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An Open Letter to the Eaters of Istanbul

Heading on over to Istanbul from Austin,Texas for 14 glorious days later this month and on into the New Year.I'll be doing some serious eating while there and hoping to do it like a Turk.

I know Istanbul is one of the world's epicenters of deliciousness and I'm eager to fan out across the city and really dig in.

I'm familiar with lokanta.In the Deep South part of USA it's called meat and 3, and this is going to be my main focus.I'm most comfortable in small,homey spots where I'm the only traveler.How is Doyuran Lokantasi?

Soul Food:I have a terrible need to eat the Turkish equivalent of soul food.A blue plate with a nice pile of meat,some rice and a vegetable of some sort.

Kave:I'll need a quart or so of coffee each day to fuel me as I make my way across the city so advice on the best places to quaff thimbles of impossibly strong black coffee is needed as well.How is Mandabatmaz? Can a horseshoe float in their coffee?

As night falls I'll be switching my beverage option to beer:

Are there Turkish micro breweries? I'd love to sit back and drink some pints of locally brewed beer.Once again I'm not into frippery.A simple,small tavern where I'm the only traveler will suit me best.How is TAPS?

Modern Turkish cuisine:I keep reading about Abracadabra and it sounds great.How does Ciya compare?

Restaurant with live Turkish jazz:Some good food and a small Turkish jazz ensemble playing?

Sweets:I know the Turks have a notorious sweet tooth and I do as well.Can y'all point me towards an Istanbul confectioner.I'll be using cabs,trains,boats and my feet to get around and have no problem traveling the length and breadth of the city to satisfy my cravings.How is Altan Sekerleme

Old restaurants:I would like to eat at the oldest restaurant in the city.Old in USA means maybe 90-100 years old but given the age of Istanbul I think I can best that. What is the oldest restaurant in the city? How is Haci Abdullah?

The Grand Bazaar:I've allocated two full days to exploring the Grand Bazaar.I know it's enormous but hopefully this will allow me to at least scratch the surface.Any recommendations on where to eat,preferably the least tourist-y,most under the radar spots?

Nightlife/Alcohol:At some point I'm going to want to hit the Istanbul nightlife.Hard.I'll be practicing sleep deprivation while there so I'd love to hit some Istanbul nightclubs.What are the best places to drink Raki and work it out on the dance floor?

Barbecue:I can't imagine a city the size of Istanbul without at least one variation or other on barbecue.Who's smoking meats with fire in town?

Ottoman Palace cuisine:One night I'm going to live like Howard Hughes and let the money be damned.I want the best representation of Ottoman Palace cuisine in the city.How is Hünkar?

Street carts.I've plumbed Austin for it's most delicious street food for the last few years.My two favorite Mexican joints in town are both carts.I'd like to hunker down on a busy corner and eat some Turkish street food on a curb surrounded by Turkish chowhounds.Where are the best carts? Is there one section of town that offers the most varieties?

Cheese:I know the Turks have their cheesemaking down to a science and I'm eager to eat as wide a variety as possible.What place would provide the best opportunity for me to sample as broad a range of Turkish cheese as possible?

Uighur cuisine:I've read a bit about the uighurs of Istanbul and have a need to try their foods.What is the best,most authentic restaurant serving this food?

Chile Peppers:I know certain regions of Turkey[southeastern?]enjoy a good bit of heat in their food.Are there any restaurants in Istanbul representative of this style?

Bread:I know the Turks love fresh baked bread and I do too.What's the top bakery/sandwich shop in town?Where do I go to get the best pastirma?

Thai cuisine.I'm determined to eat one plate of Thai food while in Istanbul.What joint puts out the best Yom Nua in town.How is Cok Cok?

Can't wait to get to Istanbul.It's been a dream for a long time and as the time draws near[less than 3 weeks]I can't imagine a finer city on earth to walk around eating,drinking and soaking in a culture about as different as you can get from Austin.

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  1. I am inserting answers below each question in caps.

    I'm familiar with lokanta.In the Deep South part of USA it's called meat and 3, and this is going to be my main focus.I'm most comfortable in small,homey spots where I'm the only traveler.How is Doyuran Lokantasi?
    DOYURAN IS A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF AN ESNAF LOKANTA. GOOD FOOD FOR SURE, PARTICULARLY FOR THAT AREA.
    FOR MORE ON DOYURAN:
    http://istanbuleats.com/2009/06/doyur...

    Soul Food:I have a terrible need to eat the Turkish equivalent of soul food.A blue plate with a nice pile of meat,some rice and a vegetable of some sort.
    I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. FOOD FROM THE BLACK SEA REGION CAN BE REMARKABLY SOULFUL- THERE'S A KALE AND HOMINY STEW SERVED WITH A HUNK OF CORNBREAD THAT'LL MAKE YOU THINK YOU'RE AT A ROADSIDE DINER IN ALABAMA. DONT MISS PERA SISORE FOR THIS:
    http://istanbuleats.com/2009/04/pera-...

    Kave:I'll need a quart or so of coffee each day to fuel me as I make my way across the city so advice on the best places to quaff thimbles of impossibly strong black coffee is needed as well.How is Mandabatmaz? Can a horseshoe float in their coffee?
    MANDABATMAZ IS A GREAT COFFEE STOP.

