456 W Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
My husband and I are newer to the Triangle (going on three years) and we still love to explore. Some of our favorite restaurants were pretty much stumbled upon after a long day of walking, driving or shopping. The beginning of each experience basically starts with the same brief conversation:
Me: Hey, what’s that place?
Hubs: I don’t know, but it smells good.
Me: It looks good too. Let’s go.
That’s how we found Talulla’s. Those of you who’ve lived in the area for a while or went to school in Chapel Hill may already know the Franklin Street establishment. If you don’t know it, there’s a gaping hole in your life in the shape of Turkey (the country, not the fowl). The inside is cozy: dimly lit with large tapestries lining the walls and little eclectic touches of décor that give you a hint of culture. There are booth tables ingeniously built into the front windows of the restaurant that are stocked with enough pillows to put Homegoods to shame. However, if you feel too much on display there, they also offer the most charming table for two built into a nook in the back of the restaurant. Don’t worry, there are normal tables too–if you’re into that.
Service can make or break a meal and on our visit Talulla’s was on point. They deliver that friendly yet not too intrusive, attentive yet not overwhelming, helpful yet not forceful kind of service we all strive for in life. Now, let’s get to the food. Because…Oh. My. Word. The food.
Let me preface this with the fact that I am not Turkish, nor have I been to Turkey, nor do I know any Turkish people. So, I can’t speak to the authenticity of the food, but I can speak to the flavor.
To start you off they serve a complimentary loaf of bread along with a red pepper and spice puree that I cannot say enough about. So often those freebies are throwaways. But the hot, steaming, slightly charred loaf of bread that’s crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside is the perfect compliment to the chilled, tangy, savory, almost salsa-like (but way better) dip. Brah-vo. We probably just could have eaten that for our meal, but like any true gluttons, we ordered more than we could handle, plus dessert.
We had two appetizers: the baked hummus topped with pine nuts and the cheese and olive platter. I’ve eaten a lot of hummus in my life, but I had never experienced warm hummus before this meal. It was delicious. All the flavors were enhanced and the slightly toasted pine nuts added a wonderful earthy crunch. The cheese and olive platter included two types of cheese along with fresh melon, cucumbers and tomatoes. Give me a salty cheese paired with sweet fruit and we’ll be friends for life.
For our main course we decided to split the mixed grill entrée. It included lamb chop, ground lamb kebab, meat shaved from the spit, and grilled chicken. My carnivore husband was in hog heaven (even though we ate no pork). The meat and chicken were tender and perfectly spiced. The sides of rice, fresh vegetables and cabbage were a nice addition and tasty on their own. At this point we were pleasantly full, but who stops there, amiright?
We both ordered desserts: me the baklava (one of my all-time faves) and him the caramelized upside down milk pudding (not pictured because the hubs ate too fast). I also ordered a Turkish coffee, which came in the most impressive cup I’ve had the pleasure of drinking from. If you haven’t had Turkish coffee, think espresso sweetened to your liking, but beware of the coffee ground sludge at the bottom of the cup. Both the baklava and milk pudding were scrumptious enough that we cleaned our plates despite our full bellies.
Talulla’s incredible food, along with good service and intimate setting, has me dreaming (and slightly drooling) of my next meal there. Whether you’re taking your boo, your out of town friends, or your boss, Talulla’s is a solid choice.
Carleigh Gabryel works as a communications specialist for UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill. She lives in north Raleigh and revels in the fact that her commute allows her to enjoy delicious foods from all corners of the Triangle. She loves to cook and considers herself quite the amateur chef. When she dines out she likes to try things she can’t or won’t cook for herself. A native Virginian and University of Kentucky graduate, Carleigh’s Southern roots run deep. However, her curiosity routinely drives her food fetish to new and interesting cuisines. There are two things Carleigh has never been able to refuse at a restaurant: bacon-wrapped dates and a robust bourbon cocktail. Follow her on Instagram at @cargriffeth.