Turkish Coffee

Kebab International, 3200 South Grand Boulevard, 314-771-3411

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The tar comes in a cute little cup about the size of a shot glass, with an itsy, delicate handle, and the cup sits upon an equally adorable saucer. It's as if you are playing house with your five-year-old sister. She has conned you into sitting for some afternoon tea and cookies with Little Bunny Foo Foo and Rex the Walrus. You begrudgingly oblige because she plays a central role in your Hot Wheels experiment later in the afternoon. So there you sit, with this brown goo that she cooked up in the Easy-Bake, a goo that you'll later grow to adore, a goo that will greet you every morning for the rest of your life. Ah, the bean, served the Turkish way.

"Coffee should be black as Hell, strong as death and sweet as love." -- Turkish Proverb

Given this central tenet, Turkish coffee is an odd variation, and an acquired taste. Dark, roasted beans are pulverized into a powder, then poured into a pot with water and sugar -- no filter, no nothing. Then the stuff is heated until it nearly boils over, then cooled a bit and then boiled again until the powder has all but disintegrated into the water. The result is, well, black, strong and sweet -- and gritty, and wired with speed and adrenaline. It's a good afternoon drink, actually, because it will push you through to dinner. But it looks like sludge.

The little toy mug is actually a demitasse, and at Kebab International on South Grand, also known as Café Natasha (transplanted from the Loop), lunch is busy and dinner busier. Makes sense, because the place serves up the best falafel in town, and some pretty good Turkish coffee to boot. After a cup, however, everything starts to get a little frantic in your noggin. The caffeine/sugar double whammy can send your blood boiling. Your heart will thump harder, with more intensity, as it struggles to make sense of the overflow. When the blood hits the brain, it gets skittery. When it hits the rods and cones, your vision blurs just a bit, and the colors explode on Grand.

Outside the big plate-glass windows, there's a pause between thunderstorms, and the natural world is taking a breather after having sucked up a flood of water. Everything seems quenched. Down the street at Tower Grove Park, the trees are rejoicing at the fuel, which always seems to come at the perfect moment -- right now.

The maples, the oaks, the pawpaws, the hackberries, the sycamores and the golden larches are ablaze with energy. The birds are as clean as they'll ever be -- to say nothing of the frogs. The little bugs are swimming, having endured the catastrophe of two inches of agua in two hours. And you are buzzing on muddy goo, delicious and dangerous. At the playground, kids rock back and forth on spring-loaded bunnies, then let out crazy screams for no other reason than it's spring, everything's green, the air is clean, and this life thing sure is a blast sometimes.

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