    As night falls I'll be switching my beverage option to beer:

    Are there Turkish micro breweries? I'd love to sit back and drink some pints of locally brewed beer.Once again I'm not into frippery.A simple,small tavern where I'm the only traveler will suit me best.How is TAPS?
    THERE IS MORE AMBIENCE IN A TGI FRIDAYS THAN THEY'VE GOT OVER AT TAPS. THE JOLLY JOKER CLOSE TO NEVIZADE BREWS ITS OWN BEER BUT ITS NOTHING SPECIAL.
    Modern Turkish cuisine:I keep reading about Abracadabra and it sounds great.How does Ciya compare?
    THEY ARE TOTALLY DIFFERENT. CIYA IS A SEE-YOUR-FOOD SORT OF JOINT WHERE THE STYLE IF CUISINE IS TRADITIONAL. ABRACADABRA IS A NIGHT ON THE TOWN FOR TURCO FUSION. IF YOU'VE GOT TIME GO TO BOTH OF THEM. CIYA FOR LUNCH, ABRACADABRA FOR DINNER.

    Restaurant with live Turkish jazz:Some good food and a small Turkish jazz ensemble playing?
    NEVER HEARD FO SUCH AN ARRANGEMENT. LOTS OF PLACES HAVE GYPSY BANDS ROVING FROM TABLE TO TABLE. THESE TEND TO BE TOURISTY PLACES.

    Sweets:I know the Turks have a notorious sweet tooth and I do as well.Can y'all point me towards an Istanbul confectioner.I'll be using cabs,trains,boats and my feet to get around and have no problem traveling the length and breadth of the city to satisfy my cravings.How is Altan Sekerleme
    ALTAN IS TRULY GREAT. VERY OLD SCHOOL.

    Old restaurants:I would like to eat at the oldest restaurant in the city.Old in USA means maybe 90-100 years old but given the age of Istanbul I think I can best that. What is the oldest restaurant in the city? How is Haci Abdullah?
    HACI ABDULLAH IS FINE. BUT THERE IS NO OLD "FEELING" THERE.
    IN THE US WHEN A PLACE SAYS "SINCE 1913" IT USUALLY LOOKS LIKE NOTHING HAS CHANGED SINCE THEN. HERE IT IS NOT THE CASE. TURKISH RESTAURANTS ARE VERY LIBERAL WITH THE "SINCE" DATES. SOME KEBAB SHOP MIGHT HAVE OPENED, CLOSED, CHANGED OWNERS, MOVED CITIES BUT STILL THEY SAY "SINCE 1933". NOT TO MENTION THE HORRIBLE ANNUAL RENOVATIONS THAT SEEM TO TAKE PLACE IN ALMOST ALL RESTAURANTS. IN SHORT NOTHING FEELS OLD HERE, BUT FOR A FEW PLACES- REJANS (IS OLD AND NOT VERY GOOD) INCI PASTANESI ON ISTIKLAL, ISMET BABA IN KUZGUNCUK, VEFA BOZACISI... MAYBE SOMEONE ELSE WILL COME UP WITH MORE.
    http://istanbuleats.com/2009/06/ismet...
    http://istanbuleats.com/2009/10/vefa-...

    The Grand Bazaar:I've allocated two full days to exploring the Grand Bazaar.I know it's enormous but hopefully this will allow me to at least scratch the surface.Any recommendations on where to eat,preferably the least tourist-y,most under the radar spots?
    HERE IS A LINK TO A COUPLE OF GREAT PLACES IN THE BAZAAR. NOT TOURISTY. THESE ARE THE PLACES WHERE THE GUYS WHO RUN THE SHOPS EAT.
    http://istanbuleats.com/2009/07/the-g...

    Nightlife/Alcohol:At some point I'm going to want to hit the Istanbul nightlife.Hard.I'll be practicing sleep deprivation while there so I'd love to hit some Istanbul nightclubs.What are the best places to drink Raki and work it out on the dance floor?

    ARAF CAFE ON BALO SOKAK. GREAT MUSIC EVERY NIGHT.

    Barbecue:I can't imagine a city the size of Istanbul without at least one variation or other on barbecue.Who's smoking meats with fire in town?
    BURYAN, LAMB COOKED IN A PIT, IS ABOUT AS CLOSE AS YOU WILL COME.
    http://istanbuleats.com/2009/06/siirt...

    Ottoman Palace cuisine:One night I'm going to live like Howard Hughes and let the money be damned.I want the best representation of Ottoman Palace cuisine in the city.How is Hünkar?

    Street carts.I've plumbed Austin for it's most delicious street food for the last few years.My two favorite Mexican joints in town are both carts.I'd like to hunker down on a busy corner and eat some Turkish street food on a curb surrounded by Turkish chowhounds.Where are the best carts? Is there one section of town that offers the most varieties?
    STREET CARTS ARE NOT EXTREMELY POPULAR HERE. YOU'LL COME ACROSS A ROVING SAHLEP MAN SELLING A GREAT HOT WINTER DRINK. THERE ARE SIMIT GUYS AND POGACA GUYS AS WELL. MY FAVORITE CART FOOD IS ICLI KOFTE:
    http://istanbuleats.com/2009/12/istan...

    Cheese:I know the Turks have their cheesemaking down to a science and I'm eager to eat as wide a variety as possible.What place would provide the best opportunity for me to sample as broad a range of Turkish cheese as possible?
    YOU CAN GRAZE THE STALLS AROUND THE EGYPTIAN BAZAAR. VENDORS WILL ALWAYS GIVE YOU A BITE FOR FREE.
    Uighur cuisine:I've read a bit about the uighurs of Istanbul and have a need to try their foods.What is the best,most authentic restaurant serving this food?
    HERE'S THE BEST UIGHUR PLACE IN MY OPINION. CALL AHEAD THOUGH. THEY WERE CLOSED ON A WEEKDAY LAST TIME I TREKKED DOWN THERE.
    http://istanbuleats.com/2009/08/dogu-...

