Bushwick, Brooklyn is home to many transplants, but its latest arrival isn’t a hipster with blunt-cut bangs: It’s The Turk’s Inn, a very 1970s full-service restaurant, rooftop bar, kebab stand, and nightclub transported from its longtime Wisconsin home and resurrected less than a block away from the L train at Jefferson.
Childhood friends Varun Kataria and Tyler Erickson were devoted customers at the original Turk’s Inn, a supper club in Hayward, WI well-known for its steaks and over-the-top kitsch. When the restaurant closed in 2014, Kataria and Erickson bought the decor, fixtures, and exterior signage at auction, where it scattered to ad-hoc storage sites—Erickson’s cabin; Minneapolis. When it came time for the big New York move, the pair hauled all of their finds in a 53-foot semi-truck.
There’s enough room in the 5,000-square-foot space for all the original trinkets plus tchotchkes from the founders’ collection. In the dining room, a skylighted alcove is festooned with riotous textiles and brass pendants Erickson sourced from India. The 1940s bar, meanwhile, was designed by someone who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright. From concept to completion, Kataria and Erickson executed much of the project themselves.
Like the interior, the menu takes its cues from the supper club, which served steaks alongside food associated with the Middle East. The wildly exuberant design language translates well next door, where diners can order doner kebabs to-go from a counter made of discontinued hot pink laminate dreamed up by Memphis Movement hero Ettore Sottsass. As if there wasn’t enough programming, an adjacent Barbarella-esque venue bookends the restaurant’s main entrance. To reach the Sultan Room, visitors walk through a forced perspective hallway flanked by pink wainscotting that gets smaller as visitors ascend the ramp. On stage at opening night, a chanteuse in a lime green snakeskin bodycon dress performed in front of a starburst of lattice-and-fog-juice-patterned laser cut acrylic panels. Between the marbled light-up acylic back-of-bar menu, the happy clash of paisleys in the dining room, and the metallic green geode cut wallpaper in the stairwell, it’s impossible to count how many wild finishes were speced for this project.
The highly original design did not come into this world easily, however. Building out the far-from-conventional program within New York’s byzantine building regulations was a three-year challenge. Case in point: After a month of concept designs for the layout, an expeditor pointed out that the tiered Sultan Room needed a second staircase to the roof to achieve code compliance.
“We really owned the project much more after a couple of these early rude awakenings,” Kataria said.
A further complication ensued when the firm hired by Kataria and Erickson dissolved after design development. In the last phase, the duo wasn’t working with designers; instead, Erickson said, they returned to their DIY roots. The pair tackled lighting and sound design themselves and completed a two-in-one kitchen for dine-in orders and takeout. In the last push, Erickson and Kataria brought on skilled friends together to finish the work.
Although a homegrown team—not architects—propelled the design at the end, the pair gave a shout-out to Gaines Solomon, an architect from the original firm who stayed on to see the project through. (Solomon is now at 71 Collective, a firm he co-founded with two colleagues from his former office.)
The Turk’s Inn is Erickson and Kataria’s first restaurant. “This whole thing started with Varun and I just deciding to bid on a neon sign,” Erickson said. “It was an amazing collaboration to pull this off in the end.”
*The architect is a friend of the author.
Header image: The bar, a fixture at the original Turk’s Inn, was shipped to Brooklyn in a 53-foot semi-truck, along with dozens of other trinkets and furniture. (Jeff Brown)