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$20 Dinner

Abracadabra Magic Diner Brings Hippie Vibes and an Expansive Menu to Ridgewood 

A Turkish borek sandwich? Check. Chicken tikka masala? Yup. French toast? You got it!

Turkish feta cheese and spinach borek with sausage, $15.50. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Dilara Erbay doesn't call herself a chef, though she's been cooking professionally since the start of this century. Her restaurants, workshops, and food installations—most notably her experimental Turkish spot in Istanbul called Abracadabra—have garnered her worldwide media attention and landed her an internship at Tribeca Grill. (The latter job may not have lasted that long, but made her fall in love with New York City.) Erbay is, as she puts it, more of a food artist. "We believe in ourselves, and we believe in our hearts," she told Hell Gate. "We become what we say. And here, 'abracadabra' is the magic word. We put our love and our spirit into our food."  

Outside the Abracadabra Magic Diner. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Abracadabra Magic Diner, which opened in Ridgewood with limited hours in December, is the third New York City venture from Erbay and her partner Ahmet Bugdayci since they moved here with their son in 2012. It's also by far the largest. Located on the same corner where Onderdonk & Sons served burgers and such for a half-dozen years, Abracadabra Magic Diner is a trippy, art-filled space with seating for about 35 patrons. There's a long wooden bar up front; a communal table in the back; and four elevated, circular booths emblazoned with words like "Joy" and "More Humanity" that, should you snag one, will make you feel totally baller. 

Seating galore. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Bugdayci is the creative director, and seems to run the front-of-the house operation as well. He's also a shaman specializing in kambo medicine, whose practitioners burn the waxy secretions from the Amazonian giant monkey frog into your skin to heighten the senses—hence all the frogs you see around the restaurant. Bugdayci described the process to me as "dying and being reborn" (uh, no thank you), and conducts the ceremonies at the couple's Abracadabra Magic Farm in Coxsackie, New York.

Watch out for the wax! (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The farm also provides food, some of which is used at the Abracadabra Magic Diner on a menu that's kind of scattershot cuisine-wise, but very hippie-ish and healthy, vibes-wise. Erbay explains: "We think very globally, but we don't take it like, 'I am Turkish' or 'I am Egyptian.' We don't believe in nations, but we do believe in cultures." 

This mindset means there's an excellent Turkish feta cheese and spinach borek sandwich here, a beautiful, eggy monster to which you can (and should) add slabs of sucuk, a funky, fiery Balkan sausage. It's one of the best brunch-y sandwiches in town, especially when slathered with Erbay's signature hot sauce. But there's also chicken tikka masala available, just because Erbay traveled to India and loved it. The saucy bird is served with greens, chickpeas, and a blob of her green hummus on coconut rice. 

Chicken tikka masala superfood magic bowl, $15. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Other "superfood magic bowls" include a protein-rich vegan option starring zaatar marinated roasted tofu; a big salmon salad; and Erbay's lentil balls, which she makes with quinoa rather than the more Turkish-traditional bulgur so that the dish is gluten-free.        

You can also get stuffed lavash wraps (she calls them "Turkish burritos''); croissant French toast; a vegan omelet; and, in honor of the previous tenants, a straight-up Onderdonk burger with American cheese, onions, and pickles. Several pastries, which definitely fall on the more austere end of the dessert spectrum, are available as well. Turkish tapas (and alcohol) will be added when Erbay and Bugdayci snag a wine and beer license and expand the hours into the night.

Lentil and quinoa balls superfood magic bowl, $16. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The current booze-free situation won't leave you thirsty, though. Abracadabra has smoothies that claim to boost your immune system, or your strength, or your libido, as well as "healing teas," matcha drinks, mushroom coffee, and a whole cacao program. I enjoyed my cup of "trust, love, and courage" in the latter category—it had a shot of espresso and MCT oil—though after sucking it down, I'm not sure I felt any more of the three eponymous attributes than I usually walk around with.  

Take a seat. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

But whether Abracadabra provides you with palpable physical health benefits or not, the couple certainly have created a lively, welcoming gathering space, the type of cafe where it would probably be fine if you picked up one of those congas in the corner and started playing. "We have a family business," said Erbay. "Everybody does this for themselves to nourish themselves, and the community. It's more of a school, more of a ritual, more of a sharing experience. That's why it's magic."  

Abracadabra Magic Diner is located at  566 Onderdonk Avenue, at the corner of Menahan Street, and is currently open on Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m to 4 p.m., with extended hours coming soon. 

Another frog, watching patrons from behind the bar. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
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