The Turk’s Pilaf

Dining at the Turk’s Inn was always a special event.   There were many fine supper clubs in the Hayward, Wisconsin area when I was in high school, but the Turk’s Inn was at or very near the top of the list.  It was the place you took your Prom date to, so you started saving money right after the Christmas Ball.  Enough said.

The Turk’s Inn was owned by George and “Ma” Gogian.  It was a family operation.  George was the perfect host who made sure that everyone was treated as a special guest. “Ma,” his wife, was the chef, and their daughter Marge oversaw the tables in the dining room.

George and Ma are both gone now, but Marge greets guests and does her best to maintain the high standards set by her mother and father.  When we had dinner there a couple of years ago, the cocktails were excellent, my steak was perfect and the pilaf was just as wonderful as ever.

At the Turk’s, pilaf meant coarse cracked wheat or bulgur sautéed in butter, simmered in broth and seasoned only with salt and pepper.  Pilaf is commonly made with rice, but if you want something deliciously different that has only five ingredients and is ridiculously easy to make, try the Turk’s pilaf.

When she was in high school, my sister Barbara worked at the Turk’s.  She taught me how to make their wonderful pilaf.  I can’t swear that my recipe is identical to the pilaf I had with my steaks at the Turk’s, but it tastes just like the extra serving Marge brought brought me two summers ago.  It is so good that I sometimes wonder if “manna” really really refers to the ancestral version of the Turk’s pilaf.


1 cup bulgur (or coarse cracked Durham wheat)
3 T butter
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 to 3/4  tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


Melt the butter in a skillet with tight-fitting lid.  Raise the heat to medium and add the bulgur or wheat.  Stir with a wooden spoon to coat every grain and toast it lightly.  Add the broth, salt and pepper and mix well.  Bring to boil, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed,.  Remove from heat and let stand a few minutes.  Fluff with a fork and serve.

NOTE: Ken Bjork emailed to say that adding half cup of chow mein noodles to the pilaf before serving it gives it some extra crunch and flavor. It is one of his family’s favorites. The Turk’s daughter, Marge, included a half cup of broken up chow mein noodles in the recipe as well.

11 thoughts on “The Turk’s Pilaf”

  1. My stepfather went to Turks regularly back in the 60’s and 70’s. I never went there, but he always had a few pounds of Turk’s Inn pilaf on hand. He mail-ordered it from them. I have a bag from not too long ago. I also have the small folded pamphlet with the house recipe for pilaf, along with a few variations, which came with every order. It’s a little different than yours- and frankly yours sounds better- but I’d be happy to scan and send the original to you, if you’d like.


  2. When we were first married in the 60’s we often vacationed in the Hayward area and ate at Turk’s when we could afford it. The version of their Pilaf recipe given to us includes 3/4 cup chow mein noodles added just before serving. It adds a bit of crunch. We have been making it this way for nearly 50 years and is a family favorite.


  3. I enjoyed you artical about the Turks Inn pilaf. My entire family miss the Turks it was our go to place visiting my grandparents when I was young and continued till Marge passed away and they closed. My favorite was the cheese borek appetizer. Do you know anyone with the recipe for that?

    Thank you!


  4. My family spent many good times with Mama and the Turk and Margie. I used to play behind the bar when I was a little girl. My husband and I spent our honeymoon dinner there for the best meal of our lives. I continue to savor the small amount of pilaf I have left. Is there anywhere you can get anything close to what Margie sold?

    I’d also love the recipe for Margies pickles, her paklava (her version of baklava) and the cheese appetizer. I really miss The Turks Inn and all the memories.


    1. I also like all those recipes from the Turk’s that you mention. I have not found Marge’s pickle or baklava recipes, but I have posted the recipes for cheese børek and pilaf. The pilaf recipe I had to recreate from memory many years ago, but the børek recipe is from the cook who made it according to Marge’s instructions in the kitchen at the Turk’s Inn. The secret of the pilaf is to use bulgar, which you can usually find in a whole foods store or food co-op. One reader wrote to say that George put some chow mien noodles in the pilaf after it was cooked, which you might want to try. Both the børek and pilaf recipes are on the blog. Good luck.


  5. I still have the instructions that came with the bulgar pilaf.

    Has anything happened to the land or the property? I think I heard they auctioned off the furnishings. There was a lamp and a plate that I would have loved to have. Such wonderful, safe, memories. Nice to know others remember and value it.


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