Read, Write, Run, Roam

The culinary delights of Karaköy, Istanbul

Karaköy sits across the river from Istanbul’s most famous sites. It’s south of the Galata tower and dotted with markets selling everything from fish to toilet seats. While it’s not the most popular place for tourists, it might be one of the best places to enjoy a cheap and tasty meal in Istanbul. Thanks to our trusty tour guide, we checked out the following treats.

Muz believes that dessert should be the first course of any meal, so we first stopped by the famous Güllüoglu for some baklava. If you believe the hype, the founding owner of this establishment introduced the dessert to Turkey in 1871. Dentists and diets have flourished since. Muz didn’t want to miss out on any combination of phyllo and honey, and wound up getting a little taste of each kind.

I thought we were being excessive, until I looked at the table next to us. Two Turkish men were sharing a plate larger than ours. Kuma, Muz and I dug in, not stopping for air or conversation. It was all delicious, except for the chocolate. (WHY would you ruin this delicacy with chocolate?!) What wasn’t delicious was the raging headache that followed my sugar high. We needed protein, quick, so we walked to the fish market for a sandwich.

Across the river in Old Town, floating boats are famous for their giant fish sandwiches. Online message boards show heated conversations about the best fish boat. But most of the fish sold there, we were told, isn’t local. So we went straight to the source: the fish market on the opposite side of the river.

Fish boats in Old Town

Fish heads in Karakoy (Image source here)

It was definitely not the tourist scene. Slush water from the fish cooling system spilled on to the path. Vendors scowled at us, knowing we were only there to look. Fish scales were everywhere. Between the little fish graveyards, we saw an entryway and a few tables packed with people. We ignored the extensive menu and asked for three fish sandwiches and drinks.

Once again, the portions were massive. But in the name of bloggerism, dear readers, I managed to finish off my yummy sandwich. It wasn’t a gourmet meal, but it was definitely a cheap one. The bill for all three of us was about $13 USD.

There was more to explore on this slightly sketchy side of the Bosphorous, like fresh squeezed juice pressers and fruit and roasted nut vendors, but alas, we were full. On our way back to our hotel, we discovered the additional benefit of eating in Karaköy: enjoying a much-needed walk home on the Galata Bridge during sunset. It may not have been the fanciest meal in Istanbul, but it was one of the most memorable.


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