FOUR BROTHERS CAME TO AMERICA AND FOUND, IN TWO OF NEW JERSEY’S HOTTEST COLLEGE TOWNS, THE IDEAL RECIPE FOR CULINARY SUCCESS
BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
The Bodur brothers, owners of Efes Mediterranean Grill, discovered three main ingredients for success in the food business passion, location, and plenty of brotherly love while stewing up fresh, quality fare in their common kitchen.
Calal, the oldest, along with siblings Ezy, Billy, and Ekrem, arrived in America from Turkey in 1989 in search of the proverbial American Dream. They found it when they blended a love of cooking with the distinctive flavours of their homeland. In fact, they named their restaurant as a reminder of home, while providing a cultural experience for food connoisseurs.
Efes is the Turkish name of the fabled ancient Greek city of Ephesus on the coast of Ionia, built in the 10th century BC by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. It is where the Cayster River flows into the Aegean Sea and is a popular tourist site today, not least for its extensive ruins and other archeological significance, as well as its proximity to Adnan Menderes Airport and the port of Kuşadası.
Strategic location proved similarly integral to the brothers’ American restaurant success. The opening of the first Efes Mediterranean Grill in 2001 in New Brunswick (home of Rutgers University) proved a winning concept, fuelled in part by the popularity of their home made gyros among students.
Head Chef Calal is adept at mixing Mediterranean flavours that brighten the palette with a gently acidic bite, tempered by a char grilled range of meats like lamb and chicken, and vegetables including eggplant and peppers, creating healthy choices but without sacrificing taste.
Billy claims the title of grill master, while Ezy prepares the meats by seasoning and readying chicken and lamb shanks for kebobs and other regular menu items and specials. Baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves, homemade yogurt dishes, moussaka, falalfel, hummus, and other Turkish delights round out a varied menu. The Efes House Special hand seasoned, baked tender lamb served with mashed potatoes and a Turkish gravy is additionally special because it is served only on Friday and Saturday nights. Salads, soups, cold and hot appetizers, hot sandwiches, and full course dinners are also on hand. Catering is available for meetings and parties. As olive oil, considered a “healthy fat,” is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, it’s the star of many dishes at Efes, such as the eggplant salad made with grilled bell pepper, red onion, parsley, olive oil, and garlic.
As the Bodur brothers present dishes like their remarkable Chicken Okra Casserole (sautéed okra in a light tomato sauce with rice), diners take in the backdrop of Turkish décor. A vibrant bank of fuschia seats and rich wood floors and ceiling contribute to making Efes not just a go to dining destination, but a memorable experience overall.
The foursome is serious about their restaurants and customers, but keep brotherly love uppermost.
“Ekrem,” said Billy, “he’s like a joker; he’s everywhere, doing a little bit of everything.”
In 2011, Efes Mediterranean Grill’s second location opened in Princeton, the home of Princeton University and its international roster of students, professors, and visitors. Billy said that, just like New Brunswick, Princeton is “a unique and diverse town.”
“My love and passion for food has been with me since I was 15 years old,” he added. “I always had a dream to open a restaurant, and we [brothers] are doing this together.”
“That’s the Mediterranean style,” said Billy, who quickly followed up with: “Hard work and dedication, that’s truly the American Dream.”
Efes Mediterranean Grill
32 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick / 732.249.4100 235 Nassau Street,
Princeton Township / 609.683.1220 / efesgrill.com