Istanbul native opens Nilufer’s on Main Street

At home in her native Istanbul is where Nilufer Goodson first fell in love with the joys of homemade cooking and communal meals prepared by her mother and grandmother. 

Her goal is to offer that same level of intimacy at Nilufer’s Home Kitchen, the cafe she opened Feb. 10 at 135 Main St. in Beacon. 

Her menu is filled with Turkish fare such as pacanga toast, pita sandwiches and cilbir, along with coffees and brewed teas, a daily soup and salads, and pastries and breads popular in her home country, such as simit. 

But the first item listed on the menu is Goodson’s Turkish breakfast, a 20-item feast whose staples include greens, fresh and dried fruits, breads and cheeses, a cured beef sausage called sucuk, an egg dish called menemen, and a tahini flavored with molasses. 

Nilufer Goodson, a native of Istanbul, opened her eponymous Turkish cafe this month at 135 Main St. in Beacon. Photo by L. Sparks
Nilufer Goodson, a native of Istanbul, opened her eponymous Turkish cafe this month at 135 Main St. in Beacon. (Photos by L. Sparks)

Goodson, who has been cooking for three decades and in 2007 became the first woman hired as an executive chef in Turkey, said she decided last year that it was now or never to fulfill her goal of owning a restaurant. 

Since opening, the cafe has been “packed,” and three parties have booked private dinners, said Goodson, who used to cook vegan and vegetarian entrees, side dishes and desserts as the chef at the Beacon Natural Market. “It looks nice and it tastes good,” she says of the food. “Everybody leaves here full.” 

Goodson’s imprimatur is not just in the name. Diners entering the restaurant are greeted by a display of her colorful, handmade mandalas, dreamcatchers, rugs and shawls. 

A wall by the counter holds framed prints of the torrent of stories published by newspapers in Turkey when Divan Brasserie Bebek in Istanbul hired Goodson as the nation’s first female executive chef. She also hung photos of scenes from Turkey, including one of the famed Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul. 

“I tried to make this place reflect who I am,” says Goodson. “I’m a very colorful and joyful person who enjoys life — every minute, every opportunity.”

Her road to opening a cafe began as a dishwasher in New York City after she arrived in 1997 from Istanbul speaking limited English. She worked in a succession of restaurant kitchens before enrolling at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, graduating with honors in 2004. 

Nilufer’s Home Kitchen specializes in the Turkish breakfast, a 20-item feast. Photo by L. Sparks
Nilufer’s Home Kitchen specializes in the Turkish breakfast, a 20-item feast.

She and her husband, weary of New York City’s crowds, moved in 2005 to Beacon, where Goodson began working for the Beacon Natural Market. Two years later, after returning to Turkey, she landed the job with Divan, but only after being turned down by many other restaurants. 

“Many people I called, they said, ‘A woman can’t do this job,’ ” Goodson recalls. “I opened the door and there are now a lot of women chefs.” 

On Monday (Feb. 26), Goodson posted a photo on Instagram of a handwritten note addressed to “my dearest guests,” thanking her customers. 

“It’s happening the way I dreamed,” she says. 

Nilufer’s Home Kitchen, at 135 Main St., is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Sunday. Call 845-765-0077.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

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