Small Biz Saturday: Ayse’s Turkish Cafe transitions to contactless carryout during COVID-19 pandemic

Longtime Ann Arbor eatery sees regulars, gains more during carryout only period

The Ann Arbor eatery has been in business since 1993. (Ayse’s Turkish Cafe/Ayse Uras)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Family owned and operated, Ayse’s Turkish Cafe has been feeding Ann Arborites for 27 years.

Known for its seasonal, rotating menu of Turkish food, the cafe has transitioned to contactless carry out dining during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s so funny now. I see some people regularly once a week on certain days actually,” said Ayse’s Turkish Cafe owner, Ayşe Uras.

Along with her usual regulars, customers that she previously saw once in a while or once a year have been ordering food more often, which has helped sustain the eatery.

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Menu items at Ayse's Turkish Cafe rotate regularly depending on what is in season. (Ayse’s Turkish Cafe/Ayse Uras)

“It’s definitely a different experience but we are trying to learn to live with the situation right now,” Uras said.

Currently, Ayse’s Turkish Cafe is only open for lunch from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays so business has slowed down compared to when the eatery could offer dine-in services.

But daughter Ebru Uras Herzog, who has been helping her mother with the eatery, said that they feel lucky and grateful. While the business realized early on that things would need to change in order to keep employees and customers safe, it is the customers who have made the transition to contactless carryout easier.

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The eatery is located in The Courtyard on Plymouth Road. (Ayse’s Turkish Cafe/Ayse Uras)

Ayse’s Turkish Cafe has been operating since 1993, but Uras actually started supplying Ann Arbor with her food in 1986 when she began catering. Back then, she would make food for different stores and cafes around Ann Arbor.

She said when she opened up the cafe in The Courtyard on Plymouth Road, it became her baby. Uras Herzog joked that the eatery was her mother’s favorite child.

“Really, I don’t feel like it’s a business. I feel like this is my hobby and the customers are my friends, which some of them became even like family actually,” Uras said.

Uras Herzog commented that some customers became such good family friends that they even went to her wedding.

During the pandemic, Ayse’s Turkish Cafe has donated weekly meals to the Delonis Center and has done a private fundraiser for Huron Valley Ambulance. Uras herself takes weekly meals to older customers who cannot leave their homes and she sits down for socially distanced teatime with her employees before they start working.

Updated menus for the cafe can be found through its Facebook page.

Employees at Ayse's Turkish Cafe have been following social distancing guidelines to help prepare donated meals. (Ayse’s Turkish Cafe/Ayse Uras)

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.