I’ll have an 8-hour layover in Istanbul in a couple of weeks. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for places to go for a good Turkish breakfast and lunch. I love to eat at small, local places serving authentic food. Sorry! I forgot to add that I prefer restaurants near the Yeşilköy area as I have to board an international flight (which I cannot afford to miss).
Frequent Eater, Buffalo, NY
First off, with 8 hours you can safely venture into nearly any part of the city and safely make it back to the airport on time. But to err on the safe side, let’s limit your grazing territory to the southernmost neighborhoods of the Old City, which are the ones nearest to the airport.
We suggest taking a taxi straight to the Kumkapı neighborhood to save time. The fare shouldn’t cost more than 15 TL and takes about 15 minutes via the coastal road. After passing under the viaduct you will enter a street filled with restaurants. Continue straight toward the central fountain and make a left on Ördekli Bakkal Sokak. About 100 meters down this street on the left you will find Boris’in Yeri.
This place has been keeping Kumkapı’s restaurants and residents stocked with bal/kaymak, a rich buffalo milk cream served under a blanket of honey, for almost a century. And from the looks of the place, little has changed since Boris first opened shop. Old cracked tile floors, marble tables worn from use and a pair of stainless steel coolers the size of Buicks are about the only decor you’ll find here. But a plate of kaymak, alongside fried eggs or a Turkish style scramble with tomatoes and peppers, is the perfect way to start your eight-hour eating spree.
From Boris’in Yeri, we suggest a stroll through the residential streets of the neighborhood, once a quiet Greek and Armenian district, where grand churches set in peaceful courtyards seem to be tucked around every corner. The narrow streets lined with crumbling late-Ottoman homes, now inhabited by a vibrant community of Anatolians, migrants from the former Soviet Union and North Africans, offer an interesting glimpse into contemporary urban life within the City walls.
Loop back to the fountain now and follow the street lined with fish restaurants out to the sea. Cross the coastal road, carefully, and check out the day’s fresh catch at the fish market. This is an atmospheric place to familiarize yourself with the bounty of Istanbul’s local waters. There are some simple fish sandwich stands tucked among the fishmongers, but we suggest saving yourself for lunch in Samatya.
Keeping the shore on your left you will now set off for Samatya. The walk could take 30-45 minutes depending on your speed, so you might want to fortify yourself with a quick simit or acma by the ferry dock at Yenikapı.
You will walk along the seaside, passing remnants of the old city walls, small fishing boats bobbing in the sea and wide recreational green spaces. Continue on until you see road signs for Samatya. Here you will cross the coastal road once again and follow the road into the center of Samatya.
Samatya, also once a largely Greek and Armenian neighborhood, has several lovely small streets to explore all in the general vicinity of the fish market.
When you arrive at the nabe’s small fish market, you’ll see a little fish shack called Küçük Ev. This is our favorite spot in Samatya and provides a front row seat to the hustle and bustle of the fish market. At Küçük Ev, everything is fresh, local, inexpensive and served quickly. For a full review of Küçük Ev click here .
If you are having a kebab craving, just across from Küçük Ev is a branch of the venerable kebab chain, Develi . We generally keep away from chains but this one serves interesting seasonal kebabs, a fine lahmacun  and the Southeastern specialty dessert, kunefe .
After lunch you will probably need to catch a cab to the airport. The waiters at Develi can call one, as it can be difficult to flag one on the street in Samatya. When you get to the airport, have a walk through the food court and thank yourself for not wasting your Istanbul meals there.
Address: Ördekli Bakkal Sok. 9, Kumkapı
Telephone: (212) 517 -2256
Address: Kuleli Cad. 46, Samatya, Istanbul
Telephone: (212) 588-5101
(photo by Mr. Mystery, via Wikimedia Commons)