Cafe Ostro in Dalton, Georgia, has been voted Best Mediterranean Restaurant in Georgia for 2021 by the Georgia Business Journal.
Restaurant co-owner and manager A.K. Demirhat, who also acts as the cafe’s chef, said it “made his day” when he found out the restaurant had won the award. He didn’t even know the cafe was nominated before receiving a letter a few months ago notifying him that Cafe Ostro would be featured in the magazine’s Best of Georgia issue.
“I did not know that we had been nominated,” Demirhat told the Times Free Press during a phone call. “It was the best surprise. It is an honor because we were nominated by a customer. That’s how they do it.”
According to the magazine’s website, readers and editors nominate candidates for the Best of Georgia competition. Those candidates are then vetted through reputable sources like the Better Business Bureau, to ensure they’re solid contenders before voting starts and winners are selected.
“Knowing someone thought this food was the best in Georgia means a lot to me,” said Demirhat, whose recipes were handed down to him from his mother. He is from Turkey and said that is reflected in the dishes the cafe serves and how they are prepared.
Demirhat opened Cafe Ostro at 240 Hamilton St. in 2018 with co-owner Haisar Shehadeh. The goal, he said, was to offer high-quality, fresh food to customers right away. Knowing those same customers believe he has delivered on that goal means “everything” to him.
“We are honored to represent Dalton,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who has supported us since 2018.”
Dalton resident Kirsten Parker is one of those long-time supporters. She had never tried shawarma — a type of roasted meat cooked slowly on a revolving spit and shaved for serving in sandwiches or wraps — before having it at Cafe Ostro.
Now she said she visits the restaurant regularly to get a taste of its famous chicken shawarma, and though she has since tried it at other restaurants that offer the dish in Atlanta, she said nothing has compared.
“I can see why it won,” Parker said. “In my opinion, the food probably is the best in the state.”
In addition to shawarma, Cafe Ostro’s menu offers hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, calamari, grilled mahi mahi, tahini salad, lamb kabobs and more. All items on the menu, which can be viewed in full at cafeostro.com, can be made gluten-free. A wide variety of vegetarian dishes are available.
“Everyone loves the shawarma,” Dalton resident Lee Buckner said. “But I have to be honest with you, I don’t think there’s anything bad you can order. It’s all good.”
Cafe Ostro is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant will close at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and will remain closed Christmas Day.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at [email protected] press.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.