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Pera Brings Fresh Istanbul Food to University District

Walker Evans Walker Evans Pera Brings Fresh Istanbul Food to University District
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After a decade at Easton, Cafe Istanbul is rapidly expanding into other neighborhoods. Owner and executive chef Faith Gunal opened a second location last year in Bexley, and recently launched Pera, a fast-casual concept spin-off in The University District.

With 25 years of restaurant experience, Gunal still remains excited about new concepts and new locations.

“The positive feedback and demand that we’ve received from our customers is what brought us where we are today,” says Gunal. “Healthy food is important to all of us and I want to introduce Turkish cuisine to this area.”

Anyone familiar to the Chipotle-style fast-casual concept will feel right at home at Pera. You can choose from a wrap, sandwich or bowl, select a meat (chicken or beef gyro, salmon or lamb) and then top with vegetables that include olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and more. Vegetarian options are plentiful, and the menu also includes several soups and desserts.

“Pera’s menu is unique and created through the younger generation’s food demand,” explains Gunal. ”All the ingredients are freshly prepared and ready to serve. And since we are located in the campus area, timing is important, and I believe we can help break the habit of fast food and introduce the ‘fresh food’ concept.”

Pera is located at 1980-A North High Street, just south of Woodruff. They’re open seven days per week, 11am to 10pm.

Photos provided by Chris Walker Photography. Chris Walker works as a on-Location commercial photographer working with cooperate, advertising, and editorial clients. If you would like to connect with Chris Walker Photography, email CW@CWalkerPhotography.com, or visit www.CWalkerPhotography.com.

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  • NerosNeptune

    After going here a few times, I can say that the food is not nearly as flavorful as the former Ali Baba. The only thing I enjoy at Pera now is the babaganoush. The falafel are the same as they used to be, but you can’t get them alone. They are now surrounded/smothered in bland toppings. I miss Ali Baba.

  • http://columbusfoodadventures.com hungrywoolf

    It looks like they are opening a third Cafe Istanbul location in the old Cabo Cantina location on Riverside Drive, based on the sign we saw driving by yesterday (and supported by this thread on CU)


  • thomasjs4

    I was there for lunch a month or so ago and was not that impressed. I think I got the same dish as the top photo, but the presentation wasn’t anywhere near as nice. The odd thing was that it didn’t come with bread! How can you have a bowl full of dip-able things and not include bread?! Bread was available as an add-on, but it was just odd to me.

    I liked the variety in this sampler, but I think Lavash is better.

  • sammydabeav

    We go to Pera every Sunday for the $5 bowl/wrap. Their food is okay. The beef is salty and I found the lamb saute and sliced chicken to be very dry. The one thing they have that is good is the chicken saute. Also, they are very cheap on the vegetable toppings. I have read many reviews about the appetizer sampler and how you get a bowl of dips but Pera will not supply you with the necessary pitas (unless you pay the extra money for pita bread). Also, I can’t help but laugh at the “several soups” statement. They only have lentil soup. I feel like the owner went to Piada’s and completely ripped of their design. The menu and restaurant are almost carbon copies of Piada’s. This is a place that could have a lot of potential if they brought some originality, quality food, and give you a little more than 4 pieces of diced tomatoes.

  • http://www.cargocollective.com/geedeck geedeck

    On one hand, I want to be excited by new/local stuff. On the other hand, the food wasn’t anything more than average/un-engaging. I mean, literally in the same building you can get a better gyro from Pita Pit or Buckeye Donuts (the latter having notable local Sweaty George behind it, and a great fresh donut to finish). Or just walk down the street and get one from Apollos. Or drive up High, hit Lavash, hit that one little place by High & Morse.

    It’s an average place wearing Chipotle/Piada’s skin… and you’re arguably in the middle of the city’s best gyro nosh zone already. Or go 5 doors up and eat literally the best Chinese in the city. I mean, that’s offering the crown of trucks when you wanted a 4-door, but when the 4 door is a reliable 93′ Kia? :\

  • subiedoo66

    I walked in, looked at the food and the prices, and walked out. This place is a huge disappointment. I used to eat at Ali Baba, the restaurant in this space before Pera, at least twice a week. They had the best hummus I’ve ever had in my life. Nothing compares to it now, and I’ve been everywhere in Columbus. Pera is always empty, whereas AB always had a long line, so I suspect this place won’t survive long on campus. My friends who have tried Pera didn’t think it was very good, especially for the cost. There’s also no way to get a decent vegetarian meal without ordering several expensive ala carte side dishes. I just don’t get the concept behind Americanizing Middle Eastern food into wraps and bowls. Really dumb idea for campus, which is crawling with international students on a budget. :(

  • http://www.columbusunderground.com Walker

    Roland and I stopped in last night. Very few people in Pera, though it was pretty late for dinner.

    I agree with some of the comments about the meats being dry. I had the chicken and while the flavor was good, it was lacking sauce. Otherwise, I thought everything was pretty good. There’s always a little bit of a learning curve at a “pick your own toppings” place, so I can imagine it being very good given a little more trial and error of my part picking things out.

    They were doing some sort of deal where chicken wraps were only $5, so it was $7 with a drink which I thought was very cheap for the large portion size.

    Everyone is correct that the format/decor is very closely related to Chipotle/Piada. But I don’t really see that as a bad thing.

    The campus location is a bit of a dealbreaker for me. I rarely eat in this area, but happened to be at a Wexner Center event, so we walked a few blocks to try it out. If there were one Downtown, I’m sure it would do quite well during lunch. Could easily see a Grandview/5xNW location working well for them too. If I’m on campus again and craving this type of food, I’d certainly go here again.

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