The restaurant halted operations after a car crashed into the side of the building back in February. Naci’s owner, Jale Evsen, was behind the counter when she “felt like a bomb went off.” Footage shows a 21-year-old driver, who was later identified, slamming the car into the building and fleeing the scene. Fortunately, the Naci’s lunch crowd had not yet arrived, and there were no injuries.
A gaping hole in the wall was just the tip of the iceberg. Debris flooded the open kitchen, leaving the area unfit for cooking. The ordeal forced Naci’s to close temporarily, and the following months proved incredibly stressful for Evsen, who was used to working 90-hour weeks. Financially, the crash took a tremendous toll – while insurance only pays for the rebuild and loss of business based on the prior year’s performance, the deductible was on Evsen’s dime. Of utmost concern to her, however, was how to pay her staff of 4, to whom she’s fiercely loyal. Evsen started a GoFundMe and garnered an outpouring of community support, sufficient enough to carry her staff through the closure. Evsen’s philosophy says everything: “My staff means a lot to me. I believe in taking care of my staff – when you treat them well, they treat customers well.”
Her dedication to customer service and cooking has inspired Naci’s success since its inception. The restaurant opened its doors in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, rendering the freestanding building on Granby a hotspot for authentic Mediterranean cuisine. Evsen and her husband had purchased the building before he fell ill and passed away. Evsen named the eatery after her late husband, honoring his lifelong dream of opening a restaurant together. Now, Naci’s legacy lives on in the food – all home-cooked by Jale with the highest quality ingredients, both imported and locally sourced. Customers can indulge in everything from savory bourekas, made with hand-stretched phyllo dough, to flavorful lamb patties, curry chicken kebabs, and samplers of vegetarian fare. Perhaps most impressive is Jale’s ability to wholly run the operation. In addition to doing the majority of the cooking, she’s responsible for recipe development, inventory management, social media and marketing, and order fulfillment. A daunting job for many, Jale does it with passion and positivity.
With repairs coming along, Naci’s will mainly serve to-go orders until the business is fully operational. While the building has been deemed structurally sound, the final touches are still a work in progress – the crash decimated the accent wall of kiln-dried wood. These aren’t the only ongoing issues Evsen is facing. Since reopening, she has yet to update menu prices to keep pace with inflation. Her attention to quality means that the cost of some ingredients (such as Halal, antibiotic-free chicken) has soared, leaving her with little choice but to adjust prices to cover overhead costs. Nevertheless, Evsen is still forging ahead and looking to the future, fueled by the flock of loyal customers who have enthusiastically returned for more. With the Summer months in full swing, expect a line-up of exciting new additions:
- Rice pudding is back again – made with organic milk and best served cold.
- Naci’s famous lentil soup has returned upon customer request and is here to stay despite the warmer weather.
- Turkish Breakfast will now be served all day, every day (during cafe hours).
Soon, customers may even be able to enjoy their Turkish breakfast al fresco – Evsen plans to convert her back deck into a lounge-like space with plush cushions and communal seating – for larger parties.
In addition to expanding its offerings, Naci’s is adjusting its hours to accommodate the Turkish breakfast crowd with its existing staff. Before placing your to-go order or stopping by the cafe, check out the updated business hours below:
T, W, Th: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fri, Sat: 11:00 am – 6:30 pm
Sun, Mon: Closed
Talbot Park, NFK
Rachel Reiss moved to Norfolk in 2021, and, true to her native Floridian roots, has been enjoying life near the beach. Since her day job as an HR Program Manager has gone remote, it offers her the flexibility to explore the area’s rich history, culture, and diverse food scene in her spare time. She is also a passionate pianist, aspiring yogi, and self-proclaimed health nut who loves to cook. Rachel lives near Talbot Park with her husband, Phil - a CHKD resident - and their Maltese, Minnie.