Crowd mobs Istanbul Grille for last lunch

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

Today was the day I decided not to carry my lunch to work and to go instead, finally, to the Istanbul Grille.
I have passed the take-out spot at 673 Liberty Ave. numerous times, forgoing the yummy smells, unbidden by the long lines because I had already brought my lunch and had to get back to work.
I stood in the doorway for about five minutes before I realized that the people who filled the tiny place were not waiting for their orders, they were waiting to order. So I took my spot at the back of the longest line I have ever stood in for lunch and began to believe the Istanbul Grille has built a cult following.
I asked the woman behind me if she had come here before and whether there was a menu.
She was a regular. “I’ve been here three times this week because this is its last day here,” Emily Balawejder told me. 
“Oh, that’s why so many people are waiting,” I said.
“Oh no, it’s like this all the time,” she said.
I had seen lines but none like this. This was an outpouring, a grief lunch, a demonstration of support. Soon someone handed me a petition. The business is losing its lease and its fans are protesting.  
When it was my turn, I didn’t quite know what to do. There was a buffet table of foods that women behind it served into Styrofoam cartons. I wanted everything. I hemmed and hawed until a guy beside me offered the verbal playbook: “You can get a cold plate or a hot plate and choose white sauce or hot sauce or hummus.”
I chose a hot plate and a cold plate, one for lunch and one for tomorrow. I specified so many things for the cold plate that my server had a hard time closing it. Emily had told me that I had to try the carrots.
“They’re in some kind of yogurt garlic sauce that I have been unable to replicate,” she said.
Between bites of the hot plate, I have been tapping out this blog post. I am thinking about all the lunches I could have had there and missed. But I am mainly thinking about the serendipity of my decision this morning and how lucky I am to be eating this lunch right now. 
I hope Istanbul Grille finds another location Downtown, but if not, there's consolation in the fact of an Istanbul Grille run by the same people at 4130 Butler St. in Lawrenceville.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.