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PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | My go-to meal: a chicken shish-kebab combo dish

I never knew I liked Turkish food. Frankly, I’d never tried it before.

But thankfully, something — the wafting smells from the kitchen or the cheap prices, I can’t remember — brought me into the Turquaz Grill on the downtown Riverhead riverfront one day about three years ago. Since then, the cozy little restaurant has been my go-to for a filling meal on a tight budget.

I’ve become somewhat of an evangelist for this eatery, taking anyone looking for good eats to meet the welcoming Turkish family from Ankara that own and cook there.

So on a recent Friday, I met up with some friends and we were all eager to dig in after a long week.

We sat down and our waiter rolled her eyes at me and smiled. It was the usual again: a chicken shish-kebab, seasoned and tender, with white rice, beet salad and a heaping pile of bulgur, a wheat dish popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO } The fresh pita, dipped in red lentil soup, is one of Turquaz Grill's highlights.
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO } The fresh pita, dipped in red lentil soup, is one of Turquaz Grill’s highlights.

I also ordered a bowl of creamy red lentil soup, which tastes unlike any lentils I’ve ever tasted (my highest praise). In total, my hearty meal — which also included delicious fresh pita bread — only cost around $12.

My friends also ordered soups, the spinach or the lemon chicken, and combinations of the kebab specials. Some went with chicken, others lamb or adana, a long minced kebab.

We ate and ate, so caught up in the food and our conversation that we didn’t realize the restaurant was ready to close. The owners, ever hospitable, had let us chat into the night without wanting to rush us.