Where to Eat and Drink
Turkey's eateries open from eightish in the morning until late at night. Often there isn't much difference between a €6 meal in an informal lokanta (restaurant) and a €15 meal in a more upmarket restoran except in terms of the ambience and service. Only at very hip restaurants in cities such as Istanbul do you need to make a reservation.
Hazır yemek ( ready-made food) restaurants serve stews, casseroles and vegetable dishes prepared in advance and kept warm in steam trays. These are best at lunch time when the food will be at its freshest.
If you are after meat, look instead for a specialist kebapçı.. The ocakbaşı (fireside) versions are the most fun, with patrons sitting around the sides of a grill and watching the kebapçı preparing their dinner. Often dinners take pot luck with what they are served and there is no menu or price list.
Meyhanes are Turkish taverns where you can expect a succession of mezes to be paraded in front of you, then a choice of meat and fish dishes, all to be washed down with copious quantities of rakı. Don't miss a night carousing at the meyhanes clustered in the Beyoğlu area of Istanbul.
Turkish pastanes (patisseries) have supplies of börek and sweet and salty biscuits (kuru pasta, dry pastry), but muhallebici (milk pudding shop)is a better bet for puddings baklavas and other sweet goodies. Don't confuse pasta (pastry) with makarna ( noodles).
For vegetarians, Turkey has few proposed-designed restaurants, but there is no reason why you won't be able to eat well. We have included vegetarian options throughout the website where possible.
Most places will have a printed menu with fixed prices. The one exception is fish: you ask the waiter to show you what is available and then get the fish weighed to find out the price.
Restaurants prices usually include taxes but not service, but in some tourist areas a service charge may be added to the bill automatically. It is worth checking the bill questioning anything unexpected like hitherto unmentioned kuver (cover) charges, which then have servis charges added on to them.
The best cheap snack is pide, the Turkish version of pizza, a canoe-shaped dough topped with cheese( peynirli),egg(yumurtalı) or mince(kıymalı)-the tastiest. A karışık pide will have a mixture of toppings. Döner kebap-the one you will see being cooked on an upright revolving skewer - is Turkey's national dish, served everywhere from street corners to upmarket restaurants. You should also try su böreği, a melt-i -the-mouth lasagne-like layered pastry laced with white cheese and parsley and gözleme, savoury crepes rolled thin and cooked with cheese, spinach and potato-delish!
FISH FORM ON THE COAST
With four seas surrounding the country- The Aegean, the Mediterranean, the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea -Turkey's hardly short of sources of fresh fish. Visitors to the coasts should take advantage fresh fish cooked a la Turquie -sometimes to old Ottoman receipes- is one of the highlights of visiting this region.
Winter is considered the best season for fish and each month is known for a different species. At this time many species migrate from the Black Sea in search of warmer waters and also reach maturity.
In Turkish cuisine, certain herb's as well as vegetables are thought to complement particular types of fish. Mackerel is often stuffed with onions, bonito is cooked with celery root and sea bass or sea bream is poached with tomatoes and green peppers. Bay leaves are popped into almost all fish dishes.
A certain etiquette is usually observed when visiting a fish restaurant. After being seated, it's customary to go and inspect the day's catch displayed either on a counter or -in the smaller restaurants- in the kitchen. After seeing what's on offer and taking your pick, you can discuss the way you want the fish prepared. It's then weighed and you're given a price.
Next stop is the mezes cabinet where you choose your first course. In between these and sips of rakı at your table on the seafront, your fish is freshly prepared.