Flying Carpet Café is an extension of a Turkish rug shop, located in a small, renovated log cabin-looking house just off Magnolia Avenue on the Near Southside. Inside, beautiful Turkish rugs line the walls and, in some areas, the floors. The menu is simple, quirky, and limited. Because the Republic of Turkey is bordered by former Soviet bloc and Arabic countries, Turkish cuisine is a mélange of European and Arabic influences. And because the Turks have had an interesting relationship with their Greek neighbors, the familiar foods you know from a Greek menu come out with a little Turkish twist.
The menu at Flying Carpet is based heavily on grains, veggies, and dairy products, which is nice if you need another vegetarian option in Cowtown. For starters, the organic fall salad was beautiful simplicity: dark greens tossed in a delicate lemon vinaigrette, topped with unroasted pine nuts, feta cheese, and a few melon slices. The vinaigrette was barely there — just enough to impart a lovely lemon flavor to the greens. The salty cheese, sweet pine nuts, tart lemon, and slightly bitter greens made for a wonderful taste experience.
Lemon flavor also dominated the hummus. Israelis, Egyptians, Syrians, the Lebanese, and the Turkish all have their own takes on the chickpea dip. Flying Carpet’s version was chunky and, courtesy of a healthy dose of black pepper, deliciously spicy. The dish also was delectably garlicky — like run-off-the-entire-cast-of-Twilight garlicky. Best of all, it came with fresh, soft, pillowy little pita triangles. The serving size was generous, large enough for three folks as a starter or one really hungry, hummus-loving person for lunch.
Due to the menu’s limited scope, lunch actually ended up more like tapas. The dolmas, traditionally an appetizer, were ordered from the entrées section and were disappointing — at the time, the cooks had not gotten around to cooking the lamb for the lamb dolmas, leaving the vegetarian dolmas as the only option. Without the protein, they were just grape-leaf-wrapped bundles of rice with hints of red pepper and green spice, served cold. However, the accompanying tzatziki dipping sauce was creamy cucumber heaven.
The spicy falafel sandwich was no false advertising. The little chunks of fried falafel came smothered in a green tahini sauce that was unusually fiery but in a good way. Zesty pickled radishes were a really nice addition. Like pickled okra, it’s a taste you just don’t expect, and they added both an interesting flavor and a pleasant crunch to the pita-wrapped treat.
The kitchen also was out of baklava during lunch. As consolation, the chef’s special semolina cake was served. In other parts of the Mediterranean, the dessert is called namura: semolina flour cake drenched in sweet syrup and served with almonds. For this version, the chef at Flying Carpet made a reduction with sugar and leftover Turkish tea — heavy with cinnamon and cardamom — and drizzled an obscene amount over the cake. The result was a little like a tasty, super-moist gingerbread. However, for $8, you should get a whole serving or at least the little triangle of cake should be adorned with some whipped cream or Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.
Part of Flying Carpet’s charm is the niche cuisine — can you name another restaurant specializing in Turkish food and Turkish rugs? The restaurant is in the right part of town for quirky eats, and the building is beautiful. But quirky also needs a hefty dose of stabilization — perhaps starting with managing to serve the food that’s advertised on the menu.
Flying Carpet Café
1223 Washington Av, FW. 817-877-1223.
Closed Sun-Mon, 11am-2pm & 5:30-10pm Tue-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Organic fall salad ……………. $7
Hummus …………………………. $7
Spicy falafel sandwich ……. $8
Vegetarian dolmas ………….. $7
Semolina spice tea cake …… $8