I could not resist. Please excuse my horrible rhyme. However, my heart still beats when I think about Istanbul Eats and the wonderful day we spent in Beyoglu tasting the hidden delicacies and street food of this neighborhood’s backroads and alleyways. I have lived in Istanbul for three years, and the day was still full of surprises and firsts for me.
We started at the Turkish equivalent of an old school greasy spoon restaurant in Cihangir where we sampled eggs, sucuk (Turkish sausage), kaymak (clotted cream) and honey. Next we strolled over to Datli Maya, where we toured this innovative chef’s latest creation: a small bakery and cafe in the neighborhood’s old Simit shop.
We past several preserve and pickled shops. We tasted Turkish delight and baklava. We sampled some Black Sea delicacies. We indulged in the city’s infamous profiterol shop. We nibbled on several different types of durum (the Turkish equivalent of a burrito with kebab). We sipped Turkish coffee at a traditional coffee shop. We wandered through the old passage ways, courtyards and churches hidden in the backstreets of Beyoglu. We sampled an eclectic mix of street food, including the kokorec sandwich and fried sardines.
Overall, it was a fun day and a perfect way to share Istanbul with your curious and adventurous guests. I would recommend this tour to Istanbul natives as well as visitors. For people looking to get outside of Beyoglu, they also offer food tours for the Old City, Kadikoy and beyond.
They also have a fantastic blog called Istanbul Eats which reports about all of Istanbul’s best restaurants and most authentic meals. This is my guide and inspires every dining choice or recommendation I make. They also started a network of underground foodies in cities around the world (including Mexico City, Shanghai and Barcelona) called Culinary Backstreets. For natives and tourists, these websites will not disappoint.
While Ortakoy is often overrun by tourists, there is a reason it is so popular. Situated along the Bosphorus, it offers a magnificent view of the city and no shortage of cafes and shops to spend your time and money. There are numerous cobblestone streets and tables full of jewelry arranged in the most meticulous of ways. There is a beautiful old mosque situated below the magnificent bridge that connects Istanbul’s European side of the city to the Asian side of the city (For locals, the bridge simply connects to ‘the other side’ ).
I met my friend yesterday and we hopped on the one-hour Bosphorus boat tour surrounded by giddy tourists. We bought beers and moved to the roof of the boat. We enjoyed the views of our marvelous city and exchanged stories and updates. It was a perfect afternoon.
Directions for the Perfect Ortakoy Experience:
1.) Wander through the shops to collect some special trinkets. Perhaps some olive oil soap or a special piece of jewelry ?!
2.) Find the row of potato and waffle vendors. The majority of these shops are all on the same loud, busy cobblestone street that leads to the waterfront departure site of the boat tour. Any Turkish local will insist you buy a ‘Kumpir’, a baked potato with every possible topping imaginable. Select the least annoying vendor and point to any topping that appeals to you. Warning: ketchup and mayonnaise are seen as essential toppings. Be prepared to stop this from happening if it disgusts you as much as it disgusts me!
3.) Jump on a Bosphorus Boat Tour. For 10 lira (7 dollars), it takes you along the European and Asian shores of Istanbul. You can admire ornate Ottoman Palaces, glamorous nightclubs and beautiful Ottoman homes. The sun will be out. Waiters will offer you numerous drink options and you are bound to fall in love with Istanbul (if you have not already)
4.) End your night on the terrace of one of the numerous waterfront restaurants that line the waterfront. The food is not always spectacular, but the ambience, people watching and water traffic will make it well worth your time.