    Chile Peppers:I know certain regions of Turkey[southeastern?]enjoy a good bit of heat in their food.Are there any restaurants in Istanbul representative of this style?

    Bread:I know the Turks love fresh baked bread and I do too.What's the top bakery/sandwich shop in town?Where do I go to get the best pastirma?

    Thai cuisine.I'm determined to eat one plate of Thai food while in Istanbul.What joint puts out the best Yom Nua in town.How is Cok Cok?

    Can't wait to get to Istanbul.It's been a dream for a long time and as the time draws near[less than 3 weeks]I can't imagine a finer city on earth to walk around eating,drinking and soaking in a culture about as different as you can get from Austin.

    4 Replies
    1. re: antman

      I was really hoping for a response from Antman but this one exceeded my wildest dreams.Many thanks to you.I've got a few more hours of reading to do on your posts and then some more questions.

      I'd be happy to bring you an assortment of Mexican food stuffs from USA [I live near the best source in Austin] if you're inclined.

      Once again many thanks.

      scrumptiouschef

      1. re: scrumptiouschef

        Antman,I've read through your links and some of your work on the archive.Thoughts and comments follow:

        Doyuran Lokantasi sounds incredible.This is a very common style restaurant in Alabama USA where there is a high concentration of Greek cafeteria style diners.You walk in and there's an old Greek man standing over billowing steam tables packed with every manner of fresh meat and vegetables.I've very excited about this restaurant.

        Pera Sisore hits very close to home as I was born and raised in the South.Texas is radically different food-wise.It's good but c'mon,they don't sweeten their tea and the barbecue veers off the path of the hog way to often. I've reconciled myself to two weeks without pork while in Turkey and Pera Sisore sounds like the kind of soul food I'll need to console myself.

        I'm really looking forward to a big night of running the table on the food at Abracadabra.I found some photos and the space looks great.It's nice to hit a spot with an inspired chef at the top of her game.

        I would've never heard of Ismet Baba and the review on Istanbul Eats ratchets it near the top of my list of must visits.Great recommendation.

        Love the Grand Bazaar suggestions.There was a big mall in Alabama that had all sorts of terrible restaurants and one little poorly lighted gem;The Jolly Ox.This is where the workmen who knew good food could dash in and grab a hamburger steak smothered in onions for a few dollars.Can't wait to hit Gaziantep Burc Ocakbasi.

        Siirt Seref Büryan Kebap Salonu is just the kind of place you could open up out around Lockhart Texas and make good money.Thanks for the link.If you're ever over this way hit Gonzales Market in Gonzales Texas for their lamb ribs.Can't wait to hit the Fatih neighborhood.

        Any other suggestions for good food in Fatih?

        Have you eaten from the breakfast cart of Mehmet Demir. As I was frantically notating off the Istanbul Eats website this one stood out.It's really close to my hotel during week 2.Link:
        http://istanbuleats.com/2009/05/mehme...

        What place would you recommend for a big loaf of fresh bread stuffed with pastirma?

        Is there authentic Thai food available.No matter the city I travel to I always try to get a plate of yom nua at some point.

        Also where I can I get some foods fired with good Turkish chiles?

        Is the trip to Asmaalti fish restaurant worthwhile or would I be better served taking the ferry to Anadolu Kavagi?

        I'm a chef and would love to take the one day seminar at Istanbul Culinary Institute.How is the food at their cafe'?

        I'm going to print out the archive on Istanbul Eats and bring it with me.What a resource.Thanks for your help.

        1. re: scrumptiouschef

          On Fatih:
          It is a huge area actually. Many of the recommendations mentioned are in that district. One more place that I really like in that area is Eski Kafa in the Atlar Pazari, not far from Siirt Buryani. They do all sorts of authentic Anatolian food but specialize in food from Maras.
          Here is their address:
          Atpazari 11a, Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey.
          +90 212 533 4291
          I love Mehmet Demir's b'fast sandwiches. He's usually out in the mornings on Istiklal right in front of Odakule.
          I don't have a place to recommend for a pastirma loaf. But you can try a "pastirmali kapali pide" at my favorite pide joint in Taksim, Simsek Pide Salonu. This is more like a calzone than a loaf of bread. Well worth a try.
          http://istanbuleats.com/2009/05/simse...
          Thai Food:
          I am reluctant to send you out for Thai. There is a pretty good place in Beyoglu called Pera Thai, and another called CokCok. Both serve competent Thai but really nothing special. If I were you I'd save the Thai craving for your return to the US.
          Chiles:
          You'll find that Turkish food does not tend to be too spicy. Even the chiles are mild. The only time I have been set afire here is when I loaded my durum with the pickled hot peppers at Durumzade. Thats a great experience. The place is open 24/7 and is located close to many good bars. Stumble in there for one after a night out:
          http://istanbuleats.com/2009/04/durum...
          I don't know much about the seminar at ICI. The cafe is pretty good, if a bit sterile. No need to eat there though, you'll be a stones throw from Pera Sisore (where I eat lunch at least 3 times a week).
          One of my favorite places for dinner these days is Antiochia. It's a rare bird in this market- sort of hip but not swanky. Great food, low prices and they've got alcohol. Check it, its in Asmali Mescit:
          http://istanbuleats.com/2009/08/antio...

          1. re: antman

            Antman
            You've probably already read this but one of your recs just got a full write up on Istanbuleats.com I was already planning on going but now I'm really champing at the bit.

