“We believed people in Austin would love Turkish food, and they did,” Ugur said. “They have been supporting us for the last five years.”
Ugur, who grew up in Turkey and owns a restaurant there, moved to the United States in the early 2000s for school. He briefly returned home before moving to Austin to open the restaurant. Chef Joel Zarzamora joined him about three years ago.
Ugur said many of his kitchen staff have been with him since the beginning.
MezzeMe used to be a build-your-own-bowl style restaurant, but during the pandemic it moved to an a la carte menu.
Zarzamora said the shift made the menu more accessible for diners unfamiliar with Turkish food.
“If you don’t know what to order, you get anxious; you might leave,” Zarzamora said.
Ugur said he would often get uncomfortable when he first moved to the United States and restaurants asked him questions like what temperature he wanted his meat cooked to and what type of bread he wanted, as those are not common in Turkish restaurants.
Ugur said MezzeMe aims to educate diners on new cuisine, and staff is familiar with each dish so they can answer any questions.
Despite the focus on accessible food, Zarzamora and Ugur have not let that limit them from experimenting with new dishes or focusing on authenticity.
The tabouli, for example, is spicy, because that is how it is made where Ugur grew up, and the soups are based on the recipes he grew up eating.
“It’s always exciting,” Zarzamora said. “Moody comes in with these crazy ideas. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t; but we are always experimenting.”
MezzeMe Turkish Kitchen
4700 W. Guadalupe St., Ste. 9, Austin
Hours: Mon.-Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.