Nestled between Eddie’s Calzones and Bizilia’s Cafe in downtown Auburn, Royal Döner is a cozy Turkish diner serving affordable Turkish cuisine in both traditional and nontraditional ways.
Royal Döner is new to the downtown scene, having opened only eight weeks ago and is the only Turkish restaurant in the downtown area.
The kitchen is directly to the left of the entrance of the Royal Döner, where customers can watch their food be prepared. Large cones of beef and chicken are slowly turned, roasted and shaved by a robotic slicer, drawing looks from newcomers and hungry passersby.
Vegetables and sauces are at the counter where the cook can personalize the customer’s dish.
The döner meat being shaved by the slicer is the focus of most dishes at Royal Döner, like döner kebap, a traditional Turkish wrap; beyti, a dish of döner meat wrapped in lavash bread and served with tomato sauce and yogurt; as well as the Special Royal Döner Plate, döner meat served with salad and french fries. Other items include an Auburn-style pizza and a vegetarian wrap called dürüm salat.
“I love food — I love cooking,” said Sait Akagündüz, owner of Royal Döner.
A friendly businessman, Akagündüz was born in Turkey but has lived in Germany for most of his life. He was born into a “restaurant family” as he calls it, and his passion for food has led to a 30-year career in the restaurant business.
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Akagündüz splits his time between Auburn and Germany, where he runs another restaurant much larger than the new Royal Döner.
Akagündüz said he hopes to one day move Royal Döner into a larger space like the one in Germany. But for now, he is happy with where it is and plans to keep the restaurant there for at least three more years.
Royal Döner was originally expected to open in the fall, but preparing the restaurant took longer than expected for Akagündüz. He pointed to extended construction time, lethargic shipping of the different appliances and goods he needed as well as red tape in the industry as causes for the delay.
Royal Döner is open now, however, and Akagündüz seemed happy about the business through the first eight weeks. He said he is not having any problems getting students in the door, but he wants more families to come and try the food.
“Come in one time, and they’ll come in every time,” Akagündüz said.
Akagündüz said a new sign will be up later in April, advertising the restaurant from the street.
Royal Döner opens at 11 a.m. and closes around 1 a.m. to 2 a.m., serving breakfast all day long.
Royal Döner, equipped with its seven full-time staff members, fresh food and daily specials, celebrated its grand opening only eight weeks ago, and Akagündüz said he is already looking for new locations to open another Royal Döner with his sights set on Columbus, Georgia.
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