            Good food writing is hard to come by but the person who penned the following has it in spades.

            http://istanbuleats.com/2009/12/istan...

            I tried to query on the comments section of the blog but was met with failure.

            What other" rough and tumble saloons" do you recommend?

            I'm staying in Sultanahmet for the first week and Beyoglu for the second.

            After spending a few hours on Istanbul Eats I've got my days filled with food[can't wait to hit; http://istanbuleats.com/2009/08/mehme... for sucuk] so now it's time to fill the nights with raki and merriment.

            I thought 14 days would be ample in Istanbul but am slowly realizing it's not going to be anywhere near long enough.

            Thank you for your help on my big trip.

    2. Whatever you do, don't be tempted by the cart selling corn on the cob at the Grand Bazaar. It's field corn, not sweet corn, and it's inedible.

      1. TAPS used to be really good, the original master brewer left so now they are coasting.
        Abracadabra is probably the most interesting restaurant in Istanbul and the food is top notch. In the same category most restaurants are pricey, pretentious, and when it comes to food, pathetic.
        There is no American style barbecue in Istanbul but they do their own version (no smoking involved). There is no shortage of places, just make sure they cook over charcoal. Usually the shadier, the better.
        They don't really have US style street carts besides corn, nuts, simit (Turkish bagel)... but tons of little restaurants that range from really bad to pure heaven. Ask the locals, they will give you some tips about what's good in the neighborhood.
        I disagree on the cheese. Turkish cheese is bland, over salted and lacks variety. But I am French so I am biased.
        Uighur cuisine, first time I hear about it since I moved here 2 years ago but sounds very interesting.
        I haven't been able to find a good sandwich shop in Istanbul so far besides kebab places. As for bread it also varies. You usually find the best bread in restaurants that bake their own.
        Don't go to foreign cuisine restaurants in Istanbul, they suck. Above all avoid sushi restaurants.
        Istanbul is a fun city, you will love it. Some things I would not miss food wise:
        lahmacun (thin rolled pizza, plenty of joints, ask for a good one), gozleme (Turkish crepe, again easy to find but ask for a good one), raki (I love that stuff), Turkish coffee (especially after lunch), fish restaurants (grilled local fish). What I recommend the most is to go to a good meyhane (traditional restaurant/bar), order plenty of mezes, a bottle of raki and you are sure to have a good time.
        Finally, Turkish wine has made some progress lately but it's still not there yet so stick to raki.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ngardet

          I'VE RESPONDED BELOW IN CAPS;

          lahmacun (thin rolled pizza, plenty of joints, ask for a good one)

          I'M ASKING FOR A GOOD ONE.WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAHMACUN AND PIDE?

          gozleme (Turkish crepe, again easy to find but ask for a good one)

          TELL ME WHERE TO GO AND I'M THERE.I'LL BE IN ISTANBUL FOR TWO WEEKS AND AM AN ARDENT EATER.

          raki (I love that stuff)WHAT BRAND RAKI IS THE BEST? I LOVE SPIRITS AND KNOW THERE'S BOUND TO BE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN BRANDS

          Turkish coffee (especially after lunch)

          MANDABATMAZ HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT AND I'M EXCITED.WHAT ARE THE TELL TALE SIGNS OF GOOD TURKISH COFFEE? WHERE DO I FIND IT?

          fish restaurants (grilled local fish). I'M ALL OVER ISMET BABA.WHAT ARE SOME OTHER JOINTS? UNDER THE RADAR ONLY PLEASE.I'M A TOURIST BUT AM EAGER TO GO TO THE MOST OUT OF THE WAY PLACES YOU CAN SEND ME.

          What I recommend the most is to go to a good meyhane (traditional restaurant/bar),I'VE READ ALOT ABOUT MEYHANE AND ALONG WITH LOKANTA THIS WILL BE MY PRIMARY FOCUS.

          I'M STAYING IN SULTANAHMET FOR THE FIRST WEEK THEN MOVING TO BEYOGLU.ANTMAN HAS BEEN A SERIOUS EATERS DREAM SO FAR.WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM OTHER EATERS AS WELL.

          ASITANE:I'M ON IT.I'VE NEVER BEEN TO TURKEY AND AM BEYOND EXCITED.LOOKING TO RANGE ACROSS THE CITY AND EAT LIKE AN OLD SCHOOL TURKISH HOUND.

          THANKS FOR ALL THE SUGGESTIONS.I'VE BEEN DOING MY RESEARCH SINCE SEPTEMBER AND CAN'T WAIT TO GET ON THE GROUND.

          1. re: scrumptiouschef

            Difference between lahmacun and pide?

            From Istanbul Eats review of Simsek Pide Salonu:

            "Turkey’s take on the pizza comes in two distinct varieties. There’s the Arabesque lahmacun, a round, ultra thin-crusted snack topped with a shmear of finely ground meat and seasoning. Then there’s pide, a more substantial canoe-shaped creation that’s a specialty of Turkey’s Black Sea region."

            And the full review: http://istanbuleats.com/2009/05/simse...

            Not sure why the nice man from Asitane's post got pulled down but that place sure does look fancy.Does anyone know how their degustation menu is? What is the price?

            and from Timeoutistanbul

            http://www.timeoutistanbul.com/englis...

            Is nothing sacred? 5 Stars?

