The Flying Carpet offers cuisine, rugs, and an authentic Turkish experience.
For the famished and weary, nothing beats sitting down to a steaming platter of hunkar beyindi, preceded with a few yalanji yaprak dolmas or an appetizer of arnavut jiyeri, topped off with some kazandibi or kunefe, and washed down with an ice-cold glass of ayran.
If that sounds delicious, chances are you’ve already discovered the Flying Carpet Turkish Cafe, located in a restored wooden bungalow off West Magnolia at 1223 Washington Avenue. If, rather, it reads like a tongue twister, or left you wondering whether the writer’s spellcheck has betrayed him, you owe it to yourself to broaden your culinary horizons. Become familiar with the Flying Carpet and its bounty of Turkish delectables — and you just might discover your new favorite cuisine.
This landmark to the food and culture of Turkey is the brainchild of Brent Rowan Hyder, an entrepreneur and academic with expansive knowledge of Middle Eastern culture.
“I had homes in Turkey and became interested in rugs,” says Brent. “I was very keen to open something in Fort Worth that reflected Turkish culture, and had a longtime friend who was a carpet dealer. I saw this property available, and thought it would make a perfect site for a carpet shop.”
The property in question was a hundred-year-old bungalow residence that Brent initially saw as a teardown.
“It looked terrible from the outside. Inside, the walls were covered with wallpaper and cheap paneling. Then, we began to take it all down, and I saw what the walls actually looked like, and the floor plans, and recognized it as a jewel.”
It turned out that the rundown bungalow boasted all-wood construction and an interior fully sheathed in centuries-old long-leaf pine. Brent restored the building, then added exterior pillars constructed in Afghanistan from 100-year-old cedar. The “rug shop” came together nicely, but slow sales prompted Brent to brainstorm ways to attract customers.
“I thought we could serve Turkish coffee, tea and baklava, or those wonderful puddings the Turks do so well,” says Brent. “The city said that to make Turkish coffee, which requires an open flame, I needed the apparatus of a full kitchen.”
The Turkish rug shop necessitated Turkish coffee, which called for a kitchen. Now that he had the kitchen, logic would dictate that Brent needed a chef — but here the layering of developments hit a snag.
“I couldn’t find any chefs from Turkey with a visa,” says Brent.
Without an authentic chef, Brent’s venture came to a standstill. Luckily, fate would intervene — by way of New Jersey — to let his celebration of Turkish culture take flight. Cebrail Demirtas hails from Istanbul, and prior to his arrival in Fort Worth owned and operated his own Turkish restaurant in Denville, New Jersey. Brent’s offer to operate the Flying Carpet held appeal for Cebrail, not least of all because of certain similarities between Texas and his native land.
“In Texas there is nice weather and good people,” says Cebrail. “Similar to Turkey.”
Cebrail’s menu offerings stand as a combination of traditional and family recipes. Every ingredient that goes into the food must first undergo his scrutiny, and the chef himself goes out to purchase the freshest ingredients on a daily basis.
“Everything passes through my hands,” says Cebrail. “I do the shopping, prepping and cooking. All the meat is halal, which means it satisfies strict guidelines for healthiness.”
Cebrail has noticed a few dishes that have become particularly popular among his Texan clientele. For main course entrees, the shish kebab can satisfy the healthiest of appetites, with marinated cubes of lamb grilled to perfection on skewers.
Hunkâr beyindi, which translates as “the sultan was pleased,” presents tender pieces of lamb simmered in a tomato sauce, then laid to rest on a bed of smoked eggplant puree. For a sampler entree, patrons can try Karishik izgara, which presents a combination of kebabs. As for a dish that Cebrail wishes more people would try? Karides guvech, which is a shrimp casserole with onions, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and kasharli cheese.
While the food has taken center stage, the Flying Carpet does, in fact, remain a rug shop. Before or after dinner, patrons can browse a selection of authentic Turkish carpets, some of which are over 100 years old. The stunning decor is in itself worth a visit. According to Brent, everything inside the restaurant comes from Turkey, Syria, Damascus, Morocco, Egypt, Iran and Afghanistan. As an homage to a fascinating and ancient culture, the Flying Carpet truly soars.