Lunch Break: Real Doner - Petaluma

Real Doner on Urbanspoon

"Turkish Cuisine" was the only thing I needed to see to make up mind what I was having for lunch. I was in Petaluma for the Cowgirl Creamery tour and just about three blocks away was Real Doner, a Turkish delight just south of downtown.

Having grown up in Saudi Arabia, I have a love and appreciation for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. There is a lot of crossover or blending of the foods as you travel through the different regions, countries, and religious backgrounds. A Christian Palestinian has a similar kebab dish to an Iranian Muslim's. A Greek gyro is similar to an Arab shwarma.

Doner Kebab sits on a corner with a cute little patio. Inside is a small section selling a few Turkish groceries. There are lots of indoor tables, a wall bank for beverages, and the cooking, display case, register area on another wall. The menu hung above and I saw many items I recognized and a couple I did not. The Turkish gentleman, Sadat, who was at the register asked if I had any questions as I clicked a couple of pictures.

I was unfamiliar with an Adana Kebab and asked what it was. Sadat came around the front to point out one of the long skewers of spiced ground meat. He explained that it was spiced lamb. As I looked at the selection of skewers I asked if it was like kufta, which is the ground beef or lamb with spices that you find more in the Lebanon and Syria area. Sadat told me that the adana was with lamb and I later learned it is named after the city of Adana in southern Turkey. Next to it was a chicken adana kebab. I ordered the lamb one in a sandwich and went out to sit on the patio.

Soon this long 'sandwich' came out. I suddenly realized that they must have taken one of the skewers, grilled it, and then slid the meat off onto a piece of lavash bread. The bread was card thin and wrapped tightly around the meat, cabbage slaw, onion, tomato, lettuce and a yogurt sauce. I was unable to finish a whole one. Inside the meat was tender and juicy with a nice mixture of spices that included some paprika. I felt they were a little heavy on the slaw, but appreciated it for the crunch it added. I'm not a big tomato fan and so I was happy that it didn't have very much as I often find in my gyros.

Even though I really had no room for dessert, I went back in to get something to go. After all, who knows when I will be back in Petaluma next. I talked more to Sadat and asked him how long he had been there. He said that the restaurant was three years old, but he only moved from Brooklyn about a year ago. The owner is a friend of his from the old country, they had grown up in the same town. I told him I had been through Turkey back in about 1977 and he said I might have driven through his town as it was near the Syrian border. 

I was intrigued by the pile of pastry fluff of the Kadayif and asked what it was. Basically it is the same as baklava, but in a different form. Baklava lays out the sheets of Phyllo dough while the Kadayif is shredded. How they shred it into such fine pieces I have no idea. The ingredients are all the same: dough, nuts (usually pistachio), honey syrup. The appearance of the Kadayif was that it was rather dry looking on the top. But once I cut into it and took a bite I found that it was moist, sweet, decadently rich with honey and nuts underneath. One Kadayif would be the equivalent of three pieces of baklava I figured.

I'll definitely keep Real Doner in my thoughts whenever I visit Petaluma. You should too. Yes, you are in wine and dairy country with lots of fancy bistros, but sometimes it is the little, local, ethnic places that are the real finds.