The warm winter sun streams through floor-to-ceiling windows boasting “TUBA” in red-and-blue lettering and illuminates the white brick walls. Fairy lights dangle over patrons quietly chatting over coffee and pita bread. Rustic floor tiles and a gallery wall of framed quotes and photos top off the ambience and establish Tuba as a charming location that successfully combines the best of both cafes and restaurants.
Offering a quiet spot to sip a cup of coffee or to enjoy a bigger meal for a reasonable price, Tuba does it all. Calming music plays over the loudspeakers as customers drift in hungry and exit satisfied.
Located at 535 Bryant Street, Tuba inhabits the space formerly occupied by Tuts Bakery & Café. This cozy spot is the third Tuba location in the Bay Area, following the original two locations in San Francisco’s Mission District.
The restaurant brings an abundance of fresh flavors to the table through its wide selection of dishes, which range from soups and wraps to traditional Turkish pastries. These items can be enjoyed by customers for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
“Tuba’s food melds the best of all Mediterranean cultures,” its website states. “Inspired by Romanesque Mediterranean villas … Tuba is a delightful mix of exotic cultures, inspired in the homes, hearths and taverns of the rugged land of Turkey.”
Verde sampled some of Tuba’s menu favorites. Here are our thoughts.
Kofte wrap ($11.95)
The kofte wrap features bite-sized beef patties, lettuce, tomato and onion wrapped in lavash bread, served warm from the oven. A side salad, comprised of mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes glazed with a balsamic dressing and tzatziki sauce, provides refreshing notes to balance the hearty and spicy flavors of the beef.
Although the wrap becomes messy to eat toward its last bites, it comes wrapped in tinfoil and holds together relatively well. The price of the dish is reasonable in relation to the portion size, and it is filling and flavorful without being overwhelmingly heavy.
Falafel plate ($14.95)
This plate came with four medium-sized falafels, as well as a salad similar to the one included with the kofte wrap. The falafel is crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle, has a mouth-watering smell and is incredibly flavorful. Each falafel is drizzled with a creamy sauce that has a relatively thick consistency, which works well to help hold together the crumbly texture of the chickpea-based appetizer. Paired with the hummus and olives, the falafel plate makes for a great appetizer for a small group — or a particularly hungry individual.
Mercimek Çorbası soup ($7)
This red lentil soup was full of spicy, rich flavors with main ingredients such as tomato, onion, mint, garlic and cumin. Listed on Tuba’s menu as the “best in town,” this soup left us scraping our bowls long after it was gone. A must-have when eating at Tuba, customers should make sure to pair it with some pita for dipping.
Adana kebab ($18)
This kebab plate featured a long stick of spicy beef and lamb and was served alongside heaps of roasted veggies that included carrots, eggplant, tomatoes and onions, as well as pepperoncinis that were left untouched by our group due to their clumpy appearance and cold temperature. The meat and dipping sauce were a hit, however, and were especially appealing paired with a piece of pita.
Chocolate and original baklava ($2)
For both variations of the dish, the delicate filo dough layers were covered in honey, sprinkled with tiny pistachio pieces and doused with chocolate syrup. The melt-in-your-mouth quality of this dessert with a twist left us with just one complaint — that the slices were not three times as large.