Ikram Bakery Has Your Daily Turkish Bread

Maybe one or two labels exist to mark the goodies at Ikram Bakery in Fountain Valley, OC's only Turkish bakery, but there's no need for them. Nearly everyone who comes into the dive knows what they want, will rifle off requests to the people behind the cash register until to-go bags spill over with savory and sweet pastries, with plastic boxes packed with baklava and things that resemble pretzels crossed with Mexican pan dulce. Trays fill up the sole counter, and behind it stand even more trays on a cart heavy with bread; they'll most likely be empty by day's end. And a display case offers multiple sweets—yep, no labels there, either.

They don't matter, even if you're not Turkish. Walk in clueless, as I did on my first visit, and the kind bakers start asking questions about your preferences and explain each pastry. One tray on the counter contains turnovers called pogaça, fat beauties stuffed with feta cheese, potatoes, and minced meat or an eggplant-pepper mixture that lingers on your tongue; the bread is similar to a dinner roll, except softer. Another tray features Ikram's most popular item: simit, a sesame seed-covered twirl of bread similar to a bagel but saltier. Also popular are the boreks, a family of pastries made with phyllo dough layered around, above, even beneath ingredients. One resembles a massive baklava but contains cheese; others find olives dotted around the different layers. All of them are engineering marvels: filling but light, delicate yet sturdy. If you need a baguette or non-ethnic bread, the Ikram crew sells those as well—and good renditions at that.

And if you continue to gaze at the pastry near the back, the one that looks like the child of a deep-dish pizza and baklava? That's the su boregi, the king of the boreks, a multilayered puff pastry brushed with butter and encasing a gargantuan slab of feta cheese. The owners will slice you off a bit if you ask; they know that once you eat it, once you experience the crunch of the phyllo, the jarring saltiness of the cheese, the sweetness of the butter, the ultimate umami of it all, you'll buy a chunk. We're in the midst of a Turkish renaissance in Orange County—the Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival grows every year, and Turkish restaurants seem to open at the rate of one a month nowadays—so consider Ikram the mothership, the place where you can buy your daily Turkish bread.

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