            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              Asitane could and should be great. I would really like to like it but it just falls flat. The concept of reviving Ottoman recipes, all of the research they appear to have done just doesnt come through in the dining experience. The menu is a good 40 or 50 pages and many things sound interesting and unusual. But they never have those items. I've experienced this a few times there so i dont think it was a fluke.
              It's empty and its an odd location. Once again, an Ottoman restaurant right beside Kariye Cami (a Byzantine monument, in fact, and a must see) sounds really great but it just doesnt work.
              So i am really reluctant to recommend Asitane, but still I go there every so often hoping that it will get better. It just never does.

        2. Ottoman Palace cuisine:One night I'm going to live like Howard Hughes and let the money be damned.I want the best representation of Ottoman Palace cuisine in the city.How is Hünkar?

          http://istanbuleats.com/2009/12/dine-...

          answers the question above

          8 Replies
          1. re: scrumptiouschef

            Thanks for all the great tips and advice.I spent a few hours last night printing out Antman's recs off www.Istanbuleats.com and could not be more excited.

            I'm about to get on the plane.

            Hope to break bread with some of y'all on my trip.

            Let's hoist a Raki at Araf Bola soon

            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              Brıefly
              Learning the Turkish computer keyboard took a few tries so just now posting.Thought maybe chow was a forbıdden site but turns out i ıs not i etc

              Zubeyır blew me away. Doruyhane ın kumkapi served me the best eggplant of my life.Seyzhade was very good as well. Vonali was ok but weak comparatively .My normal 40 words a minute aint happenin with this crazy keyboard.

              LOVE the city but really wish i brought my laptop. Will post back as warranted.

              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                You can always change the language of the machine to English... doesn't change the keyboard but at least the commas and the 'i' end up being in the right place.

                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                  Some of my favorites are midye tava w/tarator sauce(plump fried mussels w/ground walnut-based sauce), midye plaki(baked mussels in their shells stuffed w/rice, currants, etc.) & ekmek kadaif w/kaymak(dessert of shredded pastry, sweet syrup w/long cooked milk that turns into a sinfully, thick, rich, cream-like concoction). Those huge, 6"+ prawns done simply on outdoor grills along the Bosphorus. All manner of meze items featuring amazing vegetable dolmas, grilled seafood, etc.

                  1. re: Taralli

                    Speaking of mussels, this is one thing I definitely think of as Turkish street food, although it's not usually in cart form. Delicious. Although I was quite certain the stuffed mussels were midye dolma, not plaki? Another thing that is sort of like street food (but again, not carts) is kumpir. I'm not a big fan, but it's basically a giant baked potato, whipped with butter and cream, and then stuffed with all sorts of random things of your choosing--including olives, couscous, potato salad, beets, hot dogs.

                    In Sultanahmet, Tarihi Sultanahment Koftecisi is very worthwhile for, of course, kofte. Extremely popular place (with locals). I sent my brother there and he liked it so much he ended up snacking there multiple times before various "real" meals.

                    Cheese: in addition to the bazaars I would try Namli Pasturmici in Eminonu, a shop with lots of cured meats and cheeses. You can get a sandwich made there as well as buy cheese/meat for later snacking.

                    Dance bar: I like Gizli Bahce on Nevizade Sokak. Well I love Nevizade in general for the meyhanes and general atmosphere.

                    If you have not yet had lahmacun, it is one of my favorites. I like pide as well, but looove lahmacun and it's the one thing I haven't seen replicated accurately in NYC. Crispier than pide, so cheap, great flavor. Always spread with ground lamb & tomato mixture, while pides have various toppings. Anyway, both are widely available.

                    Pide BREAD in general is super delicious, though. Some Turkish honey (from the far East if possible), bread, tomatoes w/ a bit of salt, cheese, and you've got a perfect traditional breakfast.

                    One of my very favorite Turkish dishes is manti, the tiny lamb/beef dumplings in garlicky yogurt sauce. It amazes me how much Turkish people dream about manti, especially those who no longer live in Turkey :)! Anyway, this should be available at most lokantas but I don't think that's the best place to try. Better to find an Anatolian restaurant.

                    Speaking of Anatolian, for VERY easy to find gozleme, Ortakoy is a charming neighborhood that has lots of good market/small store shopping and for some reason, tons of gozleme or kumpir spots. There may well be much better gozleme in the city but it's just very available in Ortakoy, which is worth visiting anyway.

                    I think it gets mixed reviews here on Chowhound, but Doga Balik is great for simple fish dishes, with a beautiful view of the old city (from Cihangir). I think the tepid reviews I've seen were due to a price raise...when I went it was still a reasonably good price.

                    I imagine no one's mentioned this because it's winter, but I would hate for you to miss out on Turkish ice cream. It's spectacular, in my opinion. A great place to try it would be the mini-chain Mado (many locations), which has more of a Baskin Robbin's approach compared to the traditional 3 or 4 flavors (chocolate, pistachio, lemon, I think vanilla may be the 4th?). Mado has seriously good stuff. Let it sit a bit at room temp to promote the stretchy texture imparted by the salep (powdered orchid bulbs).

                    1. re: NancyC

                      siirt seref buryan kebab salonu ıs ıncredıble. the perde pılav could feed a famıly of 4 easıly. the lamb ıs great but so far nobody can touch zubeyır. the nearby serıes of food stalls and butcherıes ıs a wonderland.

                      got to furreya just as they closed but they were kınd enough to make me a sole stew whıch ı ate at star bufe next door. lots of fresh sole peppers mushrooms and tomatoes ın a tıny bıt of broth-ı couldve drunk a quart of the broth.had lots of rakı across the way at engınar to close out the nıght.

                      kara mehmet kebab salonu
                      ı wander through the grand bazaar for a half hour before ı fınally fınd thıs tıny lıttle spot ın a courtyard off a sıde alley.the adana kebab ıs the sıngle fınest kebab ıve ever eaten-love the grılled chıle they throw ın wıth ıt as well.

