Seven's Mediterranean Turkish Grill was the first restaurant that I ate in when my husband I moved to 72nd Street. I have since dined in and taken out countless times, but never gave great consideration to their name until I sat down with Tony Seven. Tony is the owner, along with Chef Omer Peker. The "Seven" is not a number, but a name... and an adjective. "'Seven, ' in Turkish, means 'lovely', " Tony explained, and the name instantly felt appropriate. Tony's goal in opening the Grill in 2006 was to bring authentic Turkish food to the neighborhood. He told me that his food uses no preservatives and that his lamb comes from New Zealand, where the quality of meat is very high. His rice and chickpeas come straight from Turkey, and everything is prepared in-house. Tony came to the United States from Turkey in the early 1990s and was working in the car exporting business until he decided to open the restaurant. Though he still exports cars, the restaurant has become his passion project. "I want Americans to experience authentic Turkish food – not the American version. " About ninety-eight percent of their clientele are American, he estimated. I laughed when Tony told me that the only way in which the food is unlike traditional Turkish cuisine is that it is cooked by a man. In Turkey, women always cook, which is why he said that he never learned how, but emphasized that he has found his strengths in the day to day operation of running the business.
In keeping with many of its neighbors, Istanbul Grill is open late, but what allows them to stand out is they are not a chain and they have been serving tasty Turkish food at all hours for many years. They offer a simple dining experience highlighted by Mediterranean classics such as rotating spits of lamb and chicken, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, lebni (a delicious yogurt sauce), hummus, and so much more. Finally, this is one of the few places in downtown Manhattan to offer Turkish wine - a white known as Çankaya and a red called Yakut.