Perhaps the most memorable part of Istanbul was the food, with lots of nuts, honey, olives, etc, and much of it grown or produced domestically.
Eric found two great breakfast options near our hotel and we went to each place twice.
Konak Cafe – I went super simple both mornings and filled up on a cheese toast (basically a grilled cheese sandwich) and a fancy coffee. Eric had the cheese omelet and a peach juice the first time and copied my cheese toast order on the second visit. And you simply cannot beat the view from the rooftop terrace at this spot, encompassing Sultanahmet, the Bosphorous and the Galata Tower.
Marmelat Cafe – A local cafe that was packed every time we walked by so we figured we should give it a try. The first time I ordered the Edirne cheese (pretty sure this was the same white cheese on my toast at Konak), mixed olives and smoked salmon, Eric ordered two jams: cherry and raspberry. The cherries were intact and rather hard, like a maraschino and sweet, but the raspberries were quite tasty. Also, the orange juice was really good, definitely freshly-made. As with every meal in Istanbul, a bread basket was also provided. Our second breakfast here wasn’t as good but we each wanted to order something different, so… Eric’s scrambled eggs were a bit too runny and I did not like the classic menemen at all as the texture just felt all wrong. Sticking to the marmalades is the better plan for us.
Unter – Our first meal in Turkey was a bit on the unusual side. Both of us ordered an item and were surprised when the plates arrived. Eric had the summer meatballs on flatbread, which was more like a panzanella salad with parsley, partially-flattened grilled meatballs, and flatbread croutons, while I had the duck confit which came out like little pancake sandwiches with meat in the center. That said, both items were tasty and there was a good selection of wines by the glass available so we left happy.
Karaköy Lokantası – This tapas restaurant is so popular it took two days to get a reservation, and we were not disappointed! We each ordered a few items of the mezze menu, plus a bottle of rose to split, and dug in. The wait staff brings an endless supply of bread, so you don’t have to ration it. I had the Terrama (fish roe paste) and stuffed mussels while Eric had the Muhammara (walnuts and spices) and Topik (chickpeas with potato and onion) spreads. Highly, highly recommended!
(l-r) terrama, muhammara, stuffed mussels, topik
NOLA – This charming restaurant was just a few minutes walk from our hotel and featured a large patio with a nice view of the Galata Tower. All their wines were Turkish, and many were available by the glass, so it was a great way to try a variety of grapes without committing to a whole bottle. I was pleasantly surprised by the roses I had but eventually branched out to reds.
After visiting for drinks on two evenings, we returned to try their dinner menu on our last evening. I ordered the stuffed grape leaves and meat stuffed pastries while Eric was delighted with his choice of manti (Turkish ravioli) – a little spice, nice tomato and pepper flavor, that was his favorite meal of the trip!
The wines: most of the whites had a mineral nature.
- Ozel Kav Emir (white), similar to a pinot blanc with lots of flinty mineral, tasty.
- Suvla Kinah Yapincak (white)- lighter, less mineral, wasn’t very memorable.
- Isa Bey Sauvignon Blanc (white) – nice tartness, white peach and apricot.
- Suvla Sauvignon Blanc-Semillion (white) – Lt fruit scent, med mineralness, Lt body and finish, this was one of Eric’s favorites.
- Sonnet 5 Bornova Muscat (white)- Muller thurgau like with light mineral and fruit.
- Sonnet 18 Grenache (pink)
- Kalecik Karasi Guney (red)
- Okuzgozu Magnesia (red)
Sweets and Snacks
While exploring the city we also tried a few different take-out and street foods including chicken and beef doner at Semazen Cafe, simit (with nutella is best), kestane (roasted chestnuts), lokum (Turkish Delight), baklava from Koskeroglu and various cookies from Cigdem Bakery. Yum.