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Jan 9, 2009 01:17 AM

Ankara, Turkey

I will be in Ankara in February and would appreciate any suggestions on restaurants/meals I can get downtown. Thanks

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  1. Ankara is a though chow destination, unlike Istanbul, but there are gems. There is no "downtown", the city spreads all over, in all its mediocrity. The subway line (there is only one line) is reliable, and could take you to places. Taxis are abundant and cheap too, though not everyone will speak English and might take advantage of you by charging you more. If the weather permits, you can walk a lot of places, but again it depends on where you think the downtown is. For different people (based on social class, and lifestyle), it is different quarters.

    I am originally from there, and have been on and off, visiting family. Still, since I might be your only bet here, I'll try to help. Where exactly will you be staying?

    6 Replies
    1. re: emerilcantcook

      Is it worth taking a side trip to Ankara from Istanbul? I've already seen most of the sights in Istanbul and I'll be there for 5 days next month. But sprawling mediocrity with few chow opportunities doesn't paint a rosy picture…

      1. re: DeppityDawg

        Definitely not worth it, especially if you are doing it for food. Ankara is an OK place to live (well I survived it). It is well planned (for a Turkish city) and has a certain sense of order, but there is no spark. Most of the city is built after the 30s. There are a few sights to see, one prominent one being the Museum of Anatolian Civilization and also perhaps the Citadel; but IMHO nothing is side trip worthy. You won't find local cuisine. There are some dishes that are native to the region, but restaurants do not necessarily serve them. Besides, anything you'd find there would be similar or inferior to the examples you can get in Istanbul. The only exception to that is a fish restaurant (Kalbur, which might have slipped btw, I haven't been in ages). But is hard to get in anyway: there are only few tables, the owners are "fish nazis", people might not speak English, and it is located in an out of the way suburb. Istanbul is wonderful and rich in its offerings, and I'd rather spend one or two more days there and explore.

        For detours that are both rich in history and food, I'd suggest a trip to Antioch (Hatay or Antakya in Turkish), and Gaziantep regions in the Southeast (no kidding, the best baklava in the world), Ayvalik in the Northwest, or the Black Sea region in the North (Trabzon central). They might not be the most tourist friendly regions but they are getting increasingly popular and hospitable. One might also need to warn you about the attack of the giant kebap houses, the local culinary nuances are disappearing due to the advances of homogenized kebap places that offer one or two generic dishes. So, sometimes you can get much better food at homes than restaurants; but still... compared to these destinations, Ankara's culture and culinary offerings look like a cryovacked hot dog.

        Last, if you haven't been to Ciya in Istanbul, I strongly suggest it (not the kebap house, which is great and owned by the same people, but the Ciya Sofrasi across the street is even better). They serve regional dishes that are even forgotten in their hometowns. Going there is killing multiple culinary detours with one stone.

        1. re: emerilcantcook

          Thanks for this detailed response, emerilcantcook! I'm off to Turkey this week and I will definitely find time for Çiya. I am also looking forward to risking my digestive well-being with some tasty çiğ köfte!

          I found out that my visit coincides with some big elections. I hope this won't imply any major chow-disruption. I'm not a big drinker, so the alcohol prohibition doesn't bother me too much.

          1. re: DeppityDawg

            What prohibition? Don't worry about it. There is alcohol everywhere. Not everyone drinks it, but most tolerate it. And while being completely overpriced, there are some decent Turkish wines that came out in the last few years. Of course you can always chose the other poison, raki, which goes well with the spicy kebab dishes.

            Elections on the other hand... good luck with that. It is going to be noisy and messy.

            1. re: emerilcantcook

              Oh, I was told that the sale of alcohol would be suspended this weekend, I guess so everyone would have a clear head for voting? I probably misunderstood. Anyway it should be interesting!

              1. re: DeppityDawg

                Oops, I completely forgot about that thing. It should be just the one day of voting, the Sunday if I remember correctly.

                Have fun!