Whether you’re fretting about where to take that cutie you’ve been crushing on for a casual coffee date or looking for a romantic anniversary dinner locale, we’ve got all the details here. We hope you enjoy reading about these date destinations as much as we enjoy writing about them, and that you’ll give some of them a taste.
So, in the spirit of this selection: Afiyet olsun!
Restaurant: Deta’s CafeAddress: 7555 N. Ridge Blvd., Rogers Park
Hours: Mon 3–10 p.m., Tue-Sun 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Getting there: About a ten-minute walk from the Howard stop on the L.
Deta’s Café is nothing if not an unconventional dining experience. Situated in a space that looks more like your great-aunt’s parlor than a purveyor of Mediterranean cuisine, there are no menus, and the dishes are few enough in number that you can count them on both hands. However, don’t let any of this put you off — the service is friendly and the dishes are done very well. Deta's might be a little odd at first glance, but there's something kind of fantastic about it.
The friendly waiter-cashier briefed us on our dining options when we told him it was our first time at Deta’s. They offer two salads and three soups, each in two sizes. I opted for the Mediterranean Salad (as opposed to the Greek, identical but for the addition of feta cheese), a toss of shockingly fresh and crispy vegetables dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. I’m amazed by how flavorful the tomato was. Really, if that was a tomato, what have I been eating? The entrees at Deta’s are limited but delicious, with diners choosing between burek (a type of crispy Turkish pastry) stuffed with cheese, potatoes or beef. I had the beef burek - the meat was ground and subtly seasoned, savory without being too rich or filling. The pastry was light and flaky, reminiscent of a croissant but with less butter. This will, if I have my way, be the first of many bureks for me.
While there was only one waiter on duty, he did an excellent job informing and taking care of us. He kindly explained the restaurant’s policies and lack of a menu and checked on us regularly. Though the restaurant wasn’t crowded, he seemed completely capable of handling his job regardless of capacity. Deta's has extremely friendly, personal service and I never went thirsty! That was a quite an issue at the last place we reviewed.
At first glance, Deta’s atmosphere is eccentric to say the least. The tables look like antiques from an elderly relative’s house, but the old chairs are quite comfortable. Some archaic paintings hang on the walls and the booths in the back are upholstered with what appear to be oriental rugs. The whole place looks older and mustier than it really is. While it did have its nostalgic charm, I think the average diner will enjoy Deta’s most if they ignore the outdated interior.
Date Factor (4.5/5)
Deta’s, with its aged atmosphere and lack of menus, may prove a bit adventurous for some new couples. Nonetheless, it is a hidden gem that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked. I can see it being an excellent “leap of faith” date spot, a place to take someone you really want to impress. I have a feeling that in such a situation, you would be richly rewarded. It’s hard not to like Deta’s nostalgic charm and even harder not to like its food.
Although diners’ options are fairly limited at this quaint café, every bite I had at Deta’s was more delicious than the last. As an appetizer, I ordered the bean medley soup, one of three soups offered, without high expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by the complex flavors in this simple soup. Several varieties of beans and a few chickpeas were suspended in a broth both hearty and light. This very large “cup” of soup cost a mere $3, well worth its price. I ordered a cheese burek, a phyllo pastry filled with feta and sirene cheeses.
The flavors and textures of this savory pastry blend perfectly to create a wonderful dish. Each burek is massive and reasonably priced at $7 - John and I could have easily split one. We finished off our meal with “grandmother’s cakes,” two homemade lady fingers soaked in simple syrup and christened with coconut. Although each of us was stuffed from the rest of our meal, we couldn’t help but polish off these delicate and unique desserts. This scrumptious finish to a scrumptious meal raised our bill by only $2. Deta’s is the most filling, flavorful meal I have eaten in quite some time and is also the most reasonably priced.
Unlike Zoba’s, where the single waitress detracts from a dining experience, the lone waiter at Deta’s is extremely hospitable, if a little shy. This slight and quiet fellow patiently explained the menu to John and me, repeating descriptions of dishes and explaining them more in depth when it became apparent that we were newcomers to the Ottoman cuisine scene. He adjusted the arrival of each course to our eating speed, so I didn't have to sprint through my bowl of soup or burek. Such an attentive waiter is a valuable addition to any restaurant.
Dining at Deta’s is a unique experience. The small tables covered with white cloths are somewhat prim, and the tapestries covering the floor and booths lend an air of soft formality to the space. About halfway through our meal, an older woman began playing the upright piano situated in the corner of the dining room. Tunes such as "Lara’s Theme" from Dr. Zhivago then drifted through the space. Deta’s feels like a 1920s café, complete with beautiful, classic music and formal but cozy furnishings.
Date Factor (4.5/5)
Deta’s is not a first-date place: it’s a little old-fashioned, which could make for a real hit-or-miss evening. The dining space is fairly intimate for a first-date setting. If you know your date will appreciate a nostalgic and classy dining experience though, it’s well worth the trip to Howard Street. Inexpensive but tasty food is the most striking feature of Deta’s, and every other element only enhances patrons’ experiences. A nod to the dining (and dating) standards of the past, Deta’s is a restaurant well worth one’s time.
While dining at Deta’s Café may be a bit alien, we enjoyed our time there almost as much as we enjoyed the food. Deta’s is evidence that a restaurant doesn’t need to be experimental or cutting edge to be extremely impressive. Sometimes good food and good people outweigh all other factors and seal the deal.
If you had an experience at Deta’s Café or know of any hidden gems like it, let us know in the comments.