The busy Mirqab al Jadeed St. in Al Nasr is jam-packed with eateries selling everything from fresh juice and shawarmas to Thai food and pizza.
But right in the middle of it stands one of the most popular restaurants in Qatar – Turkey Central.
Hungry residents have been dining on that restaurant’s grilled meats, fresh mezze and homemade bread for nearly three decades.
The eatery’s legacy began in 1988, after Bedi Kizilkaya moved to Qatar from Hatay, Antakya, in southern Turkey.
At the time, he was a young, ambitious entrepreneur looking for a better life for his family, which included his wife and their infant son, Hakan.
An expert in restaurant management, Kizilkaya opened Turkey Central in the Al Nasr neighborhood and it quickly became a household name.
The restaurant was forced to temporarily close while moving down the street a few years ago due to construction in the area (with only 40 days notice), but business has been brisk ever since.
Now, his son and the eatery’s manager Hakan Kizilkaya light-heartedly says, “We have Turkish people who tell us all the time, still to this day, that Turkey Central is better than food in Turkey!”
Secret to success
Speaking to Doha News this week, Kizilkaya credited the restaurant’s success to it being a family affair.
He said his father’s four brothers were a proud part of the eatery from the start.
Now, their children, as well as Hakan and his brother Okan, are all involved in the business, so that cousins, brothers, uncles and fathers work each day side-by-side.
According to Hakan Kizilkaya, many in the family went to Turkey for school but returned to Qatar to help with the business.
“There is a strong pull to keep our restaurant authentic and part of our family. We are proud that our restaurant’s staff is almost all family or friends from our home town,” he said.
But he added:
“It’s not that we are not open to other people or nationalities. Our family is very welcoming to all people.
We just feel that Turkey Central can feed our guests the most authentic of Turkish cuisine if it comes from people who know what good-quality, delicious Turkish food is.”
Tasty, authentic and reasonably-priced food is exactly what Turkey Central is renowned for in Qatar.
The restaurant is perhaps best-known for its mixed grill platters – an array of chicken and beef kebabs and kofta (grilled minced chicken or beef seasoned with fresh spices).
The key is apparently in the secret family marinade that the kitchen staff has been using all these years.
As Hakan Kizilkaya explained:
“My father has always insisted on using the best quality meats and ingredients, as well as keeping our prices low. He wants the food at our restaurant to remind his guests of a delicious home-cooked Turkish meal.”
The eatery’s mezze, fresh choices of hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, and other Turkish specialties are also popular with restaurant-goers.
And every meal is served with hot, freshly baked Turkish bread.
A serious businessman, Turkey Central’s founder is also kind and generous to his family and staff, Hakan Kizilkaya said of his father.
“He has worked so hard in his life, starting with nothing, in order to build a successful business. We are a family restaurant at heart.”
He added that it’s hard to be on call all the time because the business demands it. On the rare occasions that the family has time off together, relatives like to spend it at home together, relaxing and eating good food.
Asked whether they ever tired of Turkish cuisine, Hakan Kizilkaya said, never – especially if his mom is doing the cooking.