Ibrahim Yagci is bringing a taste of Istanbul to Church Street.
The owner of Simit House Bakery & Co. recently opened a corner café in the space vacated early this year by the Tory Janes shoe shop. Yagci will serve simits–sesame studded circular loops of bread sold for centuries by street vendors in his native country.
Although simits are sometimes called “Turkish bagels,” that’s a bit of a misnomer. They’re closer to a pretzel-bagel hybrid. Unlike bagels, simits aren’t boiled before baking. Instead, they’re dipped in a mix of molasses and water, then dredged in sesame seeds and baked. They taste nutty and bread-like, rather than rubbery and dense, and are infinitely easier to bite into. While it’s true that simits and bagels are both created from a ring of dough, so are doughnuts–and even cronuts (croissant-doughnuts). We in the New York metro area sure like our doughy hybrids.
Yagci’s inexpensive, all-natural simits can be eaten plain, with flavorful sour cherry jam, or served with a selection of sides that include labneh (strained yogurt), hummus, olive paste, feta, and the less traditional Nutella.
Simits, while new to Montclair, have long been available in Middle Eastern grocery stores and bakeries in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. You can also get them at Paterson’s Taskin Bakery, and Simit & Smith of Cliffside, NJ, has several outposts in Manhattan.
Why did Yagci open shop in Montclair, rather than Manhattan? “I love it here. It’s the best town around,” says Yagci, who lived for a short time in Montclair before moving to Clifton a couple of years ago. “I love the demographics, and that people are willing to try new things.”
The bakery is selling other Turkish foods as well, most notably pogaca (poo-WAH-chuh), which looks something like an empanada, and is stuffed with olive paste (my favorite), feta, chocolate, or raisin and walnuts. For those looking for a heartier fare, Simit House Bakery will soon be serving omelets, along with chicken, turkey, roast beef and vegetarian sandwiches.
Yagci’s imported Turkish coffee deserves special mention. The super finely ground beans are boiled in a pot and served in lovely porcelain cups, where the grounds are allowed to settle. One small serving delivers a sweet, potent dose of caffeine. “It’s a legal drug,” confirms Yagci. (You can also get wonderfully rich Turkish coffee at Java Love in Upper Montclair.)
And don’t dare miss dessert. Yagci serves traditional baklava, and a darker, similar pastry called sarma, which means “wrap” in Turkish. “It’s very elegant, and was traditionally served in palaces,” says Yagci, who describes it as phyllo dough loaded with caramelized pistachios. I loved that the treat was less sticky and sweet than baklava. It’s yet another “Turkish delight” to be discovered at Simit House Bakery.
2 Church Street, Montclair
Mon-Thurs: 8 AM to 8 PM
Fri: 8 AM to 10 PM
Sat-Sun: 9 AM to 10-11 PM