We have been to many Turkish restaurants over the years, but we were really excited to learn of a new Kurdish restaurant, The Gundis ( 2909 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657). The Kurdish people live in the region of southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, Turkey and Iran. Unfortunately, most of what we hear of Kurdistan and the Kurds relates to conflict and instability in the region, so we were excited to learn about another aspect of the Kurdish culture. The Gundis restaurant was started by two Kurdish immigrants from Mardin province in Turkey: Mehmet Besir Duzgun and Mehmet Besir Yavuz. However, reflecting the multiculturalism of Chicago, their Executive Chef, Juan M. González, hails from Mexico.
We met up with an adventurous foodie friend at The Gundis, which is in an unsuspecting spot on a surprisingly quiet stretch of Clark Street. The restaurant is clean and modern, witch minimal decor and exposed brick walls. The Gundis is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – so has more options than you may suspect. We saw some familiar favorites, but were excited to see some Kurdish dishes that we had never even heard of before. For breakfast you might be treated to Baklawa Crepes ($11.95) or a complete Kurdish Breakfast for two with all of the fixins: including eggs, fresh cheese, Kurdish bread, sesame butter, tomatoes, cucumbers and more ($34.95+, depending on the egg option).
For lunch and dinner there is a bit more meat, focusing on the staples of beef, chicken and lamb, but there is plenty for vegetarians too, including a surprisingly thorough salad list and more unique options like Tiršik (spicy veggie stew – $15.95). We started out with hummus as a mezze ($6.95), but there were plenty of other appealing options like octopus salad ($8.50), and ezme with walnuts (a spicy Turkish salad with chopped tomatoes and onion with pomegranate molasses – $8.50). For entrees there were a variety of shish kebabs and even an intriguing-sounding encrusted salmon. We asked the server what the most emblematic Kurdish dishes were and he suggested the Sac Tawa ($24.95) and Mardin Special ($21.95 – both with protein options).
The Mardin Special was vaguely described as fried eggplant with lamb, tomato and yogurt sauce. However, the dish that arrived was more than the sum of its parts, and was probably our favorite dish of the night. The yogurt sauce was a perfect counterpoint to the slightly spicy tomato sauce, and the lamb was perfectly cooked and fall-off-the-bone tender. As you can see above, the eggplant was also arranged in a dome shape, which we were not expecting!The Sac Tawa (above) was an extremely generous portion of chicken stir fried with tomatoes bell peppers, heavily spiced. We later learned that this is a traditional pre-wedding dish. Our friend ordered the lamb shank ($26.95), which was a staggering proportion, and was perfectly cooked and tender.
The dessert menu sounded delicious – so we decided to order the Kurdish Tea with Kurdish cookies ($8.50) and the goat’s milk rice pudding ($7.95). The rice pudding had a delicious tang, and we loved the sesame and pistachio-based cookies. Everything we tried at The Gundis was delicious, and prepared in an elevated, clean style. We would recommend The Gundis to anyone who likes Middle Eastern Food but is looking for something a little bit different. Though Kurdish food is similar to Turkish, it has its own unique twist, and should definitely be experienced!