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L.A. Taco Guides

Pistachio Baklava and Muhammara: Three New Places to Try Turkish Flavors in West Los Angeles

Manti at Nuka Cafe, Westwood

Oaxacan, Japanese, Persian, and highly-priced Italian restaurants are in ample supply on L.A.’s Westside. Like much of the rest of the city, worthy destinations for Turkish coffee and cuisine, however, seem to be few and far between.

But a trio of spots that have recently materialized within a tailpipe’s cough of the 405 Freeway is out to change that, introducing distinct and attractive roosts for sitting and sipping a concentrated, cezve-brewed Arabica with pistachio baklava, spicy Muhammara, or a rainbow of mezze.

Let’s get to know them.

Lokl Haus, Santa Monica

Lokl Haus

2627 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 4 - “Santa Monica/26th.”

Located one block west of Santa Monica’s Rip City Skates, chef Senem Sanli’s Lokl Haus is a funky, tiny space powered by strong—and ethically sourced—coffee, framed graphic art all over the walls, and popping fresh food. A case beside its Elektra espresso machines is stocked with golden croissants and tarts, while nearby, grab-and-go items include buttery borek layered with ingredients like feta-and-spinach or ground beef, and the fried round lentil fritters known as mücver.

Borek at Lokl Haus, Santa Monica

The big draw is the morphing breakfast menu here, which tends to include such dishes as cilbir, Turkey’s plate of impeccably poached eggs in a red sheen of Aleppo pepper perched on a splotch of garlicky yogurt, as well as granola drizzled with fig syrup, breakfast sandwiches, and toasts made from country loaves and spread with Nutella, labne-and-muhammara, smashed hard-boiled eggs, or smooth avocado, or served aside the country’s famed mash-up of scrambled eggs, peppers, herbs, tomato known as menemen.

A sliver of a patio sits on the building’s side below a giant mural by BumblebeeLovesYou, awaiting you and your espresso-and-tonic, so you can watch the Santa Monica Boulevard, traffic fly by while customers bring their efficient German autos in for repair at the business next door.

Agora World Market & Cafe in West L.A.'s Sawtelle neighborhood

Agora World Market & Cafe

12200 Wilshire Blvd. Ste. 101A Los Angeles, CA 90025. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 20 or 720 - “Wilshire/Bundy.”  

Up on Wilshire, straddling the various levels of apartment hell that comprise the bridge between Brentwood and West L.A.’s Sawtelle neighborhood, Agora World Market & Café has created an oasis in a strip mall parking lot just one block west of Bundy. The owners carved out a small garden patio space that can feel extremely transportive, blunting the frenzy of traffic whirring by. Inside Agora, you’ll be greeted into a market specializing in Turkish delicacies by a wall of pre-packed baklava and Turkish delight of numerous styles. Among the grocery shelves, you’ll find hearty stocks of tea, grape leaves, and dried eggplant for stuffing at home, Turkish hazelnut spreads and pistachio paste, pickles, preserves, stuffed peppers, beef and chicken doner, and manti from the vertical freezers, and boxed fruit juice nectars, with sufficient spillover from Europe in the form of such things as fine Belgian chocolates and Ukrainian sunflower seeds mixed in with the Turkish booty.

At the store’s core is a deli counter, below which a case sits bearing beautiful eclairs, multiple styles of baklava, sesame-speckled simit bagels, sweet and shaggy kadaif dusted in powdered pistachio, and walnut-packed fudge, next to a bright panoply of mezze, including hyper-pink beet hummus, babaganoush, shiny marinated olives, cubes of fresh and aged feta, muhammara, and various lebne-based dips made with carrots, red cabbage, or zucchini. These can be ordered individually or as a mezze feast, if your conscious can handle the number of small plastic containers they’re each served in.

Kofte meatball sandwich.

There’s also a deli menu melding traditional Turkish items into forms recognizable to everyone: Pide pizzas and grilled cheese sandwiches laced with beef basturma or spicy sucuk sausage; large and ragged-edged Turkish bagels bookending tangy kashar cheese and cured meats; gyros loaded with beef, lamb, and tzatziki; and crusty, soft rolls filled with tender grilled branzino or the must-try sandwich featuring generously spiced, hand-formed kofta meatballs served with a crisp side of cucumber-and-tomato salad.

With dynamic casual eats, a full gamut of groceries, welcoming owners, and that idle-worthy patio, Agora is a welcome addition to this chain-dominated stretch of the neighborhood and a great stop for anyone looking to familiarize themselves with Turkish ingredients and hospitality.

Nuka Cafe, Westwood

Nuka Café

1510 Westwood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90024. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 20, 233, 720, or 761 - “Wilshire/Westwood” or Bus Line 4 - "Santa Monica/Westwood."

Nuka Café is a darling, mirrored box of space on Westwood Boulevard, between Santa Monica and Wilshire, in the pumping heart of Tehrangeles. The address is a showcase for an Istanbul-based brand of the same name that sells boxed baklava, borek, and other Turkish foods, making it a little like an Ottoman version of the Bulgari store on Rodeo Boulevard. Originally opened as a bakery in 2019, the gleaming pastry cases have sadly been replaced by boxes of Nuka products.

Nuka Cafe's Iskender kebap

And in fact, the pistachio baklava or kunefe you buy here will probably come out of those very boxes, a culinary P.O.V. that seems to extend to the massive plates of manti in desperate need of seasoning, and iskender kebab, that iconic indulgence of shaved beef or lamb doner with pita wedges drowned in tomato sauce, coming from its kitchen. Still, it’s cute here. Perfect for sitting to a leisurely half hour sipping a traditional Turkish coffee on the sidewalk or under the Marilyn Monroe mural, if only to thumb your nose at the entire notion of the frenetic, crowded Starbucks on the corner.

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