                      Gazıantep Burc Ocakbası
                      double lunch today. ı could eat a pound of the beef that comes wıth the alı nazık. ıt tastes lıke ıt came from texas and thats the hıghest complıment ı can gıve. the yogurt ıs so fresh and thıck-absolutely delıcıous.

                      only 9 days left but at least ım makıng a dent ın my wıshlıst.Istanbul ıs ıncredıble-the people here are all so frıendly and the food could not be better

                        1. re: Taralli

                          Dogu Turkıstan Vakfı
                          My best experıence yet.The food was fıne but the people were the frıendlıest nıcest you could ımagıne.Had the lagman and the mantı and ıt wouldve fed 4 hungry eaters.ıll gıve thıs one a full elegy once ı can get on a computer wıth an amerıcan keyboard but anyone comıng to ıstanbul needs to vısıt thıs restaurant

              2. walked out of sultanahmet today all the way to beyoglu-that was quıte a nıce hıke but ıts pourıng and all the cabs were full-kasap osman comes as advertısed-terse servıce but top notch ıskender kebab-all the yogurts ıve had beat anythıng ın the states-plus ı fınally got a good hot chıle pepper-now that ım ın beyoglu for a week ı can fınally do some serıous eatıng.any recs for nısaantası?

                22 Replies
                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                  In Nisantasi you can go to Cantin, in the street behind the City's mall. The food is solid, the chef can cook.

                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    Hi, I am Turkish and currently living in Milwaukee, WI.
                    I worked several years in Istanbul and I may suggest you few good stuff if you still have time.
                    1- Street food: Make sure you try fried mussels with tartar sauce and also kokorec (sauteed lamb intestines with spices) both at Sampiyon in Taksim (next to Cicek pasaji).
                    2- Go to Nevizade at least one night for trditional turkish meyhane. I suggest either Imroz, Boncuk or Demgah. Try pacanga borek, lakerda and arnavut ciger (sauteed liver) with some Raki (my favorite is Tekirdag).
                    3- Go to Set Balikcisi (seafood restaurant). Don't order main dish! Order few unique seafood appetizers.
                    4- Try adana kebap at this street restaurant, not fency but real genuine and always grilled over hardwood charcoal: Musa Ustam in Taksim/Beyoglu.
                    5- Before you depart Turkey, make sure you go to Bebek Badem Ezmecisi (in Bebek) for Almond or Pistachio paste. Get box of 1 pound (or 2 :o)) each!
                    6- A modern fusion restaurant with some turkish twist: Canga in Siraselviler.
                    7- High end kebap: Tike Restaurant (make sure you get some kofte, cacik, grilled eggplant).
                    8- Inci Pastanesi in Beyoglu: Best profiterol money can buy, period!!!!
                    9- For late night drink with beautiful views: Anjelique, Hotel Marmara top, 360 are hard to beat!
                    10- For jazz club with turkish jazz bands: Nardis at Galata Kulesi.
                    http://nardisjazz.com/?a33b8808

                    Sofar, that's it. I hope it helps.
                    Fire a way if you have any questions.
                    Best,
                    -Ekrem

                    1. re: scrumptiouschef

                      Scrumptiouschef,

                      Does Istanbul look like a big fascinating kitchen to you ? Here you go, some more to add to your list.

                      Nisantasi
                      -Hunkar (**) Mim Kemal Öke Cad. 21 Nisantasi Tel:225 46 65 - ottoman cuisine - founded in 1950
                      -Hasır (***) Vali Konağı cad. Nişantaşı Tel: 230 16 36
                      -Brasserie Nisantasi (**) - Apdi Ipekci, Nisantasi, Istanbul - In the same building as Beymen - most fashionable district-

                      Beyoglu
                      - Çatı (**) İstiklal cad. Orhan Apaydın sok. Beyoğlu Tel: 251 00 00
                      - Hacı Abdullah (**) Sakızağacı cad. no 17 Beyoğlu Tel: 293 85 61 (founded in 1888)
                      ( would not miss this one, if I were you)
                      -Helvetia (**) asmalimecit sokak, tunel, beyoglu
                      -Leb-i-derya(***). my favorite. Try to arrive before sunset otherwise you'll completely miss the point and good luck in finding it! If you get lost, ask the doorman at the Richmond Hotel on Istiklal Caddesi for directions.Kumbaracı yokuşu 57/6 Tünel, Beyoğlu
                      www.lebiderya.com/

                      Don't forget to go to cicek pasaji (Flower Passage) in beyoglu.
                      here is the "meyhane" list
                      -Degustasyon (*) Çiçek Pasajı Sahne sok. 41 Beyoğlu Tel: 292 06 67
                      - Imroz (*) Ciçek Pasajı Beyoğlu Tel: 249 90 73

                      bon apetit !

                      1. re: velvety

                        Oh, and I forgot one thing:
                        Since it is the season now, try to get a bite of domestic turbot (kalkan), bluefish (lufer) and of course my all time favorite, fresh anchovies (dusted in corn flour and lightly fried).
                        Best,
                        -Ekrem

                        1. re: ekutluay

                          And because two people have already mentioned it, Imroz is AWESOME. But wait! It's on Nevizade Sokak, not Çiçek Pasajı, unless there's now a second location so nearby.

