The doner kebab is basically a Turkish gyro. And I still recall my first encounter, at a little hole-in-the-wall joint around the corner from me. It was glorious. And relatively healthy for my dark diet, especially back then. Now the place is a buffalo wings shop, since there are so few places on the Upper East Side to get buffalo wings (by the way, the black bar at the bottom of this post is a congealed pool of sarcasm that dripped off of that last remark and settled below).
But Turkiss is a treat, one of the surprisingly few genuine doner kebab denizens in Manhattan. I found it on MacDougal Street, between West 3rd and Bleecker, in the West Village. It’s easy to miss, tucked amongst an array of little shops and eateries, but the red sign and savory smell should help you hone in.
The place is tiny, about the size of my apartment, but it’s clean and functional. There’s no waiter service, just a counter where you can attend to business – ordering heaping amounts of delicious shavings of lamb meat. On my first visit I made the mistake of ordering a side of fries with the lamb doner kebab homebread sandwich. I was not glutton enough to finish. Now I just stick to the sandwich, as it alone is still a little more than all I need in life.
Sadly, I don’t binge drink like I used to. And when I do, I tend to find myself in the East Village instead of the West. But Turkiss is open to 4:00 AM nightly (and 5:00 AM on the weekends, because, well, you know how it is), making it an ideal spot for an end-to-inebriation feeding frenzy.
For me, Turkiss is a great find for a quick and extremely filling lunch or an inexpensive dinner on either end of a movie at the IFC Center, or even the Film Forum. In my culinary book, it replaces Joe’s Pizza, which hasn’t been quite the same since it moved off the corner.
And if you are still wondering what differentiates the doner kebab from your typical gyro, I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps the meat is a little leaner? Spiced slightly different? Turkiss has a sign on the wall explaining the origin of the dish, which appears to be the father of both the Greek gyro and Arabic shawarma – and even the Mexican tacos al pastor. But perhaps it’s best to skip the history lesson and simply try it for yourself.