Editor’s note: This is the third installment in our look at Istanbul’s top five street foods.
The sign may read “Wet Burger” (“Islak Burger” in Turkish), but there’s a lot more to say about Kızılkayalar’s moist mini-patties than that. How about “Heavenly Slider,” “Binge Drinker’s Delight,” or “The Best 2 Lira Ever Spent in Taksim Square?”
The Kızılkayalar experience starts from a distance, most vividly late at night. It begins with a whiff of garlic detected well across Taksim Square, then, through the bustling crowd, eyes lock onto the bright lights of the steam box holding the burger bounty. Hungry customers are finally tugged in, like a tanker on the Bosphorus, by the steady foghorn voice of the Kızılkayalar hamburger man bellowing “Buyurun, buyurun, buyurun!” (Roughly: “Come and get it!”)
Make no mistake, the burger is wet, having been doused by an oily, tomato-based sauce before incubating in a glass-lined burger hamam. There, it becomes even wetter, the once fluffy white bun rendered a greasy, finger-licking radioactive shade of orange, both chewy and slick on either side of the garlicky beef patty. Like an order of nachos at the movies, or an elephant ear at the carnival, the wet burger is a sinful pleasure that flies in the face of our otherwise high culinary standards. But at 2 a.m. on a Friday night, nothing is as good as a Kızılkayalar wet burger – except for another one.
Though Kızılkayalar does have a cramped indoor seating area, we recommend eating it standing up out front. That way, it’s easier to fish a couple of coins from your pocket for the second round.
Address: Sıraselviler Caddesi 6, Taksim Square (open 24/7)
(photo by Jonathan Lewis)