Şahin Lokantası – Istanbul

Walking down the Orhan Adli Apaydın Sokak, if you see a crowd of suits and white collars, people gathered, waiting hungrily or smoking happily then you are in front of Şahin Lokantası.

Serving since 1967, Ismail Şahin, known as Şahin Usta or Baba, holding his business together, cooking, talking to customers and sitting on his small desk to cash the bills. The chef is working with him for 32 years, and doing a great job.

When you enter the restaurant, you go directly to the kitchen counter, where you can see a colorful layover of the dishes like çoban kavurma, rice pilaf, lentil soup, chickpea stew, big tray of Izmir köfte topped with hand cut potatoes, tavuk kapama, fırın makarna, kadınbudu köfte and many more. Most of the dishes are cooked in oven. The chickpeas are melting in your mouth, you do not need to add any salt or pepper, the taste is perfect. İzmir köfte, the köfte is  a little spicy, soft, leaving you with a mouthful of flavor. All the ingredients are top notch. He even did not change his butcher for 30 years, nor the  grocery.

You feel you are eating at home. Food from the heart.

Save some space for kadayıf, if it is on the menu that day. The kadayıf is like falling from a grandmother’s hand. Thick, crunchy on the top, moist and silky and soft in the middle with a layer of walnuts, then the bottom is a little burnt, the Golden brownish color. The syrup is just right amount and right sweetness. You can have a whole – believe me the smallest portion is even big- piece of it, yet you continue living.

If you want to have a morning soup, you should go there till 10.00am, or you will be left empty belly. Mondays işkembe – tripe soup, Thursdays paça – trotter soup. The trotter soup is to die for, smooth, silky, well cooked, texture wise perfect.

One important reminder, you may not find all the dishes after 1.30pm, so act up.

Prepare to wait, share your table and eat hearty home cooked meal.

Address: Orhan Adli Apaydın Sk. No:11/A, Tepebaşı, Beyoğlu, Istanbul

Phone: (212) 244 2543

Service Hours: Opens early in the morning for soup service till 5.00-5.30pm. Closed on Sundays.

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Sorry, but no: Kasap Osman Et Lokantası – Istanbul

The word of mouth and the reviews said it is worth a visit. So we did. They serve iskender. And they are proud of it, so we ordered.  One of the few times I could not finish what’s on my plate. I just could not! The döner was tasteless,  the tomato sauce was hot tomato paste, the pide pieces are literally swimming in fat. Probably the worst I had. Not to mention the stinky dirty toilets. Will not return.

Sorry, but no: Otto Santral – Istanbul

A very trendy place. This could not mask the bad service and bad food. Supposedly 3 mushroom pizza being served with tinned one type mushroom, cold coffee, stale, almost perished piece of cheesecake, topped  with a berry coulis, which could not rescue it. Inattentive, rude service staff. I did not undesrtand if I am a paying guest or being punished… Will not return!

Chow Food Bar – San Francisco

Hop on the F cable car! We are going for breakfast.

To Chow at Church. A place to eat delicious, fresh, healthy food coming from the local farmers and producers.

You will thank me later!

Very polite and nice people greet you, immediately seated where you want.

Ordered coffee. Menu is eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, coffee, tea, fresh juices… hard to choose. But we had our eyes on the chicken apple sausage as side, a bacon scrambled eggs with mushrooms, spinach and a vegetable scramble with goat cheese, some OJ, we are good to go. Nice fresh filter coffee.

Our food arrived just as we started our second cup of coffee. Looking delicious, eggs taste great, yes the real egg taste -not he phony supermarket eggs- cooked just as I like, not dry, a little runny. Rye bread is lightly toasted, thin, you taste the grains and love it. Some brown mustard with the apple sausages. Done!

A morning treat, a great way to start a day.

A full tummy before you hit to Castro.

A sunny San Francisco morning.

Address: 215 Church Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

Phone: (415) 552 2469

Service Hours: Open everyday. Sun-Thurs 8.00am-11.00pm, Fri-Sat 8.00-12.ooam

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Vefa Bozacısı – Istanbul

A narrow street, a little away from the center of town.

A historical landmark, since 1876.

Crowded inside. People enjoying, chatting, nibbling on roasted chickpeas and sipping boza.

Boza, is a traditional drink enjoyed during winter time. This thick yellowish fermented drink, is a little sweet a little sour. A distinctive taste. Nurturing. Made from millet flour, water, sugar.

Before you end in Vefa Bozacısı, just stop at the shop across, Tarihi Vefa Leblebicisi, to buy some roasted chickpeas. 200 grams will do. Part of the ritual.

Then cross the street, the heart warming lace curtain windows await you. The glasses are filled with a special ladle, from the big marble bowl. Then sprinkled with cinnamon, placed on the counter for the hungry eyes.

Before the cold days are over, just pay a visit to this beautiful place and have  a glass of boza.

Address: Katip Çelebi Cad. No:104/1, Vefa, Istanbul

Phone: (212) 519 4922

Service Hours: Boza is served between October till April.

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Halil Lahmacun – Istanbul

Two facts about lahmacun.

Must be thin.

Must be crispy.

And must be delicious.

Some with garlic, some with onion. Always good quality flour, meat and a know-how.

Tiny restaurant, Halil Lahmacun has been serving to Istanbul locals since 1980. Their success is the sustainability. The lahmacun is crisp, little burnt on the edges, as for the  ingredients you can taste the onion, the meat, the dough, all at the same time, lovely.  The smell of the cooked thin dough is homey.

