The Turk’s Inn opened this month, but it’s hardly a new establishment. In 1934, Armenian-Turkish immigrant George Gogian opened the original Turk’s in Hayward, Wisconsin, decorating the place with “Arabian Nights”–inspired bric-a-brac as a playful tribute to his heritage. In the classic Midwestern supper club tradition, Turk’s offered tourists and locals hearty fare and a welcoming space to while away the evening with drinks and live music. When Turk’s closed in 2014, Tyler Erickson and Varun Kataria, who grew up going to the restaurant, were determined to give it a second life.
The pair acquired many of Turk’s fixtures at auction, including the red triangular bar and iconic, weathered sign. As its original advertising promises, the restaurant is still “a world in itself,” filled with saturated colors and miscellaneous objects (taxidermy peacocks, fezzes, doll heads, and more). Kataria and Erickson added their own touches, too—a painting of a magnanimous cat watches over one dining nook. They’ve steered the menu away from heavy mid-century American dishes, but don’t expect traditional Turkish food (although there’s döner kebab available at the takeout window). Instead, they describe the menu as a contemporary conversation between the Midwest and Middle East—you won’t find green bean casserole, but green bean falafel. The drinks lean classic, with riffs on supper club standards like martinis and old-fashioneds.
Like its predecessor, Turk’s Inn is not just a dining space, but a destination for an evening’s entertainment. Upstairs, guests can dance to live music in the rooftop Kismet Garden. Down below, behind swirled golden doors, the Sultan Room hosts everything from punk shows to avant-garde jazz. A portrait of Margie Gogian, the restaurant’s second proprietor, watches from the wall. As Erickson explains, they hope to keep the Turk’s Inn’s connection to the past while bringing its generous spirit into a new era.