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Abandoning West Lebanon Dreams, Turkish Kebab House Opens in Essex Junction

West Lebanon — I’m a little late to the punch here, but it turns out that a Turkish restaurant that was scheduled to open in West Lebanon this past spring was forced farther north by financial constraints.

Vural and Jackie Oktay premiered the Istanbul Kebab House in Essex Junction, Vt., in May. They had gone before the Lebanon Planning Board in December 2011, and won approval to open the restaurant on the first floor of 14 Main St., between Lebanon Sewing & Vacuum Center and Dunkin’ Donuts.

(Once the restaurant opened, I was particularly interested to taste-test Kebab House fare for two reasons: One, I’ve never had Turkish food! And two, the first article I wrote for the Valley News was about that Lebanon Planning Board meeting and the Kebab House plans.)

But, Vural Oktay said last week, the couple was unable to secure a loan for the 3,000-square-foot space, which allowed for 79 seats but needed extensive modifications to add a kitchen. The Essex Junction location, at just 1,500 square feet and with a kitchen already installed, proved more feasible, he said.

Since its opening, the 60-seat restaurant at 10 Kellogg St. has been constantly busy with traffic from Burlington-area college students, tourists passing to and from Montreal, and even a quickly cultivated cast of regulars, Oktay said. And that appears to be with good reason: Seven Days writer Alice Levitt gave the restaurant a so-so review in July, but more than 50 customer reviews spread across Yelp, Urban Spoon and Trip Advisor are raving about everything from the cuisine to the service to the décor.

“The restaurant is doing amazing, wonderfully,” Vural Oktay said last week in a phone interview kept brief by a bustling lunch hour. “It worked out amazing. People like the food, great response.”

“We did our dream,” he added. “It didn’t work out in Lebanon. … I was so disappointed. I just looked farther and found my dream.”

Sounds like it’s time for a day trip north. (Have you already been? What did you think? Let me know at mcassidy@vnews.com, or find hours, directions and a phone number for reservations at the restaurant’s website, http://www.istanbulkebabhousevt.com/.)