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After 30 years, Something Different owner Sinan Nardali has closed his restaurant on Zoo Parkway, a restaurant that indeed did provide something different over the years.     Eric Abernathy/Randolph Hub

Something Different restaurant closes

ASHEBORO — Sinan Nardali isn’t retiring, he’s just transitioning to a new phase.


The long-time owner of Something Different Restaurant on Zoo Parkway closed the door to restaurant customers on March 30. But he and his son, Evren, are expanding their catering operations.


“We’re transitioning to what we think is cooking smarter — events and catering,” Evren said. “But we’re not going to let Sinan off easy. He’ll still have to cater events.” To potential customers, Evren added, “Let him work your event.”


The 74-year-old Sinan was born and reared in Turkey, where his mother raised nine children. Being in the middle, Sinan began helping his mother cook and clean at a young age.


His youthful desire to become an architect was dashed after just two semesters of college. He realized he wasn’t built to design buildings.


Instead, he found that, with his knowledge of multiple languages, he was “perfect” at sales. That journey lasted a few years until at age 34 he began working in London, England, restaurants in the 1980s. One was a diner and the other was Greek. 


Meanwhile, his brother Abraham had moved to Asheboro and started Something Different Diner on Dixie Drive, which replaced the former DixieBurger drive-in restaurant. Abraham wanted to specify that his food was different from hot dogs and hamburgers — hence the name.


Sinan decided to move to Asheboro and has since become an American citizen.


“I took over in 1994 and he moved to Myrtle Beach,” Sinan said of Abraham. “He runs a restaurant called Abraham’s Gyros on the Boardwalk.”


Something Different specialized in Mediterranean cuisine, including Italian, Turkish, Greek and even Middle Eastern. But you could also find American dishes. During the 30 years that Sinan ran the business, he said he’s only had “one or two tables that left mad. I try to keep my customers happy.”


His son said, “He’s not just a regular restaurant owner. He’s a cool character. People remember him giving them candy 30 years ago with they were kids. Then he gave candy to those customers’ children.”


Sinan said he couldn’t do that now because of the restrictions of COVID-19. But the children loved it when he used to hand them M&M candy bars.


Candy or no candy, Sinan would regularly leave his space at the counter to speak to diners. It wasn’t to see if they needed anything but just to be friendly.


People noticed that, Evren said. “Asheboro has a unique sense of community and they have shown that to us.” To all those people, he said, “Thank you and keep us in mind.”


It’s said you can know a restaurant is good if the locals go there. Sinan estimated that 60 percent of his customers were regulars. “Some drive from Siler City, Thomasville, Charlotte, Robbins, Troy,” he said. “Some come twice a week.”


Something Different’s success, Sinan said, was dependent on attention to detail. He admitted to being a taskmaster, making sure the food was up to his standards. “You pay attention to what you’re doing, focus.”


He even said he could tell if someone can cook by the way they hold a knife — if it shows they’re “not a stranger to the knife.”


During his 30 years of running Something Different, Sinan thinks he’s averaged 12-14 employees at any one time. He said some of his current employees will work in catering.


Something Different Catering will continue to work out of the Zoo Parkway unit, but Evren has acquired an event center in Lexington and plans to open another in Austin, Texas.


“We’re going to the coast and to the mountains,” from the Piedmont, he said. “We did one last night in Charlotte.


“We’re changing the decor here for a smaller event center space,” Evren said. “We do special occasions, food shows, cooking classes” and other events. “Sinan will be teaching. He’s a good baker.”


The business now has two catering trucks and will lease trucks for larger events. Evren said they can do well with one or two catering events per week.


Asked what his highlights were during his 30 years in Asheboro, Sinan said, “Every day is a highlight for us. We meet a lot of people. I know what to do to keep them happy.”


He mentioned a photo someone took in 1997 of him and his wife Tulay on the line cooking.


On the flipside, the low point came during the COVID-19 pandemic when restaurants weren’t allowed to have people inside. Instead, they could only serve takeout orders.


Now that the restaurant is closed for good, Evren said of his father, “People really love him. They worry that it’s closed. We want to put it out there that it’s a happy ending for Sinan. He’s still working.”
Said Sinan, “I’m not the type of person to sit at home. I’ll take care of myself and work every day. When we dropped (restaurant hours) from six days to four, I had time off. I got the best yard in my neighborhood, with tulips and flax and a weeping willow tree.


“I’m going to have more time,” he said. “We’ll start to make plans — plant more tulips and flax. I can hardly wait for them to bloom.”


Travel is also in Sinan’s plans. He just spent three weeks in Turkey and will go next to London. Then in a few months, he, Tulay and their granddaughter, Maibri, will visit Utah and Arizona. Maibri, at 21, “loves to travel and she helps us get around.”


Despite giving up his restaurant, Sinan said, “I’ve very excited for the transition. We’ve had lots of people coming to say goodbye, taking pictures and bringing cakes. They’re very nice people.


“I don’t think I’m 74,” he said. “But I need some break, you know.”


For those interested in Something Different Catering, call 336-465-2751 or 336-626-5707. Or check out their website, eatsomethingdifferentrestaurant.com and their Facebook page.