Holy baba ghanoush! Bird House Grill serves up a great time

First off, yes, I know that baba ghanoush is more of a Middle Eastern term for an eggplant-like dip, but it is also eaten in Turkey where it is more commonly called patl›can salatas›. It’s just a fun word that I love to say and one that was brought up recently at dinner at the Bird House in Leucadia. And by the way, they have a fabulous version of it.

The Bird House Grill in Leucadia serves great Turkish fare and a fun atmosphere complete with Belly Dancing. Courtesy photo

If you have not been to the Bird House on a Friday or Saturday night, you are really missing out on not only some really good Turkish food, but an entertainment experience like nothing else around. We heard that reservations were suggested and it was key to make them for 7 or 7:30 p.m. as the show starts around 7:45 p.m. and it’s best to get seated and place your order before that happens as it can get a little crazy and service can slow down.

I guess it’s been a while since I’ve experienced belly dancing, but it’s crazy fun to watch for everyone involved. The music is a wild mix of traditional Middle Eastern styles with some modern influences. The staff is engaged completely and you will hear frequent Turkish warrior-like yelps coming from otherwise mild-mannered looking servers. The owner Julie is exceptionally good at this and throws them out like she is riding into battle.

I researched Turkish belly dance a bit and found that it may have been influenced by Arabs even before the Ottoman Empire as much as by the Egyptian and Syrian/Lebanese forms. I read where Egyptian belly dance is noted for its restraint and elegance, whereas Turkish belly dance is playful and uninhibited. That’s a nice way to put it. The dancers I saw at the Bird House were very seductive, but in PG-13 kind of way. Turkish dancers are known for their energetic, athletic or even gymnastic style.

People of all ages, including an adorable little girl were clapping and dancing along. It’s all very interactive as the dancers take tips, which you tactfully slip into their waistband. They also invited diners to step up and join them, which proved to be equally entertaining. I’d leave those moves to the trained professionals. I mean really, how often are we shaking our hips around like that? One woman went all out trying to imitate the dancer and I overheard her after say something along the lines of “that’s the toughest workout I’ve had in years.” This was after a two- to three-minute dance.

Now that I’ve established that the entertainment value is stellar on the weekends, let’s talk about the food. We started with a delightful pureed lentil soup that had a very hearty, of the earth flaor. A fava bean with dill and yogurt sauce and the smoky eggplant dip (that baba ghanoush-like thing) rounded out our starters. It was all great spread on pita bread and layered on top of each other. All of these starters were on the specials menu, which they change up frequently.

For dinner I went with the super combo plate, which could have easily been split by two hungry people or saved for lunch leftovers for the next couple of days. It’s made up of gyro meat, kofte, chicken skewers, pita bread, pilav salad, dolma, (stuffed grape leaves), and tzadziki sauce. At $16.99, this should have been included in my value column. The veggie plate had similar portions and was only $11.99.

There is a nice selection of sides available including skewers, rice, dolma, pita and tzadike basket, Turkish salad, spinach pie, feta spread, hummas, baklava, and a feta, olive and tomato plate. Sides ranged from $1.50 to $6.

The whole experience was like a big neighborhood party with some really good dancers and music that was different, fun, and exciting.

The Bird House Grill brings some international flair and some solid Turkish food to Leucadia and that’s a good thing. They have been around since 1997, which is saying something also. They are open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday. Check them out at birdhousegrill.com.

Lick the Plate can now be heard on KPRi, 102.1 FM Monday-Friday during the 7pm hour.
David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at david@artichoke-creative.com or (858) 395-6905.

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