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Tables unfold onto the cobblestone streets of this magical neighborhood. There is not a tourist in sight, and traditional Turkish folk musicians wander in and out of each restaurant. The old city walls surround the lively square, and the Bosphorus view lures patrons to the top floor of these fish and raki restaurants. Each restaurant fights for our attention and business. We finally settle on Samatya Balik Evi Restaurant, and our party of 11 takes over the second floor. The buzz and magic of this place is impossible to ignore. Two other large parties of old friends join us on the second floor, as does one of the wandering music troupes. We order Tekirdag Raki for the table, and the appetizer platters are passed around. We point to various fish, eggplant, bean and other meze delights and soon more than 15 different platters fill the table. The beat of the drumer, and the richness of the clarinet fill the room. People leave their tables and start to dance traditional Turkish folk dances. People clap, and chat among one another and laughter fills the room. It is a perfect Istanbul evening.

Even in the worst of traffic, Samatya can be reached by taxi from Taksim Square in 20-25 minutes and around 17 lira. We spent around 55 lira per person and feasted like kings. It is a truly extraordinary place, rich with tradition and people from all walks of life. If you have a spare evening in Istanbul, do not leave without going to Samatya for a meal of mezes, fish and of course, Raki.

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An Evening in Samatya

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