I have not visited Turkey yet, but if you are looking for a Turkish experience, I would suggest you hustle on over to Senem’s Coffee and Tea House in Lakeview. Try their signature Turkish coffee and see if you can taste the sugar in it. I certainly couldn’t after sipping it down to the coffee granules, but I swear to you I saw the barista put a pinch of sugar in the cup. I think the coffee swallowed it somehow because the whole cup tasted more bitter than pure dark chocolate (try both and tell me if you taste the difference). This, though, is how Turkish coffee is supposed to taste, and when in Rome …
Senem’s Coffee and Tea House has only been open since October 2010, and word must have spread quickly because a lot of people were there. The amount of detail in the coffeehouse does not go unnoticed. The dishes they use are all of Turkish descent, and they make the experience unique. If the weather is nice, the door stays open and you can breathe the fresh air, something very few shops do since the invention of air conditioning.
So here is what you see when you walk into the café. You will walk down a few steps into the dimly lit room with wood-paneled floors and bookshelves that are filled with books and board games for the customers to choose from. The ceiling lamps are ornate, adding a Turkish flair and texture to the café. The artwork on the walls comes from local Chicago artists and was hand-picked by Senem herself, the Turkish owner. Even the bar area is tiled with intricate detail that says Turkey in a subtle way. The customers there were mostly students, and many seemed to know each other.
As for the menu, it was difficult to choose what to order because of their many delicious-looking options. They serve all kinds of sandwiches, their most popular one being the Mediterranean. In addition to the Turkish coffee, I ordered their homemade apple iced tea. This tea tasted refreshing and surprisingly like a freshly squeezed apple. It is a black tea brewed with apple, and it was sweet and thirst-quenching. If you like pastries, you should try the Turkish Borek, another one of their specialties. It is a spinach and feta cheese wrap that they serve every day. A lot of their teas are homemade, and these alone are worth the trip. And if you don’t like iced tea, get their homemade mint lemonade. Yummy.
Overall, it Is comfortable and interesting to be there. During a sunny day, I might venture elsewhere since the underground room blocks out some natural sunlight. But if you’re looking for an escape, this is the place to be, bitter Turkish coffee and all.
Senem’s Coffee and Tea House
3508 North Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657