(Cafe Dilan invites you to visit their Facebook site for other photos of customers and staff.)
Mehmet Eroğlu was born and raised in Bismi town (ilçe) outside of Diyarbakır in the southeastern part of Turkey. His father was a waiter for over 20 years and because of his family of five brothers and 2 sisters, his mother stayed home to take care of them. Mehmet’s first jobs were in Mersin working as a waiter in a cafe and later a restaurant for over five years. Upon the urging of a close friend, he quit his job and moved to Kaş in 1995 where he started working at La Villa Hotel where he stayed for over two years.
Selda Hacıosmanoğlu was born and raised in Ankara. She has a sister who also lives in Kaş and her father was a blueprint copier. Selda went first to a middle school and later to an Anadolu Lise where she studied German for over seven years. Her first visit to Kaş was in 2002 for a holiday.
In 1998 Mehmet met and married Mekiye hanım and they now have two children, their son named Taha and a daughter called Dilan, after whom he named his cafe. Taha is a sura in the Koran and Dilan is a Kurdish word which translates in Turkish as halay, a famous style of ring dancing.
That same year, 1998, Mehmet started to work at the then famous Sun Cafe, a hang-out for locals year round and full of tourists in season. Mehmet made many friends among his customers during his eight years at Sun Cafe where he eventually became the most popular and well-known of the wait staff. When the old Sun Cafe closed he worked for a year at Natural Cafe and, a year later, in 2007, he decided to start his own business.
Mehmet believes the rewards of being his own boss outweigh the difficulties of taxes and permits and the many other responsibilities of a business owner. He loves the work, meeting his customers and seeing old customers return year after year. He says that since Kaş is not too overcrowded, even during the height of the tourist season, the work is not as difficult as it might be in a resort in a larger city such as Antalya. The challenge to him is to prove to himself that he can make his own way, his own success at his work. He has been in restaurant work nearly all his adult life an believes, because of his experience, he does a good job.
Selda hanım worked for several years in Ankara as a construction office worker and secretary where she started to raise her two children. Buse (“kiss” in Turkish) is her daughter who is now an archeological student at Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul and her son Tugay, who is a high school student in Kaş.
Selda hanım finally became tired of the big city life in Ankara where there are large crowds and where a person without a lot of money has to struggle to survive. She one day quit her job and moved to Kaş where she started to work at her sister’s restaurant called Bi Lokma. She said the move was one of the most difficult she had ever had to make but now has no regrets. After one year she heard that Mehmet bey was looking for a partner, they met, liked one another as friends and decided to continue their professional partnership in Cafe Dilan.
Now that Selda hanım is working in the cafe along with Mekiye hanım, she feels the male customers have become more respectful because of the two women present; Selda to wait the tables and take the orders and Mekiye to work the kitchen and make the gözleme. She says that regular customers feel comfortable enough that if the cafe becomes really busy they can help themselves to tea, coffee or water and sometimes help out in other ways. Selda hanım also recounts her first day at waiting tables. She was nervous and spilled tea directly into the lap of a gentleman from the Maliye (tax office). She worried that their business license would come under close examination but the man just was more watchful when Selda came around with tea.
Some of Mehmet’s old customers from Sun Cafe started coming to Cafe Dilan after they heard that Mehmet was the owner. Mehmet says it gives him great satisfaction when he gives good service and customers return year after year. Because of his service he makes many new friends and return customers, and Dilan is often recommended by his customers to their friends.Mehmet bey and Selda hanım say that first time customers often stop for a short rest because of the famous, and comfortable, orange divan which sits out front in the spring and summer season. They then stay on for a gözleme and are frequently seen to return. These orange divans have become a “symbol” of Cafe Dilan.
Cafe Dilan is also famous for its chocolate and honey gözleme. Other places serve crepes with chocolate but they believe they are the only ones serving such gözleme. Mehmet and Selda originally started serving chocolate and honey gözleme for the children and found out that they became favorites for adult even more. Selda says German customers like the hone, the English like the chocolate and Turkish people tend to stay with the more traditional cheese and vegetable fillings.
Mehmet recalls a group of Turkish scuba divers who come every season to eat. One of their number called Erol, a very large man, liked their famous chocolate gözleme very much. On one occasion, the group came but without Erol. They ordered a chocolate gözleme and took a picture with their phone camera and then called Erol and showed him the photo, telling him what he was missing.
Cafe Dilan owners and their family hope to only make small changes for the comfort or eating delight of their customers. Selda hanım recently started making a daily milk dessert such as sütlaç, puddings and other “surprises.” Stop in to Cafe Dilan and tell them you read this story and that you wanted to stop by and tell them how much you appreciate their efforts. Hayirli olsun Cafe Dilan.