NORMAN — Birol Tecimer did not expect to end up in Oklahoma, and he certainly didn’t expect to spend his life here, but that is exactly what happened.
Persuaded by a sister to earn his master’s degree at the University of Oklahoma, Tecimer first came to Norman in 1998. While here, he met, fell in love and married Nui.
Birol is originally from Turkey. Nui Tecimer is from Thailand. Their love story doesn’t end with their marriage — it extends to include food, fellowship, family and friends.
Over the course of time, the couple made several trips to Turkey where Nui fell in love all over again — this time with Turkish food. Learning to prepare those Mediterranean dishes became her passion. When she began cooking for friends, a lot of people told her she should open a restaurant. An accountant, Nui smiled and humbly accepted the compliments.
Little did her husband know what was taking root in Nui’s heart and mind.
When La Baguette moved from 924 W. Main St. across from Norman High School, that restaurant property became available.
Nui told Birol she wanted to quit her day job, start a restaurant and cook Turkish food.
At first, he thought she was joking, but Nui was serious about pursuing her dream. Now Birol supports her efforts 100 percent, he said, playing chauffeur to the couple’s children when she’s tied up working at the restaurant. Birol said his wife works from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. nonstop.
That’s OK — it’s a labor of love.
“It is very challenging, but I see her happiness,” he said.
Nui and Birol Tecimer wanted to offer the Norman community something people can’t find at fast food restaurants. They wanted to bring the Turkish tradition of lingering over a meal with family and friends by creating a restaurant where people could enjoy long conversations or read a book without being hustled to make the table available.
“In Turkey, you sit and order food, and when it comes, the taste is wonderful,” Birol said.
Nui makes the food at The Lemon Tree fresh. It’s not fast food.
“We want you to take your time and enjoy the moment,” Birol said.
In Turkey, a meal is more of an event.
“People enjoy the feast,” he said.
Nui has worked to bring authentic cuisine to Norman. The menu also offers a variety of choices so lovers of Mediterranean fare don’t have to hesitate to invite their family and friends to join them at The Lemon Tree.
In addition to tabuli, eggplant salad and lentil soup, diners can get a traditional house salad, fried chicken salad or chicken vegetable soup. While most diners will want gyros, kebabs or a pita sandwich, more conservative tastes can find a cheeseburger or fried chicken sandwich, and a seafood lover can choose between salmon and shrimp.
While meat lovers have their choice of kebabs with lamb, beef or chicken, the vegetarian or vegan can order the mixed vegetable kabab. The Lemon Tree menu offers a wide variety of vegetarian choices, many of which are also vegan.
Diners can choose from Istanbul hot tea or Thai tea along with fountain drinks, apple juice or domestic beer. The Istanbul tea is a Turkish black tea grown without pesticides. Thai tea is made with milk.
Dessert choices include baklava, kunefe (pastry stuffed with mozzarella and topped with crushed pistachio) and lemon cheese cake.
A selections of lunch sandwiches are affordably priced and easy to pick up as a “to-go” item, while the children’s menu keeps the restaurant family friendly.
Birol and Nui Tecimer said, most importantly, they want to extend their hospitality to the community. They want people to know it’s OK to come in, sit and relax and just have a cup of tea.
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