This week Laura and Sara are joined by Tamte Meladze of Oda Mediterranean Cuisine. Oda showcases the flavor of the Ottoman kitchen and brings together the eclectic food traditions of Turkey and neighboring countries including France, Italy and Georgia while indulging Chicagoans in an overwhelmingly delicious authentic culinary experience at 5657 N Clark.
Listen to Episode 94 with Tamte Meladze!
- Tamte and her mother are originally from the country of Georgia, and her step-father is from Turkey. Tamte arrived in the US at the age of 19 in November 1, 2001, and immediately began working at the family restaurant, Turkish Cuisine. She is from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
- Before opening Oda, as mentioned above, Tamte’s family ran the restaurant Turkish Cuisine located at 5605 N Clark for 15 years. At the time of opening in 2001, there were very few Turkish restaurants in Chicago. Similar dishes in Turkish cuisine to other Mediterranean countries are kabobs, hummus, mezes, falafal, and baba ganoush to name a few. Tamte shares that Turkish cuisine doesn’t incorporate very much fat or oil, and is very healthy. Turkish breakfast consists of different kinds of jams, cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, honey and eggs, and Turkish Tea. Our kind of breakfast!
- The family opened Oda in 2019. The word “oda” has many meanings, most notably, oda were poems of admiration in ancient Greece. The family began with Turkish cuisine, and then began adding other dishes like mousaka (eggplant casserole) and beef stroganoff. In Turkish, “oda” means “room,” and in Georgian it refers to a vintage house, and in Greek it’s a word of admiration. They use it to mainly describe a welcoming, cozy room or house. “The word oda has meaning of all the languages we speak!” says Tamte.
- We ask what is it like to live so locally – owning a business, living, and sending your kids (ages 4 & 8) to school, all in Andersonville? “I have everything around. I am a Peirce parent and the restaurant is literally a half a block away. Everything else; if you want ice cream, a sandwich, or clothes – everything is around, we love Andersonville! We’ve been here since the day we came to Chicago.” Tamte and her family were drawn to Andersonville because it was in the city and close to downtown but not directly in it. As a local family restaurant, it’s the right location for them.
- The menu at Oda features traditional items like hummus, mezes and kabobs. The Georgian influence comes through as well, like in their wine tasting event earlier this year. Oda features specific Georgian dishes, one being khachapuri, a dough and cheese dish. They feature dishes with lots of walnuts and pomegranates.
- Georgia is considered a birth country of wine, dating back 8,000 years. The Georgian process of wine-making involves burying huge vessels underground, which gives it a distinct taste and color. It’s often referred to as Amber Wine, or Orange Wine because the process uses white grapes with skins on, which gives it a unique amber color. Oda’s wine menu can be viewed here, and they have plans to bring in more Georgian wines. Tamte describes the taste of Georgian wine as being more dense, very different, and lots of fruity and nutty influence. You’ll have to come in and try it!
- Tamte’s favorite dish is beef stroganoff, a dish she grew up on – her mother’s staple. Oda also offers a vegetarian mushroom stroganoff variation.
- Over the years, Tamte’s favorite story is from Oda’s first Mother’s Day. They had a full house, and the lights went out in Andersonville. They were so scared everyone would leave, so Tamte’s mother ran to Jewel and purchased candles. They had 6 chefs in that day, and they cooked by candle and flashlight. Everyone stayed, and it was the most romantic mother’s day they have ever had! The convenience of Andersonville is amazing – everything you need is here, in walking distance.
- For someone new to Turkish cuisine and perhaps a timid eater, Tamte recommends an appetizer platter which allows you to taste a little bit of everything. Oda offers gluten free options, including Georgian bread. Combination meat platters have chicken, lamb, and beef. And obviously rice and salad! For seafood lovers, Tamte recommends chargrilled octopus. Delish!
- Tamte’s advice to someone opening a restaurant is that you have to love the business, and have an idea of what you do. It was easier for her to feel comfortable and confident because her mother and father were both chefs. And, it is important to find a good chef who will cook the way you want. “If you want to do something, everything is possible. It’s Chicago. We love Andersonville,” Tamte shares, “When we opened Oda, everything was different. We didn’t have a liquor, or a patio license, and the Chamber has helped.”
- Tamte travels back to Georgia every year, as her sister, extended family and friends are there. Tourism is rising there with winter and summer resorts, wineries, with many European and American tourists. She has noticed more customers come in to Oda and share that they have plans to visit Georgia.
- Tamte’s kids are the next generation, and they spend lots of time in the restaurant, aka “Bebo’s (grandma) Restaurant.” Their favorite dishes are the cheesy bread and chicken kabob – a classic kid staple!
- If Tamte could trade places with another Andersonville restaurant for a day (in all her spare time of being a parent, her full-time data management job as well has running Oda), it would be Toys Et Cetera, the perfect place to find a high-quality, educational and fun birthday present. If Tamte switched places with another Andersonville restaurant, it would be Piatto Pronto.