Cafe Dolma: Authentic Turkish Food in Jersey City

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“They are very entrepreneurial,” is what Cafe Dolma’s owner, Vegdie Bilgin {who is originally from Turkey}, said about his fellow Turkish business owners. This, in fact, is also the impression he himself conveyed.

cafe dolma jersey city

{Photo credit: @cafedolma}

The cafe, at first glance, looks not unlike other popular brunch spots — a quaint interior decorated with warm color tones, a menu serving flatbread and poached eggs, and of course, great coffee. But it offers more than that. What makes this small cafe unique is a menu that ingeniously fuses modern favorites with traditional Turkish elements, a casual but smart style that meets the likes of changing local demographics, and a business approach that responds to any uncertainties flexibly. Here’s what to expect from Cafe Dolma. 

But First, The Menu

cafe dolma jersey city

{Photo credit: @cafedolma}

Vegdie describes his menu as a “contemporary take on Turkish traditions.”One of the dishes that never fail to “wow customers” is “çılbır,” a Turkish comfort food consisting of poached eggs over a bed of herby labneh. It is finished with a dash of green sauce made of mint, parsley, and anchovies, thus adding a bright Mediterranean twist to the original Turkish recipe. Poke the egg, stir the runny yolk into the pool of warm chili butter, and scoop up the creamy mess with crusty bread.

cafe dolma jersey city

{Photo credit: @cafedolma}

Other dishes, like the “American favorites,” are assembled with less familiar Turkish ingredients. The avocado toast here {a staple on many brunch menus” is simply topped with zesty za’atar and briny Turkish pickled pepper.

Read More: 8 Delicious Spots for Hummus in Hoboken and Jersey City

cafe dolma jersey city

{Photo credit: @cafedolma}

Familiar ciabatta sandwiches are stuffed with Turkish “kofta,” or richly spiced meatballs, and an equally as familiar salmon “benedict” is served on mücver, an earthy zucchini fritter.

How Cafe Dolma Came to Be

cafe dolma jersey city

{Photo credit: @cafedolma}

Such ingenious takes on conventional recipes are derived from a sharp intuition rather than school learning.  Before entering the food business, Vegdie worked in the technology department at a Wall Street bank. As drastic as the career switch seemed to be, he spoke of the decision quite confidently, describing it only as “something I wanted to do” rather than a passion or obsession. He didn’t rush into the restaurant business unprepared and was by no means cavalier about the toil behind the success stories, but getting the business on track still entailed a lot of trial and error.

See More: Where to Find Authentic Portuguese Food in Newark

In fact, Cafe Dolma first started as a fine dining restaurant. The food was great, but the dinner-only model also posed several financial and operational challenges, which eventually drove his decision to pivot to a more casual concept. 

cafe dolma jersey city

{Photo credit: @cafedolma}

It turned out to be a success. The timing coincided with an influx of young professionals, lured by affordable rents, from New York City to downtown Jersey City downtown. Adventurously minded and well-traveled, these young customers are more than willing to try and ready to appreciate quality dishes with an ethnic spin, which is exactly what Cafe Dolma offers. “The critical crowd has been good for us, and good for the food scene in Jersey City as a whole,” Vegdie shared.

Even with the budding success, running the business is still not without challenges. “Food, staffing, unexpected circumstances — all the moving pieces need to be attended to,” Vegdie said. Vegdie’s approach to the restaurant business is not dissimilar to an engineer’s to coding and debugging. “It’s problem-solving,” he said, “but it requires a lot of stamina, both physically and mentally.”

With this approach Cafe Dolma also weathered the worst of the coronavirus-related lockdown. Despite not being fully out of the woods yet, business is picking up again. On a breezy weekend morning, crowds are gathering again outside the cafe, enjoying hearty dishes —not exactly an old-school Turkish breakfast, but definitely no less adventurous and interesting.

The Info

cafe dolma jersey city

{Photo credit: @cafedolma}

To try its food: Cafe Dolma, 270 Grand St, Jersey City, Monday-Friday 7:30AM – 3:30PM, Saturday and Sunday 8AM – 3:30PM, call 201-433-6391 for take-out orders. Outdoor tables and limited indoor seating are available.

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Yiwei was born and raised in China. She has lived extensively in Beijing and Hong Kong, before finally settling down in New York. She moved to Hoboken after a few years in Westchester and immediately felt at home here. Two years ago, she left her job at an investment bank to travel the world and explore her interests, and has since then taken on a few freelancing gigs in career coaching, college admission consulting, and writing. When she is not wandering wildly in the streets of Europe, Asia, or Latin America, she can be found sipping an espresso in one of Hoboken's coffee shops or trying out restaurants in Hoboken and Jersey City area.