Every night at Lokanta, a man with glasses and a ponytail tucked behind his hat stands at the door and greets everyone with a smile, handshake, or hug like he’s receiving guests at a large-but-intimate wedding. If there’s a wait, he’ll tell you he doesn’t believe in taking names or making waitlists on iPads. Instead, he remembers your face and finds you outside when your table is ready. This is the owner of Lokanta - a BYOB Turkish spot in Astoria - and he’s basically the human version of the restaurant.
At Lokanta, you’ll actively want to put your phone down and have dinner. It’s just you, whoever you’re with, whatever bottle of wine you brought, and some excellent lamb.
If you like lemon, olive oil, and garlic in excess, go out of your way to eat here. You can think of these ingredients as the three wise men of Lokanta, or better yet, the Destiny’s Child of Lokanta. All three make their way into nearly every dip, appetizer, and main course. And no matter what you start with, you need to try one of the lamb dishes. We don’t know how long the lamb has been braised or which fairytales its parents read to it at night, but we do know that tomato is involved, and that you won’t need a knife to eat it. Expect to have a minor meltdown, and then soak up the sauce with some table bread, which is reason enough to come to Lokanta. It’s thin, with big air bubbles in the middle, sesame seeds on top, and when you smush it together, it inflates back up like the kind of loaf any wannabe British Bake Off contestant would sell an organ to make.
The Lokanta space is incredibly put-together, with tchotchkes on shelves, black and white tile floors, and green tropical wallpaper. There are gold accents all over the place. It’s sort of like when you learn a new word, and then you see it everywhere - except instead of “maudlin” you’ll see gold-wrapped toilet paper rolls in the bathroom, golden alligators on the shelves, and golden forks on your table. We like to think that the man with the ponytail picked out each and every detail himself, with the level of attention typically reserved for college admissions officers and anesthesiologists. It’s a pleasant place to hang out with a date or a small group when you’re not in a rush to be anywhere.
Once things have slowed down for the night, the man with the ponytail might end up popping in between tables, eventually sitting down to drink from someone’s bottle of wine, maybe even yours. He’ll remind you what it feels like to have dinner in a room with absolutely no iPads, because olive oil, lemon, and garlic are all you need.
If the dips at Lokanta came together to form a boy band, this would be the bad boy of the group. It’s punchy with red pepper, has a nutty taste and texture, and it’s most likely to end up with a DUI. But that’s why it’s our favorite one.
This one seems boring, but it’s just shy and doesn’t like attention. Once you dip into it, it’s subtle, sweet, and lemony. You’ll probably wonder why you don’t eat fava beans more often.
The chunky hummus gets a bit lost because the other members of the band stand out so much. It’s fine, but a little boring.
There’s nothing attractive about this soup, but it’s incredible. It’s a little sour, with a thick consistency, and pepper and herbs mixed in. If you’re even a smidge curious, just give it a shot.
Two rolled-up wrappers filled with warm feta and herbs. They’re soft in the center and crispy on the outside and you’ll probably want them delivered to your home around 2am.
Manti are Turkish dumplings stuffed with beef. They look like little change purses but they’re the size of gumballs, and come covered in a creamy yogurt sauce with chili oil on top. These ones are doughy and incredibly flavorful. Get them.
Ground beef mixed in, melted sharp Turkish cheese, eggplant that’s soft. A full eggplant with red and green peppers, onions, all folded into each other. And some perfectly cooked rice on the side.
There’s a lot of okra on the menu at Lokanta, and this is where it shines. It comes in a garlicky tomato sauce with chunks of delicious lamb.
This seabass over rice is what we envision when we go out to dinner and just want a nice grilled piece of fish to ourselves.
This is our favorite lamb dish. This one is just a little mound of pulled lamb, rice, and currants. It’s simple and delicious, and gives you a really good sense of the quality cooking at Lokanta.