Mahalle is the name for neighborhood in Turkish.
Mahalle songulun ev yemekleri front
It is also the name of a new restaurant in Avanos.

“This restaurant used to be a Mahalle odası, “neighborhood room”, where people came and drank tea and coffee” said owner Songül Tokmak explaining the idea behind the name of her cafe.

WONDER WOMAN

Songül cooked at the pension her husband runs before opening Mahalle. She lived in Germany for 13 years before returning to raise her kids in Avanos. Upon arrival, her husband bought an old three room house in the center of Avanos which they turned into the Tokmak Pension. “Our idea was to have guests stay at the house, provide their meals, tour them around, and treat them as part of the family instead of tourists” Songül recalled.

Those early days were hard as Songül remembered her responsibilities. “We needed to make money so I wove carpets for my husband to sell” she said. She raised her four children, wove carpets and operated the kitchen at the hotel. That experience served her well in opening Mahalle. She is the purchaser, cook, waitress, manager and accountant!

She had always thought about serving food but didn’t have the opportunity. There was another ev yemek restaurant that wanted to sell to Songül. “They wanted to sell me their business, but they wanted to include all the furnishings. Also, the building was for rent, and I couldn’t afford it,” she mused as she thought her dream might never materialize. Then the Mahalle building, which she owned, but rented out, became available. With that, her daughters rallied to support her desires. “My one daughter bought the tables and chairs, my other daughter is telling her lawyer friends to come for lunch.” And with that her dream came true. “I loved cooking. I did it for my family. I did it for the hotel. Now I can cook for my customers. It’s not a job, it’s not a hobby, it’s a love.”

It won’t take you long to see that she’s telling the truth.

FRESH AND NEW EACH DAY

There is no menu as she creates the food offerings when Mahalle songulun ev yemekleri dining roomshe wakes up. She made chicken schnitzel the day before I ate there. I had fresh sauteed green beans, rice, and a salad, with rice pudding and tea for dessert…for $5! I should have asked her for seconds! That night she was making ground beef stuffed eggplant. All homemade. All fresh. All prepared with Songül love.

Songül has a deeply caring side to her as well. She shared that the drawings on her wall are done by a woman fighting cancer. The woman seeks to find healing by drawing and painting in the garden of their pension. “I hope to have an exhibition of her work here” she glowed, as she talked about helping this woman. She also has a 12 year old helper who loves to cook and Songül is sharing all that she knows with this girl.

In her mid-fifties, Songül is finding her independence for the first time. Not only did she open her own restaurant, but she also purchased her first car. “I have a driver’s license. I thought to myself ‘did I get this license so I could carry it around in my purse?’ No. I want to drive.” So she went and bought herself some transportation. Now she gets some of her women friends together and they go where they want to go!

Songül is a delightful person. Add to that her delicious food and the artistic atmosphere of her cafe and you are sure to want to visit Mahalle – Songül’ün Ev Yemekleri.
CONTACT & LOCATION INFORMATION
Songul Tokmak
Yukari Mahalle
Edip Ak Bayram Sokak No. 43
Tel: 0533 723 6250

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Christian Dedrick is an English teacher living in Avanos. He has lived in Turkey since 2008 with his wife and three sons. He moved to Cappadocia in 2011 and is excited to be sharing stories from his life here. He enjoys spending time with Cappadocians, hearing, and telling their stories.
He began writing for CaptivatingCappadocia in spring 2012.
Click here to read more about Christian.