A Wisconsin kitsch palace from the 1930s lives its second life in 21st-century Brooklyn.
For almost 80 years, Turk’s Inn of Hayward, Wisconsin, transported diners from their quaint Midwestern town to a vibrantly garish Ottoman palace with bright cocktails, spiced meats, and fab-kitsch decor. However, with the passing of Marge Gogian—the only heir to restaurant founder George “The Turk” Gogian—in 2013, the singular supper club shuttered. With the help of two native Wisconsinites and Turk’s devotees, Hayward’s roadside boho-Turkish daydream lives on in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
After losing a Philadelphia candy factory to the Great Depression, Turkish-born Armenian immigrant George Gogian and his wife, Isasbelle, started a new life in the Midwest with their daughter, Marge, opening the original Turk’s Inn in 1934. Obeying the parameters of the classic American supper club—immersive venues meant to entertain large parties for long hours in otherwise quiet towns—Gogian’s Eurasian-American eatery served heartland classics such as prime rib, baked chicken, and fish fry, but adorned with Turkish spices. Over time, Turk’s developed an extravagant interior, wrought with pop art, vinyl bar stools, gold tassels, and exotic taxidermy birds. The feast for the eyes and the belly earned regional fame, allegedly even hosting some of the Kennedys at one point. In The Super Club Book, author Dave Hoekstra called the original location “a Turkish bath bubbling over in bric-a-brac.”
In the 1970s, an adult Marge left Manhattan and a budding career in fashion to help her family run Turk’s after her father suffered a heart attack. She brought a notable warmth to hosting and serving customers, becoming the face of the restaurant as her father’s health waned. Her legacy is remembered fondly by Varun Kataria and Tyler Erickson, childhood friends and New York transplants who had patronized the original supper club with their families as they were growing up. With Marge’s passing, the family’s estate moved to auction off pieces of the restaurant’s interior. When Kataria and Erickson caught wind of the sale, they rushed to staunch the scattering of a decades-long consolidation of entrancing tchotchkes. Winning the original bar-top, neon marquee, and a majority of Turk’s original knickknacks, the pair had enough to anchor a true-to-form, 21st-century rebirth.
Opened in June of 2019, the second iteration of Turk’s Inn has expanded to host a take-out kebab stand, a rooftop lounge, and a 200-person concert venue called “The Sultan’s Room.” The menu retains some originals such as a shrimp cocktail and a pork chop, but largely pivots to a contemporary urban palate with a turmeric cordial and a beet carpaccio. The “cheese-cloud” dip pays homage to the Turk’s Wisconsin roots. Part of the decision to reopen in New York City was out of respect for Marge’s sacrifice in keeping the family business alive. As Kataria told Gothamist, “I think it was always a little bit sad for her, she kind of lived out her days behind that bar. It felt appropriate to us to bring her back here in some way.”
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