                          For things to take home, you can't beat Turkish honey. Also baklava should last up to a week so take that home as well. If you like hazelnut spread--I do--I find it's not easy to find in non-chocolate versions (a la Nutella-style) in the States. Of course I have nothing against chocolate, but the hazelnut-only spread you can find in Turkey is super yummy. Big sweets shops like Koska (on Istiklal) will sell tubs of it.

                          As long as you're on Istiklal, note that there are a bunch of free galleries along the length.

                          Were you still planning to go to Çiya (on the Asian side of the city)? It's worth it. I recommend it to all my friends but in the end, none of them have ever gotten the motivation/energy to go. My brother and his friends came the closest in that they actually got on the ferry, unlike my other friends; it was the same time of year as now, they were cold, they turned around and rode the ferry straight back again.

                          Yes, I'm jealous of you.

                      2. re: scrumptiouschef

                        In my opinion, keep walkin without stopping Nisantasi. This is a ritzy district doing its best to appear as non-Turkish as possible. There are deviations, such as Tike and the occasional "sulu yemekleri" place, but in general its a great big expensive disappointment.
                        Head up to Arnavutkoy. There are so many GREAT places to eat there. Adem Baba, Fistik Lahmacun, Abracadabra, Bodrum Manti, Melengec, etc. Go man, and dont look back.

                        1. re: antman

                          hıt breakfast at Van Kahvaltı Evi-the lıttle kurdısh joınt ın beyoglu-very good-had sucuk mıxed wıth eggs,tomatoes and peppers-a bıg basket of bread and jam and delıcıous ayran whıch tastes alot lıke buttermılk to me.

                          trıed for second tıme to hıt koftecı huseyın but he was closed so went back to zubeyır-stıll the best restaurant ıve eaten at so far-had ram testıcles-last two ın the house-chıcken wıngs-pumpkın spread and rakı-they were PACKED-ı got the last seat ın the house.

                          ı thınk ı can get 15 more meals ın before ı leave.the wısh lıst ıs stıll long but cıya-ısmet baba-abracadabra and koftecı huseyın are at the top wıth lots of others ın the scrum beneath

                          thanks for all the great suggestıons-ıve eaten all over the world and ıstanbul just houses my formerly favorıte cıtıes.ıt ıs the sultan of dınıng.

                          1. re: antman

                            I am intrigued by Bodrum Manti. Is manti all they serve? Or is it just a specialty?

                            1. re: NancyC

                              :)
                              They have other tastes but they can be tought as side dishes.
                              for detailed info: http://www.bodrummanti.com/

                              1. re: NancyC

                                Oh, how I miss Manti. I can't find any really good manti here in SF. I make do with Troya's but it's not fabulous. That and the fact tat our green peppers are slightly different, so that the green pepper dishes just aren't the same.

                                1. re: cosmogrrl

                                  Green peppers? Where have you had manti made with green peppers? I loathe the things, and have never comer across them in manti. Lamb, onions, spices, wrapped up in dough, sometimes cheese, usually tomato sauce.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    No, not IN manti, or even on it. It's just one of the things I miss from Turkey, they really do taste different there.

                                    1. re: cosmogrrl

                                      I sort of know what you mean, because I never thought I liked raw tomatoes (I grew up only eating them cooked) until I ate raw tomatoes with salt, cheese, bread and honey for breakfast every day in Turkey.

                              2. re: antman

                                antman
                                you dıdnt catch me ın tıme-went to Nısantası(basıcally beverly hılls-gotta gıve ıt up to the womenfolk there though-hıgh roller style wıth stılletos and crazy fur coats-fendı sunglasses and 300 dollar haır cuts)but ı dıd contınue walkıng down the bıg hıll ınto the valley where the twın towers are,there ıs an amazıng kurdısh cheese store down there-sınce ı was on a multı mıle hıke ı dıdnt buy anythıng but to all you ıstanbullus thıs ıs defınıtely a destınatıon poınt for cheese

                                made ıt to cıya today-ıt redefıned what ı thought of turkısh cuısıne-meze platter of 11 dıfferent cold ıtems-lots of seaweed-odd greens-cold pastes etc plus turkısh boudın that was fıery.

                                ıll gıve thıs place ıts proper elegy when ı return to usa

                                hıt durumzade last nıght and ıt was great-especıally after many rakı and efes at araf cafe

                                started my day at mandabatmaz-nıce barısta and good coffee-turns out the average turk doesnt drınk a lot of coffee-at least the ones ı see-they all drınk tea-maybe ıts cause the typıcal cup of coffee here ıs lousy-

                                the craft coffee movement has a huge foothold ın austın and ı havent had anythıng comparable to say ONCE OVER-the austın coffee savants that are at the pınnacle of the scene over there

                                hıt furreya fısh house for a snack after my hıke-great fısh durum for sıx lıra

                                forgot to mentıon pera sısore-had an az platter there that was phenomenal-lıke wrıtten elsewhere thıs ıs tuscaloosa cuısıne at ıts fınest-cant belıeve they dont have a hamhock connectıon...

                                about to go back to the room and plan the agenda for tonıght

                                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                  scrumptiouschef, You must be a serious eater and a writer. Thanks for keeping us updated with your Istanbul adventure. Do you have your own web site? have a happy new year !

                                  1. re: velvety

                                    websıte just went up-wıll provıde lınk upon return

                                    todays eats: back to cıya-second vısıt was better than fırst-had another meze platter of a dozen or so cold ıtems-7 lıra-all the foraged greens-odd herbal salves and poultıces you could ımagıne-then ı hıt ıt out of the park wıth 3 az entrees-lamb poached ın yogurt-lamb wıth whıte sweet potatoes-and a braısed shank of lamb wıth charred braısed chestnuts,potatoes,chıles and tomatoes

                                    wow

                                    ı mıght have to go there after tomorrows hamam vısıt-hopıng a gıant bearded turk can whomp some of these calorıes out of me-does anyone know the turkısh for that?

