Angora CafeBoston, MAPub/Cafe
4.5-Star Cafe(our ratings)
Your fast food alternative with nutrition, love, and a Mediterranean twist, inspired by a German electronics company.
Review by Johnny Monsarrat
Don’t complain about the heat. Boston is so cold generally that any day with sun is a blessing. But the day I arrived at Angora Cafe was punishing. After a long walk, I immediately sat stunned on the full-length sofa, not feeling human. Then manager Turkan Caglar got me a mango smoothie and I was transformed. Any chilled drink will cool you down with a price to pay — the chemical syrupy taste from the smoothie counter at the mall or McDonald’s non-dairy shakes. I waited to feel sick, but it didn’t happen. Instead I felt healed, loved, energized.
This is the wholesome goodness behind Angora Cafe, an American cafe with a touch of the Mediterranean. And it was inspired in part by Siemens, the widget maker behind car parts and power systems. “I was an electrical engineer at Siemens,” explained Turkan, “working at a factory that served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 24 hours a day. Then I came from Turkey to Boston ten years ago and was surprised that I couldn’t find the same foods here, healthy and nutritious foods without the extra calories.”
Owner Selim Gurel sees the same problem. “I have two kids and it’s easy to find fast food, but hard to find something quick that’s also healthy,” he says. Having worked at Angora Cafe, he bought it twenty years ago from its original 1985 founder and has run it since. “We’re the alternative to regular fast foods.” he says. For example, they bake their falafels, which is rare in the business. Unlike my favorite Middle Eastern hole in the wall, Falafel Palace in Cambridge, their only grill is their panini sandwich grill, and they don’t use oil or grease.
According to Turkan, their flat bread pizza comes with 350-500 calories a slice, served on low-carb wheat tortillas. Pizza as health food? I don’t believe it.
It sounds too good to be true: good-tasting foods that are nutritious, low-calorie, inexpensive, and convenient. Just try the hippie-fantastic Fresh City, whose prices are a little too high, or shop at Whole Foods, whose organic products are hardly heart-healthy. Studies have shown that foods grown organically aren’t really any better for you (although they may sometimes be better for the environment).
Five minutes later, I believe it.
The mango smoothie has no bitterness and no aftertaste. There’s nothing phony about the mix of kiwi, honey, lemon sorbet, and orange juice. The artichoke and roasted garlic flat bread pizza isn’t on 3 millimeter pita pocket bread. The 1 millimeter substrate barely exists, and there’s just a sprinkling of feta cheese. I generally order a pizza with pineapple topping so it’s not dry, and ask for half the cheese, and it still turns out too cheesy. At Angora Cafe, the artichoke and garlic add some juice and the cheese doesn’t overwhelm.
“We listen to feedback,” says Selim. “That’s our secret. Most of our managers have been here for 8 years or more and we take the time to get to know our customers and make food the way they like it.” Perhaps that’s why Angora is so popular, a “find” that all the locals know about. Situated on the Boston University campus, their customers are mainly students, but they have a family corner with a chalkboard for kids and childrens’ menu, and a catering business that serves hospitals, schools, businesses, and sports teams as well. The place is small — it seats about 20 — but well-lit, clean, and uplifting. There’s a happy energy to the customers who come in.
Although Angora Cafe may try a little too hard — I don’t believe in New Agey gimmicks like “nutrition packs” in smoothies that supposedly detoxify you — you don’t have to eat sitting lotus style to appreciate what they offer. The frozen yogurt comes from an all-natural supplier, so it doesn’t come from a powder base (but it tasted the same to me) and they have a sugar-free soy alternative. Their raspberry filled cookies are a chunk of heaven, without the toughness of the storebought types you normally get — and it’s unusual to find innovative ideas like brownie-filled cookies.
The turco panini, a flat grilled sandwich with turkish spices, is too heavy on the cheese, but has mayonnaise to offset the dryness. And it comes with sausage chunks that taste like meat, not like the pepperoni-thin circles you find at pizza shops that are barely meat at all. Of course, any sandwich squashed to half the size is bound to be somewhat heavy.
Terms like “organic” or “clean eating” may not mean anything real, but Angora Cafe makes a real home for its customers, with student-sized pricing but without a hole-in-the-wall atmosphere. Their menu gives nutrition information, and while they don’t serve serious breakfast or dinner food, you could have a wrap, pizza, salad, panini, smoothie, or frozen yogurt here anytime. And they are opening a new branch called Angora Ice in Chestnut Hill. You arrive weary. You leave transformed.
1024A Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215