Outside of Oklava Cafe

Bear Bites: Oklava Cafe

2 mins read

On the bustling street of Palo Alto’s University Avenue, a new cafe offers exciting foreign flavors to spice up the culinary scene. Oklava Cafe opened earlier this year, bringing an exotic variety of Turkish treats and beverages to the Bay Area. 

Owner Elif Asli Uzun grew up in Istanbul and enjoyed the local confections in abundance. Once she moved to Palo Alto, she noticed that these treats were scarce, inspiring her to share them with the community. Uzun said, “Everyone in the Bay Area likes Turkish food, but you cannot find it here.”

Wall of Oklava Cafe

Upon opening the cafe, Uzun and her business partner had a few things to prepare. Uzun, who had previously worked as an interior designer, spent long hours perfecting the design of the cafe to resemble Ottoman coffeehouses. She lined the back wall of the store with a mural of these coffeehouses and another wall with an array of historic portraits chronicling the history of baklava, a famous Turkish treat.

However, the opening wasn’t as smooth as they anticipated. Right before the expected grand opening, the cafe flooded inside. Uzun explained, “We had to break the bolts again and rebuild everything inside, so it took a little while longer than we expected—but it finally came through.” 

Oklava Cafe stays open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. so customers can enjoy breakfast, dessert, or an afternoon bite. When determing business hours, Uzun thought, “Everywhere closes early here. In Turkey we like spending time meeting our friends so here we are keeping long hours.” From open to close, customers line up to buy their Turkish treats, and it serves as a hub for social gatherings. 

Oklava Cafe pastry case

One reason for the outstanding taste of the baklava sold at the cafe is that it is imported from Turkey. Uzun’s partner works in collaboration with the Turkish supplier Sekerci Cafer Erol to sell the most authentic Turkish baklava. In addition, the Turkish Delights come from a popular location in Istanbul.

Uzun shared, “It’s very traditional, like a family business. The pastry chefs are generational: grandfathers and grandfathers. It’s really top-notch quality.” The high quality of Oklava Cafe has customers returning again and again.

Since its opening, the store has received a large amount of support from the community. Manager Mustafa Onat said, “It’s picking up day by day. The community is very supportive, and they visit a lot.”

All of the hype was enticing, so I went ahead and tried some of Oklava Cafe’s most popular items to see for myself.

Desserts from Oklava Cafe

The homemade baklava with walnuts set the stage with its simple yet mouthwatering flavor. The balance between the sweet syrup and flaky pastry was delightful, and the walnuts complimented the dessert beautifully. 

When I asked an employee helping me what her favorite treat was, she recommended the roll with pistachio. The crisp exterior and vibrant flavor made this treat every pistachio lover’s dream.

The Oreo chocolate cream hazelnut Turkish delight featured a chewy exterior with a creamy Nutella and hazelnut filling that hit the spot.

Finally, I tried the midye (a.k.a. mussel) baklava with pistachio. This baklava had a satisfyingly thick and crispy coat. Inside was a creamy pistachio paste that paired nicely with the dough.

Baklava from Oklava Cafe

Just when I thought I was done, the manager brought out two milky baklavas. They are similar to the other baklavas but, as the name suggests, they are soaked in milk. From the first bite, I knew that this was my favorite. The creamy milk paired with the sweet dough made this treat an irresistible show-stopper.

Oklava Cafe Beverages

And as an avid coffee lover, how could my visit be complete without trying the Turkish coffee? It arrived at my table paired with sparkling water and a Turkish delight.

Onat described the unique qualities of Turkish coffee: “It’s the way we roast and grind the beans. It’s very fine and we mix it with water. The coffee itself is very strong and flavorful.” 

Overall, Oklava Cafe is a great place to hang out and try something new. If you’re craving some authentic baklava or a unique chocolatey treat, don’t miss out the next time you’re nearby. 

Tiffany is a senior at M-A. She enjoys writing about local events and culture on campus. She is also a member of M-A’s Dance Team and dances competitively.

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