Two chefs, usta, working busily, complementing each other. While one kneads and makes little balls of dough, and thins it with a rolling pin, passing on the other chef,  who finishes it by spreading the meat mixture on the dough while stretching it with his fingers.  Then the lahmacuns are laid on the long shovel and hop in the big burning oven.

Served with parsley and lemon on the side, believe me you do not need them.  Just order spicy or plain. Or if you are not in your meat mood, try their peynirli pide, pide with typical Turkish cheese – beyaz peynir – parsley and eggs.

The menu is simple yet fulfilling your lahmacun hunger. That’s why you are at Halil Lahmacun.

Address: Güneşlibahçe Sk. No:26/A, Kadıköy Food Market, Kadıköy, Istanbul

Phone: (216) 337 0123

Service Hours: Open everyday from 11.00am – 11.30am till 9.00pm-9.30pm

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Şekerci Cafer Erol – Istanbul

Before you go in the wonderland, you have to decide what you want to purchase, otherwise you feel like Alice falling down the hall. A sweet dream. A paradise of sweets. 203 years old establishment and run by fifth and sixth generation. In the heart of Kadıköy Food Market, its window displays are always inviting, all colorful and all intact.

My favorite is akide şekeri in this confectioner, like to say bonbon, or candy. Huge jars full of colorful candies, shiny, luscious, mouth watering! Colorful and delicious as life. The assortment is wide, cinnamon, bergamot, lemon and mint, mint, rose, lemon, orange, nuts, strawberry, coconut and more.

Turkish delights with a variety of rose, double roasted pistachios, mastic gum, nuts, coffee, double roasted plain, cinnamon, chocolate coated, you name it.

Hand made marzipan, almond paste, all in the form of vegetables and fruit, you just do not want to eat them just watch them!

And the fruit flavored jelly, coated with tiny grains of sugar! They take me to my childhood, where I used to fill my little hands with them, making my hand sticky and, my granny shouting after not to fill myself with sweets before dinner!

Of course this is not all, they also made delicious Turkish sweets like tulumba, zerde, aşure, şekerpare and different kinds of helva.

Excuses to stop at Cafer Erol: You have visited Turkey and returning home already, just buying some for everyone at home, you love Cafe Erol, you love sweets, you are visiting your granny, you want to put a jar of colorful bonbons on your office desk and make everyone jealous, and make them love you more, you want to surprise your parents with their favorite, you were passing by, you loved the display, you want to ask your beloved one’s parents for their blessings, you have a newborn baby or  you are buying all for you!

A timeless treat, a little time stolen from our lives, and a memory to take us to those days we had with the loved ones.

Address: Yasa Cad. No:19, Kadıköy, Istanbul

Phone: (216) 337 1103

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Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi – Istanbul

Third generation, same place, same menu. Pure success story. Lot of similar restaurants popped up in years, scattering around Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi. They stayed the original, humble, delicious.

Entering through the door you find the grill on one of your side, the cash register on the other. If full you may wait couple of minutes for a new table. It is a very busy restaurant, but with a quick turnover. Locals and tourists eat here, savoring every bite. The walls are full of autographs, nice compliments, etc. The waiters are the same over the years, added by the rookies, trying to be like them.

Menu is köfte, which is house speciality, yogurt, piyaz, rice pilaf, irmik helvası – a dessert, a sweet treat made with semolina, sugar, pine nuts and margarine, sadly margarine, it is better with butter- worth a try, after that savory meal you had and ayran, if you have a sweet tooth. It is not a fix menu, but  almost anyone eats the same, köfte, piyaz, ayran. And to finish with, irmik helvası.

You may be grabbed by your arm to be taken in from the other köfteci restaurants around, but don’t be fooled by them. There is only one original.

Address: Divanyolu Cad. No:12, Sultahahmet, Istanbul

Phone: (212) 520 0566

Service Hours: Open everyday from 10.30-11.00am till 10.30-11.00pm

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Petek Büfe – Istanbul

In  the good old days, when fathers or grandfathers took their sons or grandsons to a movie, they used to stop at Petek Büfe to grab a bite. But not any bite. The name was Artist! A hot dog sandwich, what made all the fuss.

As years passed they had to move their little shop twice, around Bahariye, Kadıköy.  Still they are serving the same menu, adding couple of more items. They still make their own sausage, Russian salad and mustard. The Artist, formed by a sandwich bread toasted in the machine, 1 sausage and topped with Russian salad and pickles.

You ask for mustard, and the party begins.  The sausage is very tasty and well accompanied with the rest of the ingredients, one bite, and another, then you have Russian salad all over your face.  The best way to enjoy any sandwich is to get messy! You taste all of the ingredients, chumping on big bites, and order one more before you gulped down half of the sandwich.  Since my love for mustard  above any other, I help myself a generous amount.  The mustard is brown, very very spicy, but worth every tear. The artist and the mustard!

They have couple of more toasted sandwiches, mostly named by their customers and having coolest and funniest names like Zamazingo, Anjelik, Kozmik, Hazgül.

Like their customers, this place is the complete father to son establishmentstanding bold since 1956. It is a loyalty to stop there and fill our hungry tummy with this delicious grub and remember the good old days, listen to some memories told by the customers.

Address: Bahariye Cad, Sakızgülü Sk No:31/A, Kadıköy, Istanbul

Phone: (216) 3487 0538

Service Hours:  7.00am till around 9.30pm everyday

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