My father always told me that you eat with your eyes first, and LOKUM is most certainly a feast in that regard. Ornate chandeliers hang from high ceilings over beautifully tiled floors, and the lighted glass cases contain row after row of jewel-hued squares, some filled with nuts and others encrusted in flower petals. The wall directly across is lined with shelves full of teas, coffees, and intricately designed tea and coffee sets.
Despite the luxurious appearance, owners and brothers Bulent and Levent Derdiyok have designed LOKUM to be a welcoming and pleasant space. “We love being on State Street,” said Bulent. “We are happy seeing happy customers.”
The Derdiyok brothers aren’t newcomers to State Street; they’ve run their Turkish import store just a few doors down for five years. “We have something different on State Street,” said Bulent, “and this is our way to share our culture and our desserts with Santa Barbara.”
LOKUM offers a wide variety of coffee and teas in addition to their selection of baklava and lokum, which is the word for the Turkish delights themselves. These soft, gel-like sweets are “familiar desserts in Turkey,” Bulent told me, explaining that they are often used to welcome guests. The same is true with baklava, those flaky layers of pastry crust and crumbled pistachio that are covered in a sweet, sticky syrup.
Particularly helpful during pandemic times, LOKUM’s website is designed to mirror the in-person shopping experience. You can browse their selections of coffee and tea, or order boxes of desserts in one-pound or two-pound batches in four or eight flavors, respectively.
With plans over the next few years to open another LOKUM in San Luis Obispo and a Turkish breakfast spot in Santa Barbara, the Derdiyok family is well on their way to lighting the Central Coast with gems of Turkish culture. Below are just a few of the wonderful options that LOKUM has to offer.
Turkish coffee with pistachio: A good cup of coffee can warm you to the core, and it sure helps when it comes in a cute cup, too. LOKUM’s Turkish coffee with pistachio is one of the most uniquely flavored drinks I’ve had. It has a bold, almost smoky taste that was comforting at the same time that it was delicious. It’s rich and nutty, and Bulent made note that any coffee or tea that you can order at LOKUM is also available for purchase.
Brownie chocolate & hazelnut Turkish delight: “These ones are my favorite,” said Bulent with a chuckle. Even after just one bite, it was hard to argue with him. The rich chocolate in the soft and chewy delight contrasts nicely with the crunchy hazelnuts. Chocolate and hazelnuts are a classic combination and here, you get everything you love about gooey brownies in a bite-sized morsel.
Rose-petal-covered pomegranate and pistachio Turkish delight: It’s a bit strange to think of rose petals as crispy and that they would taste amazing, but on these delights, they are and they do. There’s a light, floral flavor from the roses and a creamy nuttiness of the pistachios that complement the tartness from the pomegranate delight. The crunch from the nuts and the crisp from the rose petals make for a texturally delightful experience on top of an already delicious one.
Berry and hazelnut cream Turkish delight: Covered in otherwise indescribable crunchy little bits, this delight contains a tart wild-berry jelly and a light and fluffy hazelnut cream. The tang from the jelly is balanced out by the cream, hitting the sweet and sour flavor profile without ever becoming overbearing.
Baklava: How something can be both moist and flaky is at this point still beyond me. But the good thing is that I was not tasked with figuring it out and instead just got to enjoy it. The layers crumble between your teeth and seem to just about dissolve on your tongue immediately after. They are sweet and nutty from the ground pistachio sprinkled throughout.
1019 State Street; (805) 324-3067; lokumsb.com