The Fener-Balat neighborhood by the Golden Horn has become a favorite among photographers who can’t get enough of the dilapidated yet beautiful old Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches and homes. However, the neighborhood has also started to become an attractive area for new establishments (as well as some very delicious classics). We took a look at the best eats in Fener-Balat.
Definitely one of the best places to get lahmacun (thin and crispy dough with ground meat and spices), Forno Balat’s location on one of the beautiful side streets will really make you appreciate the neighborhood just a bit more. Make sure to put some parsley and a squeeze of lemon in your lahmacun before you fold and eat it.
A meyhane (Turkish tavern) in every sense of the word, the old school interior of Balat Sahil Restaurant will take you back in time to an older (and arguably better) Istanbul. From the ornate chandelier to Atatürk portraits and bottles of rakı decorating the walls, everything at this tavern is perfect, including the food. Pick out some delicious meze from the display (stuffed onions are a favorite) and get a big bottle of rakı to share.
You’d probably walk right past this restaurant because there seems to be nothing special about it. However, beneath the informality is an absolutely delicious and straightforward menu of buttery rice, mangalda kurufasulye (Turkish bean stew cooked on a charcoal grill), some of the best köfte in town, thick and delicious yogurt, and delightfully sour turşu (pickled vegetables).
If you happen to be around the neighborhood in the morning, Café Naftalin K. is a great spot for breakfast. You can look forward to a large platter of cheeses, olives, jams, eggs, and pastries that represent a most Turkish way to start the day. After a few rounds of Turkish tea, pop by Naftalin Vintage (the café’s store of vintage and antique finds just a few steps away). PS: This is a very cat-friendly venue.
Cooklife Magazine could be described as Turkey’s version of Kinfolk, so it’s no surprise that their café also abides to the same aesthetic. You’ll find a very instagram-able space with original tile flooring and minimal furniture. Come by for coffee, breakfast, pasta with delicious sauces, and delectable desserts such as cheesecake or freshly baked cookies.
One of Istanbul’s oldest taverns, Agora Meyhanesi was established in 1890 and continues to serve up unique meze varieties you won’t see too often such as balık pastırması (fish pastrami), skordalia(a traditional dip made with a potato base, lots of garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt), and mumbar dolması (stuffed intestines). With Armenian, Turkmen, and Greek Orthodox chefs in the kitchen, it’s no surprise their menu is so eclectic.