Istanbul on the Upper East Side

Chef Orhan Yeğen knows Turkish cooking, having done it very well at more than a dozen restaurants around town, though typically for only a short time before bouncing. Those who've caught his act at any of his stops—including his current home base, Sip Sak in Midtown—have brought back reports of superior food, at least until he's moved on. The cooking's as good as ever at his latest place, Francela on the Upper East Side, though the format's a new one for Yeğen. You order deli-style at counters—cold salads and mezze, hot prepared foods, or grilled dishes and other entrées—and eat at one of a handful of seats or, as most customers do, take your food to go. It's a fast-casual model, popular in Istanbul, that Chowhounds wish would catch on all over New York.

JungMann singles out the octopus salad, grilled and dressed to order in 10 minutes, as "definitively the best fast-food item in all Manhattan." His other favorites from the rotating selection include spinach-potato pie, spicy bulgur-vegetable salad, garlicky fava-stuffed artichoke hearts, and a winning version of imam bayildi, the classic olive oil–braised eggplant dish, that "would make anyone swoon, imam or not." There's also freshly baked pide, bastirma (cured beef) and sucuk (sausage), and a cold case where you can grab house-made hummus, yogurt, or sauces to put together a Turkish spread at home. In short, JungMann finds Francela's fare fresh, vibrantly seasoned, and a big-time upgrade over the neighborhood's usual takeout suspects and their "boring grilled chicken and blah pasta."

Francela [Upper East Side]
1429 Third Avenue (between E. 80th and 81st streets), Manhattan
212-335-0022

Photo from Francela