                                    also-went to akın balık for lunch-closed-about 5o meters north of there ıs a small balık wıth no sıgn and a round table wıth 4 chaırs-ıt blew my mınd-a couple dozen hamsı-bıg salad of pıckled cabbage-onıon and tomato wıth a loaf of bread for 6 lıra

                                    obvıously started the day at mandabatmaz for more delıcous coffee and cay

                                    only 4 days left..

                                    1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                      back to pera sısore for more deep south cuısıne-had the frıed catfısh(hamsı)a bıg bowl of spınach sımmered wth beans and onıons-cornbread or at least a turkısh versıon of cornbread-broccolı boıled wıth potatoes,tomatoes and green beans-everythıng was delıcıous-trıed to go to enver usta-closed also the koftecı ın the beyoglu arts dıstrıct-closed and koftecı husıyen-closed

                                      just lıke usa ın the sense ıts hard to fınd the better places open on holıdays.

                                      had a grand new years eve at araf cafe-dubıous ındoor fıreworks dısplay by the patrons asıde-as soon as the monkey shınes started ı posıtıoned myself by the door ready to flıng myself down 5 flıghts of staırs ıf a great whıte scene started up

                                      tonıght ıts back to zubeyır

                                      how ıs hamdı? thınkıng about goıng there tomorrow

                                      also-what place ıs puttıng out the best plate of goat ın town? ıve eaten my weıght ın lamb and ı fıgure there must be plenty of goat around as well.

                                      1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                        I start each mornıng at mandabatmaz-ıts the only decent cup of coffee ıve found ın town-other than a memorable cup at four seasons but thats a once ın a lıfetıme treat-wıth all the drızzle ı felt the need for a bowl of soup-pulled out my dossıer of ıstanbul eats prıntouts and realızed ı was near lades 2-good chıcken soup-nıce schmaltzy broth

                                        trıed to go to zubeyır last nıght but they were at capacıty so ı strapped my boots up good and tıght and started the hıke to macka park and mehmets sucuk stand-he was mıssıng but ı found orhan and had the sucuk loaf of my lıfe

                                        also hıt altan sekerleme thıs afternoon for a couple kılos of lokum

                                        then ıt was off to cıya once more to hıt up theır crazy salad bar of regıonal turkısh greens and what have you

                                        star of that show was fresh poppy leaves

                                        then ı went to the other cıya across the street for a chıcken kebab-nıce to have some dark meat chıcken-carefully prepared and served wıth a wedge of raw turnıp-theır chef has a sense of whımsy that ı really love

                                        trıed to go to barrıo latıno ın moda but he was closed-probably stıll recuperatıng from new years eve

                                        couldnt resıst a couple skewers of frıed mussels from the streetsıde guys sellıng em hot out of the fat off the maın drag before you get to the kadıkoy fısh market-delıcıous

                                        tryıng to hıt zubeyır tonıght once more cause the trıp ıs almost done-abracacabra tomorrow nıght and hacı abdullah on monday

                                        ı made some good progress on my lıst but ı need about 3 more weeks to get some good work done

                                        1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                          Adem Baba for lunch today-as good as any of the old guard NOLA restaurants and thats as hıgh an honor as I can accord

                                          Bebek cafe for a very good Turkısh coffee-not Mandabatmaz good but thıck and rıch

                                          Bodrum Mantı for theır delıcıous frıed mantı drenched ın yogurt sauce-fıred wıth a pıquant vınegary red chıle paste

                                          Mesher Bebek Badem Ezmesı for some wonderful pastes of nuts shaped ınto cubes-pıcked up the latest copy of Cornucopıa there as well

                                          Off to Abracadabra tonıght after whıch a grand total of 4 meals left before I leave Istanbul

                                          Thanks for all the great recommendatıons-between Antman,Istanbul Eats and all the chow posters thıs has been a dream

                                          One more query:

                                          Is Ismet Baba of the same calıbre as Adem Baba?

                                          1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                            abracadabra was fıne-İ remember thıs style of restaurant beıng very popular ın usa a few years ago-fusıon ıs not a style you fınd back ın the states very much anymore but the food was good and the servıce ımpeccable-love beıng left alone whıle dınıng-vıew from balcony overlookıng bosphorous brıdge was ıncredıble

                                            enver usta for lunch-love the old school waıter- great salsa as a starter-perfect yogurt and very good adana kebab

                                            wıll answer my own query about ısmet baba beıng on the same level as adem baba-short answer ıs yes-fısh as fresh and the addıtıon of rakı ıs very nıce-ultımately ı dıd prefer adem baba slıghtly but eıther optıon wıll blow you away

                                            karakoy gulluoglu put out the best baklava ı had entıre trıp-wıth a nod to cıyas versıon beıng a tenth of a notch below

                                            had great stuffed mussels for breakfast at sampyıon ın beyoglu fısh market

                                            tonıght ıs hacı abdullah then breakfast tomorrow at lades 2 before the plane rıde

                                            how do all ıstanbullus not weıgh 300 lbs?

                                              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                                indeed. There was an article in Cornucopia recently recommending the bar in Haydarpasa for a drink. Beautiful building. I hope this isn't a sneaky way to rip it down and build another junky shopping mall.