Travel

Day 1 in Istanbul: Elena Kalmykova checks out locals’ recommended restaurants and cafés on the Europe side

(Editor’s note: This is Day 1 in a two-day trip exploring the foodie scene in Istanbul. Day 2 will look at restaurants and cafés on the Asia side of the Bosphorus.)

As a foodie who’s been in Istanbul for more than a year, I have explored a variety of spots – both tourist traps and hidden gems alike. Since the city is divided into its Asian and European parts, I thought it would be a good idea to create two small guides to highlight some of the places I have found worthy for those of us on a budget … and those who want to splurge.

I tried not to rely on guides on the Net or TripAdvisor, since their opinions may be biased.

Instead I got in touch with more than 50 locals who have been living in the city from 3 months to 4.5 years to direct me and here are some of the spots they have recommended.

Breakfast: Dükkan Galata

One of the best croissants (if not the best) in town can be found here! I have only visited once since I live in the Asian side and rarely find myself in Europe in the morning hours. Avocado toast is a special treat, even though the prices are slightly higher than in most of the places around Istanbul. (My sumptuous breakfast was around 23 euros, which is considerable money here and could easily be a full day’s budget if you choose to eat in.)

There are vegan alternatives on the menu and also don’t miss out on the cheese omelette – it’s delish.

Side note: Dairy here is one of the things to eat since locals have a variety of milk-based beverages and cheeses. Most of them such as Tulum cheese and ayran yogurt drinks are salty however, so be careful when choosing a new product and use Google to check out its properties.

Dükkan Galata

Müeyyedzade Mah. Tatarbeyi Sokak 15/B Beyoğlu İstanbul

Here’s their Instagram feed.

Dükkan Galata gets a crazy 5 out of 5 rating on Tripadvisor, with 292 reviews.

Bi Nevi Deli co-owner Belkis

Lunch: Bi Nevi Deli/Vegan Masa

Both places feature vegan and vegetarian alternatives, with the latter being 100-percent vegan, yet nonetheless delicious even for meat-lovers. Both were suggested by a subscriber of mine who is vegan
and a huge foodie.

Small places are fueled by the ones who created them – it shows especially for Vegan Masa, since Funda, the owner, spends most of the time in the restaurant, serving dishes and taking care of customers. When I was there, more than 80 percent of customers were local, which means a lot since Turkish people are particularly fond of meat and are conservative at times when it comes to food.

Vegan versions of cheese and minced meat are great in terms of texture and taste, so definitely worth a visit for a vegan pide (reminds me of a pizza with a dough base and filling on top) and a homemade
coconut ayran!

Bi Nevi Deli is also vegan with gluten-free options on the menu, which is an extra treat. The menu
features influences from Mexican and Asian cuisines, featuring a Mexican Bowl and an Asian Salad. Cheesecakes seem to be a Top-3 hit among the most popular desserts in the capital, thus there are a few of them on the menu.

Sadly enough, I didn’t get a chance to try their desserts but definitely going to come back for them. In both Vegan Masa and Bi Nevi staff speaks English, which is definitely a bonus. (Bi Nevi Deli co-owner Belkis was born in San Francisco and graduated from the University of Southern California.)

The prices are higher than average for Istanbul, but if you or someone from your company is vegan or vegetarian, they will appreciate this choice of food especially among the numerous kebabs and other meat places around.

Bi Nevi Deli

Türkali Mah. Etiler, Dilhayat Sk. No:10/1

Here’s their Insty feed.

Vegan Masi

Türkali Mah. Mısırlıbahçe Sok. No: 8/A

Coffee: Probador Collectiva

A place worth visiting with a variety of coffees sources from all around the world. Çağatay, the owner and Turkish coffee champion, brews many coffees himself and knows his trade extremely well. There are few places to sit inside; however the place being just a 10-15 minutes walk from Taksim Square, it would also be a great idea to grab a coffee on the go.

No wi-fi in the café, which is not too much of an issue since most people who come in have a story or two to tell, so it’s a great chance to chat to some fellow expats. Almost 85 percent of the clientele comes from abroad!

Probador Collectiva

Firuzağa, Kadiriler Ykş. No: 69.

Here’s their Instagram feed.

Dinner: Cecconi’s in Beyoğlu

Even though you wouldn’t be coming to Istanbul for Italian cuisine, it’s worth trying out a few places like Cecconi’s to give yourself a break from kebabs and lahmacuns. Cecconi’s is a chain with locations in nine cities around the world including the Beyoğlu district in Istanbul.

Salads are a personal favourite of mine as a category of dishes since they usually feature a combo of great veggies and a nice sauce to accompany them – I’d recommend the ricotta, spinach and pumpkin salad.

There is a wood-fired oven for the pizzas. However with pide and gözleme being fairly common in town, I wouldn’t aim for a pizza here, but it is up to you!

The restaurant has a lovely garden so make sure you reserve a table there. Altogether, it’s an awesome place for a friends’ night out or a romantic dinner.

 Cecconi’s

Cecconi’s gets four out of five rating on Tripadvisor, 138 reviews.

You can see the dinner menu here.

Evliya Çelebi, Meşrutiyet Cd. No:56, 34430 Beyoğlu

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Read more posts about Istanbul here in Dispatches’ archives.

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Elena Kalmykova is a pastry chef, gastronomic guide, arts lover and passionate traveller. She’s originally from Moscow, Russia. It was her love for pastry that led Elena to study and then work in a Parisian pastry shop, a 3-star Michelin restaurant, then at a 5-star hotel.

She loves to discover new technologies as well as the latest trends in food, great spots to eat or drink and share her knowledge.

You can follow her on Instagram at elena_kalmykova.

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