There is a restaurant to satisfy everyone’s tastes on the island. I recently visited two of them: Bordrum and Popi’s Place on the Isle.
If you want to taste fine Turkish cuisine you can go to the coast of the Aegean Sea to the city of Bodrum or you can make reservation downtown Venice at the new Turkish restaurant by the same name, Bodrum, located on Miami Avenue. The restaurant is tucked inside Burgundy Square across from the parking lot on Miami. Chef-Owner, Ersen Irsel, comes to Venice via New York City where he trained with some of the best Turkish chefs in the industry. Juliya, his co-owner and lovely, soft-spoken wife of two years, also worked alongside her husband for several years at New York establishments.
As I waited for the owners to begin the interview, the white and royal blue décor and the crisp white tablecloths gave me the feeling of sitting at a beachside restaurant not on the Aegean coast but our very own Gulf coast. I asked Ersen, “How is the restaurant doing?” He hesitated a little and then smiled. “I would rather let my customers speak for the restaurant. You can read their comments on Trip Advisor. We are so pleased that they keep coming back.” I did check and the reviews are great. Their food is as authentic as they are. They purchase all the ingredients from local vendors, their meats are grass fed, free range and, whenever possible, organic. “But the spices and condiments” Ersen tells me, “are all imported from Turkey since they are not available in our area.”
Last Saturday, I invited a couple of friends to try out some of the interesting dishes on the menu. We were blown away at how finely prepared and fresh everything is. I had the “lollipop” lamb chops which were melt-in-your-mouth perfect. My friend, a vegan, had the Mediterranean Salad with a scoop of hummus on top. It was light, fresh and delicious. I regretted not ordering the “Sample Mezze Platter” so that I could have tasted a variety of traditional appetizers –stuffed grape leaves, tabbouleh, and baba ghanoush, to name a few. My husband had the salmon, which he said was prepared to perfection. Another friend ordered the “Bodrum Kofte Kebab” a char-grilled grass-fed lamb and beef dish. There was not a morsel left on any of our dishes. When we left the restaurant, we all agreed Bodrum is a keeper.
A few days later, I sat down with Jay Odem, a former Navy veteran, and Sheryl Flint, Owners of Popi’s Place on the Isle, a chef-family-owned restaurant where it’s all about American home-style cooking with Greek influence.
From the moment I shook hands with Jay and Sheryl, I felt as though I was being welcomed into their home. And no wonder, Jay built all the tables and booths and, with Sheryl’s help, gave the restaurant, from floor to ceiling, its easy open down-home feel. “How does the Greek culture influence your food?” I ask Sheryl. “Many years ago, we lived next door to the owner of the original Popi’s Place Greek restaurant. Once our families got to know each other, we became part of their extended family and that’s when Popi taught Jay how to cook Greek food. Later, Jay added all-American favorites you see on the menu and the rest is history.” She hands me a menu and I can’t believe the choices.
Next time you are hungry and can’t think of what you want to eat, check out Popi’s Place on the Isle. There are traditional Greek dishes like – gyros, spanakopita, cabbage rolls and homemade, baked in-house desserts like their scrumptious “baklava cheesecake.” But if that day, Greek food is not doing it for you, you can select from one of their 17 varieties of club sandwiches, meatloaf, biscuits and gravy, and they even offer 13 gluten-free salads.
My favorite meal to eat out is breakfast-brunch. At Popi’s on the Isle, you can have their knock-out French toast made with ham-turkey-swiss cheese topped with powdered sugar and raspberry jam! And don’t forget to add one of their Blackberry Kiss or Lavender infused mimosas or their popular ultimate breakfast/brunch Bloody Mary made with celery, olive and bacon. But if it’s something else you crave there is a full liquor bar that serves up everything from Italian Prosecco to Greek featured wines to beer - draft, bottle, local and seasonal to Sangrias along with signature cocktails like –Oh My Agave Margarita and Peach Spiked Tea.
This generous couple also gives back to families and the community as a whole. Any child under the age of twelve and accompanied by an adult customer eats free. On teacher work-days, Jay and Sheryl send free trays of food to the nearby Venice High School, as a gesture of appreciation and as a way to give back.
Popi’s Place on the Isle is a family eatery where, not only, are you welcome, but you will feel as though you are eating at your very own Popi’s place. It is perfect for Venice Foodies or members of HOA groups, dinner or luncheon clubs or golfing buddies. There are many restaurant choices on the Island serving national and international dishes, make sure you put Bodrum and Popi’s Place on the Isle on your must try list.