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Restaurant brings Turkish food and culture to Bloomington



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Anatolia, a Turkish restaurant located on 4th St., was recently voted as the best Bloomington ethnic restaurant in 2014. Scott Tenefrancia and Scott Tenefrancia Buy Photos

Sibel Cekic’s goal was to provide the Bloomington community with something she thought the city was missing. With her restaurant Anatolia, she has done just that, providing the Midwestern town with an atmosphere and food native to Turkey and the Mediterranean.

The restaurant was opened in September 2004 by Cekic and her husband.

“You offer your care with your food. It is not only the food,” Cekic said. “You also respect your guests. Your love and care has all those beautiful sides to it. That’s important to me - is bonding here.”

Anatolia is located at 405 E. Fourth St and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Anatolia serves entrées containing elements from Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and other Mediterranean countries.

There are also elements of Italian and Middle Eastern food on the menu.

The restaurant serves meat dishes such as lamb, chicken and beef but not pork, a meat Turkish cuisine does not typically include due to 85 percent of Turkey’s population being Muslim. There are also vegetarian and vegan options on the menu.

According to the restaurant’s website, the trademark dishes of the restaurant include the lamb entrées such as lamb kebabs, chops and shanks.

The restaurant also serves a specialty beverage called ayran, which is made of yogurt, water and salt. Most of the spicy dishes are served with a side of yogurt sauce.

The restaurant supplies free hot tea to customers, as tea is a very common drink and part of the culture in Turkey.

Anatolia incorporates the traditional atmosphere of Turkey by decorating the building with rugs, plates, dishware and tea sets and by playing Turkish music.

Cekic said she loves alternating the menu based on the season and takes advice from customers regarding what they want to see on the menu.

“I am open to suggestions,” Cekic said. “I think that is important as a business owner. It doesn’t matter if you offer the best food. If you are not accommodating the needs of customers, you are not going to ?succeed.”

The restaurant has a specialty lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Cekic takes part in making the dishes offered in the lunch buffet.

This buffet serves entrées which aren’t served on the regular menu, including traditional dishes such as salads, yogurt-based entrées and Turkish casseroles.

“I am investing a lot of time, energy and faith in the buffet,” Cekic said. “I really want to be the best restaurant on the street. I am paying attention to customers and alternating with food.”

In the future, Cekic said she wants to incorporate a Turkish brunch buffet for the weekends at Anatolia. She also wants to increase advertising the restaurant to spread the Turkish environment she’s created.

Anatolia was voted the “best ethnic restaurant” in 2014 and one of the best three ethnic restaurants the last four years by the IDS.

Bloomington native Annabelle Akar said she loves going to the restaurant because of the food, the environment and the workers.

“Every time I come here I feel like I have a place right at home,” Akar said. “Not only is the food very delicious, but I love how the people who work here treat me like I am their own family. This is definitely a place that goes beyond being just a food-serving restaurant.”

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