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.
I first discovered Anne’s Cafe in the Spring of 2010 thanks to a review in TimeOut Istanbul. I have been obsessed with TimeOut Istanbul’s restaurant reviews, and Anne’s Cafe ever since. Gul Anne is a wonderful host who opened her kitchen to locals, tourists and old friends. Nestled in the back streets of Cihangir, you immediately feel at home when you enter Anne’s Cafe. As you enjoy your meal, friends and family drop by to visit and share their news. Gul Anne sits at the corner table scouring the internet, updating her blog and playing music from her personal computer.
Gul originally ran a cafe in Antalya, a holiday destination located in Southern Turkey, but relocated to Istanbul when she became a grandmother. It is an intimate, colorful and lively space. There are trinkets and quotes on the walls. The kitchen is full of activity, and Gul Anne welcomes you like an old friend.
While Cihangir is infamous for its numerous intimate cafes and special breakfasts, Anne’s Cafe is usually my sole destination. I love her breakfasts, and I do not need to look at a menu to make my order. I always start with her special yogurt dish. It consists of plain Turkish yogurt, covered in layers of honey, kiwi, corn flakes and dried fruit. It is decadent and delicious. Then, I order the “Ozel Kahvalti” or ‘special breakfast’, which is a compilation of small plates and platters of every design and shape. These dishes are full of homemade jams and marmalade, olives, cheeses and the special treats of the day. Cats wander in and out as you sit comfortably in the cafe. Gul works the room chatting with everyone as they enter. Introductions are made, numerous languages are spoken and lively conversations commence. Anne’s Cafe is a unique Cihangir treasure that I love to share with old friends and visiting guests. Everyone is humbled by the hospitality, delighted by the decor and fully satisfied by the special breakfast…
Address: Kılıçali Paşa Mh. Samanyolu Sokak 9, 34433 Cihangir Istanbul
It was a cold and grey Saturday, with a few random bursts of snow. We spent most of the day recuperating from the excitement of the previous night, but craved a way to conclude a wonderful day and a crazy week. We headed to Molly’s Cafe, near Galata Tower and found exactly what we were looking for.
When you enter Molly’s Cafe you immediately feel at home. The first thing you see is an open kitchen full of activity. Chatter fills the room in a variety of different languages. Paintings of local artists and familiar scenery cover the walls, and various intimate seating arrangements invite you to make yourself comfortable.
We quickly settled into a couch in the back of the cafe. One of the cats quickly found our laps and settled next to us. We were surrounded by an ecclectic collection of English and Turkish books about every topic and place (I even found an old book about the Pacific Northwest). We skimmed through the collection of books about Istanbul, and chatted about the week. We ordered wine and chocolate cake, and quickly achieved a state of perfect contentment. Everything on the menu is homemade, and succeeds in every way to make you feel at home, while also providing you with an opportunity to eat what you miss the most from home. We quickly and joyously devoured the cake, as the evenings performers began to play.
The band was named Acqui Cavuri, and consisted of both Italian and Turkish musicians. They played a collection of vibrant Sicilian and Mediterranean folk music. The music filled the space and the entire room came alive with the oud, the guitar, the violin and different types of percussion.
Molly has a wonderful blog that I would suggest to everyone. It is also an excellent way to learn about what’s happening in the cafe, and learn about her observations and experiences as an ex-pat in Istanbul.
We discovered it on a cold and rainy day my first year in Istanbul. Wandering through the back alleyways of Taksim in search of a warm and welcoming space to escape from the rain, we found Pizzeria Trio. We have been coming back ever since. It has become the site of our most romantic dates and special celebrations, and it seems only right that it was also the site where Caglayan proposed. The owner knows us, and goes out of his way to make us feel at home. We quickly discovered our favorite dishes, and rarely divert from our traditional order: eggplant parmesean and the caprese salad to begin, the pollo pizza and the chocolate suffle for dessert.
The restaurant was started by two Turkish guys who lived in Italy and were determined to bring authentic Italian cuisine to Istanbul. They succeeded. When I enter, I relive every magical moments of our romance, as well as our adventures in Rome. We go expecting to start our evening there, but almost always make the dinner the centerpiece of our night as we share a bottle of wine, and talk over the candlelight…
First of all, what is durum? It is essentially a Turkish burrito. While the contents of a durum vary dramatically, a good durum should contain grilled meat (my favorite is chicken), tomatoes, shredded lettuce and onion, and lots of seasoning. While everyone has their own tastes, and favorite restaurants, I thought I would share my personal favorite source for durum in Istanbul.
If you begin to walk down Istiklal Cadessi, take the first left. Walk past ‘The Pita Pit’ on your left, ‘Bistro’ on your right and turn right on the street, before the Japanese restaurant ‘Tokyo’. You will find Melekler Durum Evi. There are no more than 10 tables in this small place, but it is incredible, and certainly worth the wait on a Friday night.
There are secret gardens hidden throughout Taksim and Cihangir. They rarely advertise, and often require a special introduction by a friend. Some are situated on quiet residential streets, and others are surrounded by loud bars in the center of Istanbul’s nightlife district.
White Mill in Cihangir contains a large secret garden, which I discovered for the first time last night. Situated on a residential street, as you walk by you only notice a small gallery space on the ground floor. However, if you wander inside and up the stairs you find a fabulous restaurant that opens up to a beautiful garden. At night, you can observe friends celebrate special occasions and couples sharing intimate moments with one another. The garden is lit primarily by candles and lanterns. The branches of the tall trees planted throughout the garden serve as a natural ceiling, and the autumn breeze gently passes through the space.
The menu offers strawberry mojitos, wraps and excellent pasta. We gathered at White Mill last night to celebrate the birthday of my friend Neslihan, and shared an unforgettable evening with friends. It was full of laughter, travel stories and great food.