Chicago's signature spot for authentic Turkish cuisine and belly dancers, A La Turka is a romantic restaurant where you can cozy up with a group of friends. Traditional floor seating fits up to eight on plush pillows; big tables in the rear accommodate sticklers for chairs. Furnishings are all imported from Istanbul, from the tented ceiling to the ornate, handmade lamps. The flames surrounding diners are electric, allowing them to safely dance higher and brighter than real candles.
If you like Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food, you'll love the Turkish delicacies, which strive to be the best of both worlds. The cuisine draws from culinary influences as diverse as the areas once encompassed by the Ottoman Empire and brings together nuances of the different regions in modern Turkey. Lamb is the specialty here, but the chicken and vegetarian dishes also draw rave reviews. Several sampler platters are perfect for sharing with friends; the veggie platter includes six to seven different appetizers to taste and pass. Servers are from Turkey, so expect thick accents and expert advice.
Soft music makes conversing a snap, but when the belly dancers stream out from the back, the switch is flipped and the party’s started. Talented stomachs shake from table to table, soliciting dollars for their drawers (don't worry, it's customary to tip). Get up and shimmy next to them; the dancers encourage audience participation. Saturdays are extremely busy, so reservations are a must. A second-floor lounge offers more space.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Lauren Ziel