There are a few good reasons I admire Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish-born founder of Chobani, the popular Greek-style yogurt brand. 1) He started giving all his workers 10% shares in the business in April 2016, 2) he is a serious Kurdish sympathizer and left Turkey due to that country’s oppression of its Kurdish minority, and now I have another, more frivolous reason, 3) he opened a Chobani Café, which features a range of tasty, healthy and unusual Turkish delights in an even more unusual location: a Tribeca Target store.
I had the Chobani café in my sites as a snack destination as soon as I saw the small, clean, well-lighted place while getting my Target adrenalin rush (the bedding! the British cosmetics in “the Boot’s Aisle,” the funky home decor. I suddenly need a grey fluffy pouf). I loved the café wall papered with photos of “nazar boncugu”—the Turkish blue and white evil eye talismans meant to ward off bad luck—and the wooden tables lined with real limes, lemons and oranges. The vibe is sleek, healthy, corporate, but the offerings are anything but standard. You can choose between sweet, fruit and savory yogurt concoctions, plus a variety of fillings for your “simit,” a sesame studded Turkish bagel. And I like that you can order a small snack size of the former ($5.75) and a half a simit ($2 - $6.00), but because I wanted to try both a yogurt dish and simit, I ordered the special, which features the small/half sizes of each for $10.50.
I asked the cheery cashier for the most popular savory yogurt dish, and she suggested the mango and avocado. I ordered it and a half simit with smoked salmon and labne—a soft cheese made from strained yogurt. Mango and Greek yogurt is my morning breakfast but I was a little concerned about how avocado would mesh, and I was right to be a little concerned. The parts—mango, jalopeño, yogurt, lime, mango and cilantro—did not quite add up to an integrated great tasting whole. I asked for additional cilantro, and this gave the mixture more of a Mexican zing, especially when scooped with the purple corn chips they provide. Now my simit—no complaints there. Flatter than a bagel, but not as flat as a Montreal bagel or a “flagel,” the simit was warm, crispy on the outside and with a soft interior. A good quality salmon slab melded with the labne, and I longed for another half.
Another very cool feature of Chobani Café is the bank of beautifully photographed recipe postcards. Want to know what exactly goes into your pistachio and chocolate yogurt dish? You can take a beautiful recipe card home with you. It’s a smart branding move, providing the recipe cards along with selling Chobani yogurt containers in the café. And another thing, there’s something calming about eating in corporate retail cafés. When I go to London and Norwich, England to visit the Chef’s family, I often find respite in a Marks and Spencer café. The ambiance is bland, clean, comforting and the tea, scones and sandwiches are first rate. Tourists (or anyone) visiting the 9/11 Memorial, The Museum of Jewish Heritage, Poets House, the Battery or disembarking off the Staten Island Ferry would do well to make this Chobani Café their replenishment target.
255 Greenwich St.