If you’ve never been to Istanbul, then you might not be familiar with the meyhane, a type of traditional Turkish restaurant and bar known for serving alcohol alongside small plates similar to Spanish tapas. The name comes from two Farsi words: mey, or wine, and khāneh, or house, and these lively taverns are known for offering live music and good company, on top of food and drink.
Entrepreneur-turned-restaurateur Omer Artun, who was born in Turkey, says he’s always loved cooking and bringing people together. So when he sold his IT company in 2019 and was looking for somewhere new to channel his attention, he thought, “Why not try to bring the meyhane experience to the Bay Area?” Fast forward through dozens of pop-ups in four years and he’s now ready to open Meyhouse in the heart of Silicon Valley. And as with meyhanes in Instabul, Artun says Meyhouse will be about more than just what’s on the menu. “It’s not just about the food,” Artun says, “it’s about the company and conversation.”
When Meyhouse opens at 640 Emerson Street in downtown Palo Alto on August 9, it’ll mark the start of a new season for the business Artun co-owns with business partner Koray Altinsoy. For the past few years, they’ve been operating Meyhouse out of a space in Sunnyvale; it was supposed to be temporary but now they plan to keep it running even as they roll out the larger and more upscale Palo Alto sister spot.
The Palo Alto menu will be similar, Artun says, but with slight modifications. “I have a desire to introduce people to new things,” he says, “so we have a lot of things on the menu that are different and you might not be able to find anywhere else.” For example, the Palo Alto restaurant has a charcoal grill and a wood-fired oven, so they’ll be baking fresh bread and roasting Chilean sea bass to be served with murri, a fermented condiment made with fig and ginger. They’ll also serve harder-to-find Turkish fare such as lakerda, a pickled bonito dish, and braised and smoked beef tongue.
The idea will be for customers to start their meal with cold mezze such as feta cheese spread with roasted pistachios and oregano before moving to a selection of hot mezze such as sea urchin pasta with poached lobster and sea beans. Because of Istanbul’s seaside location, the menu will focus on seafood, and Artun plans to showcase a selection of fresh fish on the restaurant’s raw bar; diners will be able to select which fish they want and how they want it prepared.
But, of course, the beverages are also important and Artun worked with the consultants at West Bev on a list of 18 drinks that incorporate ingredients common to Turkish cuisine including pomegranate molasses, pistachios, saffron, and Aleppo pepper. There’s also an “extensive” wine list, Artun says, which will include bottles and glasses from across California as well as from some “lesser known” regions — think Georgia, Hungry, Israel, Armenia, and, naturally, Turkey.
The 5,000-square-foot restaurant includes more than 100 seats indoors plus outdoor options and is designed to take influences from both land and sea through a warm and neutral color palette. Artun, who’s also a ceramicist, created the tableware for the restaurant, on top of a handful of ceramic elements for the interior including an installation behind the bar, lampshades, and tiles. There’s also an intimate music venue folded into the space, where Artun says he hopes to book live shows. The space can accommodate between 50 and 60 people, he estimates and was designed with support from SFJAZZ. “It’s a small venue but it’s a fantastic place for jazz,” he says.
Meyhouse (640 Emerson Street in Palo Alto) opens on Wednesday, August 9 and will be open for dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.