BY SOPHIA F. GOTTFRIED
Edegewater | New Jersey
How it started: Restaurateur and Edgewater resident Gokhan Cakmak was the CEO of popular Turkish bakery Simit + Smith for 14 years, taking it from its initial Cliffside Park location and opening branches in Washington, D.C., Toronto and New York City as well as overseeing a large wholesale operation of Turkish pastries and breads. When Simit + Smith investors wanted to expand further last December and sell to different owners, Cakmak left, looking homeward to Edgewater for his next project. He felt the community was lacking a “middle or reasonably priced restaurant” and that the area’s Turkish and Greek restaurants were heavy on the traditional – without the “modern” updates he thought a wider range of diners would enjoy.
725 River Road, Edgewater
The concept: Cakmak, who says old customers still call him “Mr. Simit,” for the circular breads his bakery was so popular for, says Hudson Mediterranean Grill serves “traditional Turkish food in an affordable, contemporary way.” The 62-seat restaurant features wooden walls, modern furniture and Turkish art. Cakmak says he’s passionate about high-quality ingredients; all ingredients in the restaurant are non-GMO, and he’s sourcing all produce and fish from local farms and fishermen. Additionally, all the meats are halal. “I don’t want to feed chemicals to my kids,” Cakmak says, “so I don’t want to feed it to other people.” He hopes to grow the restaurant beyond Edgewater.
The menu: Hudson Mediterranean Grill offers a wide selection of salads ($10 to $13), cold appetizers and dips such as hummus ($6), babaganoush ($6), stuffed grape leaves ($8) and hot appetizers such as boreka, crispy phyllo rolls with crumbled feta cheese and dill ($8), falafel ($6) and crispy calamari ($9). Cakmak says he and chef Ikbal Baylan, who hails from Greece, wanted to offer healthy options, such as the quinoa and grilled seasonal vegetable salad ($13) and seafood dishes ($17 to $21); fish are served whole, unless a customer specifically requests a filet. Cakmak’s favorite dish, he says, are the grilled lamb meatballs over smoked eggplant ($17). Desserts such as baklava, rice pudding and local organic ice cream and sorbets range from $4 to $8. The restaurant is BYOB.
Starting in September, Cakmak says, Hudson Mediterranean Grill will serve weekend brunch, with signature Turkish pastries, classic American breakfast items with a Turkish twist and classic Turkish breakfasts such as menemen, an egg, tomato and green pepper dish. Cakmak also hopes to have a small market area where customers can purchase Turkish coffee, olive oil and baked goods to go.
More info: Hudson Mediterranean Grill is open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to. 11 p.m., serving lunch and dinner.