“Turkish people, we don’t like to brag,” says Fatih Bilgin, owner of International Food Market & Pizzeria in Henrietta.
This explains why the cafe’s takeout menu touting pizzas, subs, wraps and wings looks all too familiar. Order the pizza and subs if you want to, but you’ll really be missing the boat. Only a tiny corner of the trifold hints at what’s really going down at this intriguing year-old butcher shop, cafe and market specializing in Middle Eastern groceries and halal meats that are butchered on-site. Turkish kebabs made with chicken, lamb and beef stand ready to grill in the meat case on metal skewers, to be served with pita bread or hot rice and salad.
These traditional kabobs are just the tip of the iceberg, because IFMP, as I like to call it, is an emporium of mostly Turkish cooking (and some Pakistani dishes too). IFMP is the sister store to Bilgin’s tiny Istanbul Market on Norton Street, where he began selling prepared foods several years ago.
(Another longtime Turkish-owned store, Halal Market & Meats on East Ridge Road, is also now offering traditional Turkish foods in addition to fresh halal meats and groceries.)
Modesty kept Bilgin from making a menu promoting his native Turkish cuisine. He assumed American foods would draw customers, but in fact, he’s discovering most people are coming in for kebabs, or pide (a boat-shaped bread topped with sausage, cheese or ground beef), or borek (a smaller savory pastry filled with cheese), or moussaka (a casserole of eggplant and beef) and baklava (no explanation needed, I trust). Sounds Greek, right? Bilgin says those dishes originated in Turkey.
With no menu to guide me, I simply asked for a “big plate” ($7.99) filled with as much as I could sample from IFMP’s steam table. A four-pound Styrofoam box came at me with chicken biryani (a Pakistani rice dish), baked chicken parts, butter chicken (a creamy Pakistani chicken stew with tomatoes), sulu kofte (small juicy meatballs with potatoes and carrots), small nuggets of stewed lamb on the bones, and two types of rice: basmati with chick peas, and a short-grained rice with bits of vermicelli.
IFMP also offers other Turkish delights. I took home a sadirazam lokumu ($1.75), a delicate, not-too-sweet log rolled with whipped cream, cocoa, coconut and pudding. The kunefe ($5.99), however, is only offered at the cafe. The shredded dough pastry is drenched in syrup and must be eaten as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Granted, the Turkish and Pakistani foods change every few days, making such a menu more elusive, says the soft-spoken shop owner. At the very least, I think Bilgin should change the name to International Food Market & Lahmacuneria.
International Food Market & Pizzeria
Address: 376 Jefferson Road, Henrietta.
Phone: (585) 270-4004.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Accessibility: Fully wheelchair accessible.
Good to know: International Food Market’s sister store, Istanbul Market, is at 1388 Norton Ave.; (585) 342-2990. Both stores sell halal meats (all butchered on-site), groceries, imported housewares and prepared foods.
Footnote on Halal Market & Meats: My husband and I ate lunch here last month and absolutely loved the kebabs and Turkish coffee. The store also has a wonderful selection of Turkish cookies and desserts. 311 East Ridge Road; (585) 342-4776.