Inaugural Cheat Sheet Destination: Istanbul
1. Where to Eat Like a Local
The backstreets of the Beşiktaş neighborhood are the perfect place to get lost and eat, day or night. Most of the action takes place near the small triangular fish market, surrounded by bustling methane (traditional taverns). Also in Beşiktaş, the best authentic Turkish breakfast salon: Çakmak Kahvaltı Salonu. Show up around 11AM on a Sunday morning and be prepared to wait. Order clotted cream with Turkish honey, a cheese platter, olives, menemen (scrambled eggs prepared with tomato, onions, green pepper, cheese and spices) and pastırma (thinly sliced, air-dried, cured beef) with eggs. Çakmak Kahvaltı Salonu is located at: Akmaz Çeşme Sok. No:20 Beşiktaş.
2. Date Night
Kick off your romantic evening with a two hour sunset cruise on the Bosphorus aboard “Zoe,” your own private yacht. You don’t have to be a superstar to afford it. Currently sunset cruises begin at 299 Euros and include space for up to 12 guests and personalized pickup/drop-off service anywhere along the Bosphorus. There’s a full bar onboard; cocktails and meze (get the meze!) are available at additional cost. Warning: two hours goes by very, very quickly. Visit http://www.bosphorusyacht.com for more information.
3. The Weird and the Wonderful
My greatest foodie obsession in Istanbul is kokoreç. It’s a ridiculously good street food sandwich prepared from lamb intestines wrapped around sweetbreads (or other offal) and slowly, meticulously roasted over hot coals. The meat is chopped, seasoned with spicy red pepper and loaded onto a soft warm roll. On a recent trip to Istanbul I chowed down blissfully at Vera Kokoreç near the Galata Tower. Location: Galip dede Caddesi (street famous for its musical instrument shops).
4. Off the Beaten Path
Secret location? Check. Gorgeous view? Inexpensive? Yes, and yes. Kandilli Suna’nin Yeri is a small, remote seafood restaurant on the Asian side of Istanbul with outdoor tables teetering on the banks of the Bosphorus. There’s no liquor license. I didn’t even see a menu. The seafood is worth the trek — unbelievably fresh and served fried. Kandilli Suna’nin Yeri may very well be the best fish fry joint in the city, but the “do not miss” dish here is a chilled fava purée.The restaurant’s difficult-to-reach location only adds to the local experience; at the very least it’s an excellent excuse to hire a boat for an impromptu sunset cruise across the Bosphorus (see #2: Date Night). Locaation: Kandıllı Mh., Telephone: 0216 332 3241
5. A Tour to Remember
There are food tours, and then there are food tours. The seven hours I spent trekking the streets of Beyoğlu with Istanbul Eats are ranked among my favorite foodie moments of all time. The company offers several “culinary walks” through Istanbul’s historic districts. I signed up for “Cosmopolitan Beyoğlu.” The neighborhood is Istanbul’s original melting pot, home to Armenian, Greek, Judeo-Hispanic and Anatolian roots. This European-side district is steeped in culinary history and culture. “Istanbul Eats” gives visitors the opportunity to enter and eat their way through Istanbul’s hidden world of street vendors, fish markets, “hot tables” and a delightfully bizarre pickle shop. Visit http://istanbuleats.com for more information.
Additional Istanbul Info:
In four recent visits to Istanbul, I stayed at the following hotels and rated them on a scale from one to five:
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul (5/5) I booked through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts and enjoyed a complimentary breakfast buffet, room-with-a-view upgrade and amazing service all around.
Ciragan Palace Hotel Kempinski (3.5/5) If you can’t afford to live it up at a banging luxury suite here, you’re going to feel like you paid a lot of money for very little.
Marmara Pera Hotel (4/5) Location, location, location! This boutique-y mid-range hotel is perfect for a solo traveler like me. Steps from Istiklal Caddesi and Galata Bridge.
The Spice Bazaar
Editor’s Note: All Istanbul food and travel expenses paid in full by Foodie International. Keeping it real for the eaters.