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Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Review: Oklava Cafe: Downtown cafe serves Turkish treat

Nathalia Arias
CHATTER FILLS THE ROOM — Oklava has something for everyone, making it the perfect place get some work done or to spend time with friends.

When we first walked into Oklava cafe, a new Turkish cafe tucked into a small storefront on University Avenue, we were immediately hit by the strong aroma of Turkish coffee. Past the glass panel storefront lies an almost overwhelming display case of hundreds of pieces of baklava, a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made of filo dough and pistachios, and sweetened with simple syrup.

Oklava, which translates to “rolling pin” in English, refers to the most important step of making baklava — ensuring that the filo dough is rolled as thin as possible. The display case is filled with baklava in over 20 flavors including pistachio, walnut, and hazelnut. Oklava also has a variety of different shapes and sizes. The small square bite is perfect for a quick snack, and the largest triangle shape is great to share with friends. 

The cafe walls are decorated with black and white photos chronicling the history of baklava, along with pictures of Istanbul and historic Turkish figures. Though classical music does play, the cafe is not too loud. Oklava also offers free WiFi, which makes it accessible and a great place to study. It can be difficult to get a table since the cafe is normally crowded. ent lights.

Outside there is a finite amount of outdoor seating that faces Lytton Plaza — prime seating when the plaza has live performers. 

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The brightly lit shop shifts into a more intimate setting after sunset. Verde visited Oklava Cafe and tried an assortment of items ranging from drinks to pastries.

Past the glass panel storefront lies an almost overwhelming display case of hundreds of pieces of baklava, a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made of filo dough and pistachios, and sweetened with simple syrup.

The Hot Chocolate ($5) is not overly sweet but lacks a distinct chocolate flavor. We found the flavor comparable to powdered hot chocolate, but it could make a perfect pairing with one of Oklava’s many assorted pastries because of how it adds sweetness to the otherwise savory pastries.Turkish coffee is notoriously one of the strongest coffee varieties, and Oklava’s rendition ($6 pictured in the middle) is no exception. Served with sparkling water to

cleanse the palate and a small piece of Turkish delight to cut through the bitterness, this coffee lacks the unique bitter, intense aftertaste that many other Turkish coffees have, making it a stand-out item. 

It is tradition when drinking this powerful coffee to first sip sparkling water to cleanse your palate. Then, take a small bite of the Turkish delight, a small cube made of starch and sugar, to give your mouth a sweet sugar coating and cut through the intense coffee taste.  

Oklava’s main draw is its wide selection of baklava. As baklava lovers, we were excited to try a classic baklava ($3 pictured on the right), but unfortunately the sweet syrup had completely soaked through all the layers of filo, turning the traditionally

light and flaky des sert into a sticky mess. There are better options in the area, like Meyhouse a few blocks down, or Baklava Story in San Francisco

Next, we decided to try something a little more untraditional. The server recommended the popular chocolate baklava ($4 pictuerd on the left). Sadly, the Chocolate baklava suffered from many of the same issues as the classic: the overpowering syrup masked both the chocolate and the pistachio flavors. 

Pogaça ($4) is a traditional Turkish savory bread commonly filled with cheese, potatoes, or olives. We chose the classic, which isn’t filled, and found it to be thick and dense, perfect for dipping in hot chocolate. Although it wasn’t as complex as the baklava, we recommend trying it because it’s something new and unique that can’t be found at other cafes in the area. 

Overall, Oklava has a comfortable and mellow atmosphere that is a good spot to get work done alone or to hang out with friends downtown. While we feel that the baklava and pastries could’ve been better, the Turkish coffee and other drinks are  definitely worth stopping by for. Its prime location and late hours also make the cafe a perfect place to enjoy a warm drink and some live music across the street.