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Jul 19
Monday
Features, Reviews (Eats)
Büyükada Hi-Lo


If it’s because of showing visitors around or simply a desire to get away from the city for the day, we can usually count on at least one visit a summer to Büyükada, the largest of the Princes’ Islands.

But as much as we like looking at the car-free island’s Victorian mansions and visiting its quiet, forested backside, when it comes time to eat on Büyükada, we feel like we’re stuck inside an airport, forced to eat mediocre food at outrageous prices. (Although we very much like the food at Kıyı, a seaside restaurant on the island that we’ve previously recommended, even a casual dinner there ends up costing more than what one would like.)

If a trip to Büyükada is on your agenda this summer, here are two recommendations that have helped us get around the island dining blues:

Club Mavi
Considering you’re on an island, you probably want to eat somewhere with a view of the sea. Most visitors to Büyükada end up getting lured to the row of busy fish restaurants found just beside the island’s ferry terminal. All have seaside terraces with a view of Istanbul’s rapidly developing Asian shore (and of the occasional piece of urban flotsam and jetsam that drifts by) and similar, predictable menus with decently made, but uninspiring food.

A more pleasant (though not cheap) island experience, though, can be had by hailing one of Büyükada’s numerous horse carriages and asking the driver to take you to Club Mavi, a restaurant and hotel located inside a rambling old house on the island’s undeveloped backside. The carriage ride – past many of the island’s grandest mansions and through a scented pine forest – is already part of the fun. And while the restaurant has a menu of fairly typical, though well made, mezes and grill items, it more than makes up for the lack of any culinary pizzazz with its stunning location: up on a bluff that overlooks a nearby island and the open sea. Particularly at around sunset, the view from Club Mavi’s outdoor tables rivals those you would find on the Greek islands or the Dalmatian coast.

When dinner is done, a carriage driver or two are usually waiting at the restaurant’s gate to take you back to town for a ride under the stars in order to catch the last ferry back to the city. It’s probably one of the best endings to a meal that we know of.

Address: Büyüktur Yolu 12, Büyükada
Telephone: 216-382-6075
Web: http://clubmavidevre.com/buyukada/buyukada.php

SofrAda Restoran
One of the questions that we frequently ask ourselves during visits to Büyükada is, just where do the locals eat? The seaside fish restaurants are too pricey, while even the “budget” places away from the sea are clearly aimed at the tourist trade.

We recently found the answer to our question in the form of SofrAda Restoran, a homey version of an esnaf lokantası, located on a small side street near the aromatic lot where the horse carriages are parked while their drivers wait for rides.

Run by an islander who clearly knows what she’s doing, the restaurant features a large daily menu of prepared dishes, freshly made with a loving touch. After several visits to the restaurant, we’ve grown fond of their vegetables stewed in olive oil – okra and green beans, in particular – and served at room temperature. Everything else that we have had, including their mücver (zucchini fritters), köfte and karnıyarık (eggplant stuffed with minced meat), have been very tasty and, unusually for these parts, offered up at mainland prices.

Address: İsa Çelebi Sokak 10, Büyükada
Telephone: 216-382-7639

(photo by Yigal Schleifer)

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11 Responses to “ Büyükada Hi-Lo ”
  1. Now where was this like two weeks ago? We had pretty lame “Turkish pizza” and “cheesed pita” and “sausage pita” on an aromatic street near the horse holding pen. ..

    Thanks again for great suggestions.

  2. is it possible to visit buyukada in october?

    I ‘ll appreciate a answer asap

  3. @bouchra yes it is possible, autumn is always very pleasant here in Istanbul, i am sure buyukada would be lovely on october. also, if your concern is transportation, there are many ferries which go to buyukada yearlong since there is a big population who live there.

  4. I’ve been a Buyukada local for a decade and yes, you’re right, the fish restaurants along the sea front are all terrible and most of them are staffed by thieves of the worst sort who rip off tourists horribly.
    The only half decent place is the restaurant by the monastery of Aya Yorgi – though the mile long, 200 meter elevation climb to the top of the hill should not be undertaken lightly!

  5. Thanks for your advise. We had a nice dinner at Sofrada! It is hard to find a good place on buyakada.

  6. I highly recommend the Sofrada restaurant. Following your advice we stopped in and were happy we did! I always like to eat where the locals eat and this was right on the money and had a great atmosphere and friend service. I would highly recommend it and look forward to eating there again as I’m often in Istanbul!

  7. Was very interested in your articles on the “Islands” & we will be visiting in 2012 & would like a ball park figure on the cost of food, in the restaurants , Wee have travelled extensively & restaurants on the waterfront around the world are always “expensive” as long as you get value for money noone minds paying. Any other tips for Istanbul would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  8. Maureen – the prices at SofraAda, where we ate after this review – were very reasonable starting about 5£ or 8$ equivalent in Turkish lira. You can eat comfortably there without worrying about breaking the bank.
    We saw, but avoided, the sea-side dining areas and thought it was strange that they were enclosed in plastic – I assume to block the wind- but appears mainly to block the view.

  9. SofraAda is a fantastic restaurant, a perfect representation of traditional home cooked Turkish cuisine. I have been staying with a Turkish family for the past few months and the food mirrors Turkish life completely. You can pick and choose different dishes from a lovely selection. The meat dishes are great and there are also plenty of delicious vegetable and bean dishes. I had a large plate with a mixture of everything, with a bread basket and a drink for 20lira, around £8. It filled me for the whole day I did not need dinner! Lovely people running the place too, highly recommended :)

  10. Wayne Wheeler

    Nov 24, 2012
    Reply

    We had lunch at SofraAda yesterday, 20 November 2012, and enjoyed immensely.

  11. Tuğçe Uludağ

    Apr 7, 2014
    Reply

    Even though it has been a long time since you posted this topic, I just want to say that your advices on this beautiful island are great. But there is one thing that you should not miss the next time you go to Büyükada: Taş Fırın. They have extraordinarily delicious Turkish pizzas and various types of pides (I don’t know what translation would be the right one for “pide”). It’s a small place where you can eat outside when there’s a warm, soothing breeze, I’m sure it can be the definition of perfection. Also it’s not an expensive place to eat, most of the pides are maximum 12 Turkish liras (it’s approximately 4 euros) and delicious Turkish pizza is 3 Turkish liras (and it’s approximately 1 euro) or so. I can guarantee you that you won’t regret it.

    Address: Şehit Recep Koç Caddesi, Maden Mahallesi No: 22, Büyükada
    Telephone: (0216) 382 1720

    Ps: for the Turkish pizzas: you can get a full belly with 3-4 of these badboys!
    Enjoy!


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