
  • Istanbul Grill & Deli Transport yourself straight to Istanbul at this charming Rice Village haunt, which offers dishes like mercimek (red lentil soup) and kelle paça (beef stew), döner and köfte sandwiches and kebab, lahmacun and pide (Turkish pizza and calzone), and baklava and fιrιn sütlaç (rice pudding).
  • Nazif’s You’ll want to do Sunday brunch at this Galleria-area Turkish haunt; that’s when you’ll find live music, strong tea and coffee, and an impressive, buffet-style spread of traditional Turkish breakfast items. Lunch and dinner—offering a la carte dishes like Turkish sausage pide, adana kebap, and mixed grill—are no joke either.
  • Pasha Pasha has been serving locals Turkish and Mediterranean fare since 2004, with dishes including traditional Turkish red lentil soup, imam bayildi (stuffed eggplant), sigara börek (fried cheese pastry), doner and kofte kebab, alinazik (tender lamb over eggplant puree), manti (Turkish ravioli), menemen (an egg and vegetable dish), lahmacun (Turkish pizza), and kazandibi (a flan-like caramelized custard).
  • Turquoise Grill Head to Sugar Land Town Square to find Turkish specialties like sigara boregi (fried cheese and phyllo rolls), haydari (yogurt dip), sujuk (dried beef sausage) shish kebab and mini lahmajun (flatbread pizza), in addition to other Mediterranean-inspired fare.

Grocery Shops & Bakeries

  • Simit & Poacha Hit this westside bakery to pick up simit (think of it like a Turkish bagel), su borek (baked pastries) filled with feta cheese or chocolate, and pide (Turkish pita) topped with things like mozzarella, soujouk sausage, and spinach.
  • Phoenicia Specialty Foods Started over 30 years ago by Bob and Arpi Tcholakian (formerly of Lebanon and of Armenian descent), this bustling international market now hosts two locations. Both offer ingredients traditionally found in Turkish cuisine, like Turkish figs, rose water, Shanklish cheese, kabob spices, and quince; plus Turkish coffee, wine and beer; and baked goods and sweets like baklava and pideh bread and Turkish delight.

Language Classes & Meet-Ups

  • Berlitz This language learning center offers flexible programs for adults and children, with languages from Tagalog to Farsi.
  • Turks in Houston This Facebook group connects Turks living in and around the Houston area.

Other Notables

  • BBVA Compass Stadium Football fans can get their fix at this EaDo soccer stadium, home to both the Houston Dynamo and the Houston Dash.
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .