Top 10 Cheap Eateries in and around the Grand Bazaar

Here is a short list of my favourite top 10 cheap eats, in and around the Grand Bazaar area. If you ever find yourself around the old city area and craving some tasty local food, these are my suggestions. Afiyet olsun!!!


Ziya Büfe

Molla Fenari Mah. Şeref Efendi Sok. No:45/A , Fatih, İstanbul

This place only offers pressed sandwiches that are called “tost” in Turkish. Basically two pieces of buttered bread, white or bran, filled with cheese, cold cuts etc and pressed. However, their most popular sandwich does not appear on the menu so you have to ask that by name. It’s called “hacı malik” (pronounced haji mah-lik), white cheese, fresh mint, dill, parsley and tomato slices are pressed into a sandwich and the taste is out of this world, especially the taste of mint takes this sandwich to another level. Get a sandwich and a glass of the fresh orange juice and sit outside the benches located on Nuruosmaniye street and just watch the people passing by.


Havuzlu Restaurant

Kapalıçarşı, Beyazıt Mahallesi, Gani Çelebi Sok. No:3, Fatih, İstanbul

If you are inside the Grand bazaar shopping and do not feel like getting out, and have a nice cool place to sit, this is the place to go. The name “havuzlu” (with a pool) refers to the tiny little fountain in front of the restaurant. A place close to my heart as I used to go here with my mother when I was young, every time we visited the Grand Bazaar. My favourite dish here was the “hünkar beğendi, ” the smoked eggplant puree topped with beef stew. It is a type of “esnaf lokantası” (tradermen’s restaurant) where all the food is available on the display steam baths and they run out of it by 2:30-3:00pm.


Bahar Lokantası

Kapalıçarşı, Beyazıt Mahallesi, Nuruosmaniye Caddesi, Yağcı Han, No: 13 Fatih, İstanbul

Havuzlu’s sister restaurant Bahar is a smaller version, serving the same delicious home-made food but mostly to locals. As this restaurant is located sort of hidden in one of the hundreds of inns that make up the Grand Bazaar. Try to go here as early as 12:00-12:30 to take a look at the appetizing hot buffet, get your selection of dishes; perhaps a half portion of soup of the day, then a main meal accompanied by bulghur pilaf with mint (my favourite!) or rice pilaf. Finish the meal off with a cup of tea delivered piping hot from the “çayocağı” (teahouse) like a real Turk would do.


Gaziantep Burç Ocakbaşı

Kapalıçarşı, Beyazıt Mahallesi, Yağlıkçılar Caddesi, Parçacılar Sokağı, No:12, Fatih, İstanbul

This is going to be hardest to find, let me tell you this much. But once you’ve found it, you will not regret. Serving a very limited menu of grilled items and the ubiquitous “lahmacun,” I suggest that you go here very hungry. Because in order to get the full experience you need to eat this list of food that I am suggesting; start with a lahmacun (if you really can’t eat too much then you can share one with your companion), followed by a kebab of choice, my favourite is the skewered and grilled lamb chunks a.k.a. “kuzu şiş,” a tomato and walnut salad with pomegranate sauce, and a pitcher of ayran to wash it all down (They have packaged ayran and the homemade one, I personally prefer the homemade one but it’s your choice). If you still have room, I suggest sharing a “künefe” the shredded pastry filled with cheese and grilled to perfection then soaked in syrup. Even though it sounds weird, if you have a sweet tooth you will love it, and order some tea to go along with your dessert.


Dönerci Şahin Usta

Kapalıçarşı Molla Fenari Mahallesi, Kılıççılar Sokak, No:9, Fatih, İstanbul

Another old establishment that has been around since 1969, that serves one of the tastiest ground beef döner sandwiches in İstanbul. They are literally located in a tiny little hole in the wall, where one has to either stand inside the shop which only can fit two people standing, or you have to eat standing outside in front of the shop. They are only open for lunch and usually, there are long lines, so to avoid the line go there as early as noon and get a glass of home-made ayran (the yogurt drink) to go with your döner sandwich. I suggest getting the “pide” as the bread option for your sandwich and if you want to avoid eating too much bread you can also get half a “pide” with the full fillings.


Gül Ebru Kantin

Kapalıçarşı, Beyazıt Mahallesi, Acı Çeşme Sok. No:4, Fatih, İstanbul

Considered in a different league than Şahin, meaning the döner here is made out of beef steaks. At Gül Ebru Kantin you can actually sit down and enjoy the döner, either in a sandwich or on a plate. You can choose the portion sizes as you wish. But when you go here make sure that you don’t sit at the next döner shop which is right around the corner by mistake. They get confused quite easily at times, especially if you are standing there looking lost, the shop next door grabs you immediately under  false pretenses.


Gül Otantik

Located on Gazi Sinan Paşa sok. Parallel to Nuruosmaniye Cad. middle of the street, on a lower lever

Gül, the chef who also gave her name to the restaurant, is smiling at you as you approach the counter where the food is displayed. You immediately feel welcomed in this family run establishment, located close to the rambling Nuruosmaniye street.  Here they serve freshly made dishes daily. But my favourite is the home-made “mantı” (the dough dumplings, filled with beef and served with yogurt and tomato sauce), that are made fresh and only served on Mondays, so almost every Monday you can find me there, devouring a plate of mantı.


Bursa Gül Restaurant

Vezirhan Cad. No: 56/A, Fatih, İstanbul

This is actually my favourite soup shop, where I go to drink my breakfast soup, as it is a tradition in Turkey, especially in the winter time. The shop opens at 6:30 just serving two kinds of soups, red lentil soup and red lentil soup with spices and grains. While drinking your soup, you can watch the chef making the köftes, the ubiquitous meatballs that are never shaped as a ball but somehow always translated as meatballs in English. They start serving proper lunch at 11:30, all freshly made home-style dishes on display. I definitely suggest the grilled “köfte” dish, or if you are looking for something lighter go for the slow cooked white beans with rice.


Dürümcü Mustafa

Molla Fenari Mahallesi, Vezirhanı Caddesi, No:53, Fatih, İstanbul

If dining al fresco sounds like you and if you are looking for a quick and filling meal, “dürüm” (the infamous meat wrap) is the way to go. And where to go…of course Mustafa is your guy. Located right on the busy street close to the Grand Bazaar, you situate yourself on tiny stools and give your order, whether its spicy beef wrap called “Adana” or the chicken wrap, order it along with ayran. If you prefer some heat also ask for some roasted peppers on the side. Eat your wrap and drink your ayran while watching the hustle and bustle of the passersby and the large tourist buses. But the taste of the wrap here is definitely worth a visit.


Şark Kahvesi

Kapalıçarşı, Beyazıt Mahallesi, Yağlıkçılar Caddesi. Terlikçiler Sok. No: 134, Fatih, İstanbul

This is the place to sit, relax and enjoy that frothy cup of Turkish coffee that will help you get a proper rest after you have shopped your way around the Grand Bazaar and bargained like crazy for that silk pashmina. The coffee here is cooked slowly over hot sand and tastes great due to the slow cooking. If you also feel like your blood sugar is falling you can enjoy a grilled cheese called “kaşarlı tost” that will give the zing that you need, to shop for some more.

Tours and Detours Radio Show

Today I had a radio interview that will be taped in Istanbul but aired in Philadelphia sometime in November. The program is called “Tours and Detours” with Birtan Colliers. We talked about Turkish cuisine and the new food trends in Istanbul. Then my colleague talked about the natural and organic products of the company that we work at.

Before this interview, although it was taped and not live, to feed my hunger and kill my nervousness I had a wonderfully balanced and very filling fish soup at “Savoy Balık” in Cihangir. Keep in mind; during the weekdays for lunch they serve wonderful set menus consisting of a bowl of fish soup, mixed salad, seasonal fish of the day (either grilled or fried) and a glass of tea.

Kuru Fasulye – The Traditional Bean Stew

It’s raining cats and dogs in Istanbul, and this time I am determined to get a pair of plastic rain boots. My father and I met up after work and went to a store and got the most beautiful looking and comfortable plastic rain boots. It got really cold in the evening and I started to feel really hungry. My father suggested that since we were close to the “Fasuli” branch in Cerrahpaşa district, we should go for a plate of steaming “kuru fasulye” (White kidney bean stew) and a plate of rice pilaf cooked with butter.

As  soon as we entered into the tiny little shop we got rid of our wet rain coats and umbrellas and sat down for a hot bowl of black cabbage soup to start with, the famous soup of the Black Sea region accompanied by steaming corn bread, then we both devoured a bowl of white kidney bean stew and rice pilaf.


Meeting Colman Andrews

This year in April, I was in U.S.A., visiting four different cities to give lectures on history of Turkish cuisine, do cooking demonstrations and also attend Roger Smith Conference on Food Technology, where I gave a presentation on “Olive Oil Extraction Techniques used in Western Anatolia”.

At the end of my trip I paid a visit to my favorite shop Barnes and Noble, and looked through the newly published books to see if there would be anything that suited my interest. The only book that caught my eye was “My Usual Table” by Colman Andrews. I had never heard of him before but decided to buy the book because it looked interesting. I found out later that he was actually a big time food writer who was one of the people who started one of my favorite magazines, Saveur. I found the book to be very entertaining and informative and I really admired Colman Andrews and how he flourished in a career of food writing.

Day before yesterday I was working in the office when I received a call from my colleague at the restaurant. He told me that two Americans were asking for me. So I went to the restaurant and went to the table of the Americans who asked for me. As the gentleman at the table was introducing himself and telling me that his friend Anya von Bremzen told him to go dine at the restaurant I work at and ask for me, I recognized who he was. I was shaking the hand of Colman Andrews, whose book I recently finished reading. I got star struck. Frankly that is how I get when I meet a famous chef or a food writer. I told him that I had recently finished reading his book. He could not believe it. I guess he never thought that he would run into someone in Turkey who knew him, let alone read his book.

We chatted for a bit then I left him alone with his wife so they can enjoy their lunch without me hovering over the table. I stopped by their table once more to say goodbye before they left and we exchanged business cards. He was nice enough to tell me to let him know if I ever visit NYC.

I only wish that I had my book so that he could sign it!!!!

Yesterday was one of my friend’s birthday. To celebrate, a group of friends and I went to “Yeni Lokanta” one of the new additions to the Istanbul restaurant scene, owned and operated by one of my favorite chefs Civan Er. As soon as I entered the restaurant, to my surprise I say Mr. and Mrs. Andrews sitting at the bar and enjoying the food with a nice glass of wine. I approached them to say hi. They were also very surprised. We chatted about how their day was and where they went to eat. I also introduced them to Chef Civan which they really appreciated as they loved the food at the restaurant. Obviously I did not have my book again, as I had no idea that I would run into them.

The next night I went to Istiklal street in Beyoğlu with a mission in my mind. I had found out from Mr. Andrews that he was going to be dining at “Asmalı Cavit.” I found out from the restaurant manager that his reservations were at 20:30. I paid a visit to the restaurant at 21:00, and this time they were both surprised and happy to see me, as I held out my book and asked Mr. Andrews to sign it.

A three day adventure and a signature on my book by one of the most important people in the food world.


Kadıköy Dürümcü Emmi

It is one of those days and I am a tourist in Istanbul with my best friend. I wanted to go to the Asian side and take a walk on the shore road by Moda and then go to eat at a place that I have been hearing about for a long time.

We took the ferry to the Asian side, walked to the Moda seashore and sat on the rocks by the sea. It was so soothing and relaxing. We just sat there for almost an hour, just talking and enjoying the wonderful view of the sea. When we got hungry, my best friend took me to one of his favorite restaurants, “Dürümcü Emmi” to have their famous ‘paça çorbası’ (lamb trotters soup). However their recipe is quite different than a regular lamb trotters soup. This soup was made with lamb stock with pieces of ‘kavurma’ (sautéed small lamb chunks). We had the spicy version which was simply delicious and worked like a medicine against my runny nose.

This soup resembled the famous ‘beyran’ soup of Gaziantep region which is a popular breakfast soup that is known to give someone strength and keep them going all day long.