Bagels. Pizza. Sandwiches. There’s no denying New Yorkers love their bread; however, it can be difficult to find a satisfying food for those craving carbs who want something different (and to watch their waistline). That’s where Simit + Smith, a quickly growing artisanal cafe chain, comes in, bringing the healthy and traditional Turkish staple to New Yorkers.
Simit is similar to a bagel in the fact that it’s a round-shaped bread with a hole in the center; however, that’s where the similarities end. Simit is made from 100% all-natural ingredients — including flour, yeast and a touch of salt — baked in convection ovens that inject steam. This makes the food lighter and healthier than typical American breakfast pastries. Afterward, the simit is dipped in a light grape molasses syrup and coated in sesame seeds or multigrain toppings. From there, each simit is hand-rolled at their local bakery into the varieties: original with sesame, whole wheat with sesame and multigrain.
Made-From-Scratch & Healthy
There is no butter used in the process, and less bread than a bagel, allowing for a savings of about 40% less fat and 70% less calories, according Oz Aksar, a District Manager of three Simit + Smith locations. They’re made fresh — typically what you’re eating has come out of the oven in the last 15 minutes — and are presented as a thin twist of bread with a crunchy outside and fluffy inside, that’s easy to eat on the go or as a “Turkish Simit Breakfast” with a side of the cafe’s homemade ricotta dip topped with honey and a sprinkle of black pepper, not to mention a side of Turkish fig slices.
So, of all foods, why simit? Says Gokhan Cakmak, Spokesperson of Simit + Smith, “It’s an iconic food of Turkey. And it can be enjoyed be everyone. It can be the meal of a poor man or the simple pleasure of the wealthy man. Also, because it is a delicious, freshly baked, artisan made and baked bread encrusted with crunchy sesame seeds and soft inside, that is ideal for breakfast or can be used for a wide variety of sandwiches.”
Simit + Smith is possibly the only cafe of its kind in the country, an actual space where you can sit down and savor traditional simit, poğaça (a decadent brioche bun filled with feta and sometimes olive) and made-from-scratch simit chips with Mediterranean dips and Turkish tea. Along with being true to their Turkish roots, the company is passionate about going local and being community oriented. While the simits are made from imported Turkish ingredients to keep the dish honest, all other menu ingredients — as well as the goodies they sell in the shop like Brooklyn Brittle, Chobani Yogurt and IQ Juice — are locally sourced from New York.
How Simit + Smith Began
The story behind Simit + Smith is an interesting one. Mr. Rahmi Koc, once chairman of one of Turkey’s most successful industrial conglomerates, Koç Holding, retired wealthy; however, he felt a burning desire to share Turkish culture with the world in some way. Thus, this authentic Turkish cafe was born.
The intention was to bring simit to NYC, while the word “Smith” in the name has a history relating to a craftsman such as a blacksmith. In this case, Simit + Smith is a breadsmith of artisanal Mediterranean breads and pastries.
Other Simit Eats
Along with simits, simit-wrapped sandwiches containing locally-sourced ingredients and Turkish pastries, tea is an important part of the Simit + Smith experience. They have eight kinds of herbal teas from Mighty leaf and one traditional Turkish tea, as well as Turkish coffee. When you sit down in their laid-back minimalist space — free wifi included — you’ll be served your hot drink in a traditional small tulip-shaped glass with no handles. While some may wonder why they serve a boiling beverage in a glass with no handles, it’s cultural. In Turkey, locals drink tea nonstop. They use a small glass to ensure it never gets cold and is constantly re-filled with hot tea. Moreover, hosts enjoy welcoming guests with hot tea, and want them to be able to feel the warmth of their hospitality through the glass.
Soon, Simit + Smith will also serve their to-go teas in a disposable tulip-shaped cup.
A Meal On A Budget
Simit + Smith is also a budget-friendly dining experience in NYC, with no meal costing over $10, and most costing under $7.
While they currently have six locations in New York, by the end of 2014 they are projected to have 10.
You can also find Simit + Smith products in a number of gourmet food stores around the Big Apple, some of which include Agata & Valentina, Garden of Eden, Blue Olive Market, Amish Market and Zeytuna.
This post is part of Discover New York, a regular series on Jessie on a Journey
Have you eaten at Simit + Smith or another NYC venue delivering a healthy dose of Turkish culture? Please share in the comments below.
This post originally appeared on Drive the District, written by me. Photos are courtesy of Simit + Smith.