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Apr 24
Reviews (Eats)
Köfteci Hüseyin: The Cadillac of Meatballs

Not "just meatballs" -- photo by Monique Jaques

Editor’s note: After the unfortunate collapse in February 2016 of the building that housed Köfteci Hüseyin, the business is hoping to reopen elsewhere in the neighborhood. We’ll keep readers posted.

In New York, consider the pizza. You’ve got Famous Ray’s Pizza, Ray’s Original Pizza, World Famous Original Ray’s Pizza and so on. Ray and his imitators just wouldn’t bother if New Yorkers believed pizza was “just a slice.”

It’s the same story in Istanbul with köfte, a dish that to non-locals may seem like nothing more than grilled meatballs, but which Turks take very seriously. In Istanbul’s Old City alone there’s the “Historic Sultanahmet Köfte” restaurant right next door to the “Famous Sultanahmet Köfte” restaurant, with affiliated branches battling it out throughout town. There’s even an unrelated chain of “Sultanahmet Köfte” restaurants, which are somewhat famous but not very historic.

We prefer to retreat from the köfte wars of Sultanahmet and get our fix from Köfteci Hüseyin, a more humble purveyor in Beyoğlu, who got his start selling meatballs from a pushcart grill some 40 years ago.

Although at one point the cart was traded in for a tiny storefront just off of Taksim Square, Hüseyin still keeps it very real, with some of the best meatballs in town. On the wall is a picture of the founder from the days when he had little more than a mustache, a pair of tongs and his old grill on wheels. Though Hüseyin has since passed on, before doing so he bequeathed his tongs to his son, who now works the grill and maintains a winning recipe that combines quality, consistency and low prices.

Enter this humble shoebox of an eatery and before you can grab a seat you’ll be asked, “One portion or one and a half?” Shortly thereafter, “Side of beans?” (An order of piyaz, a salad of white beans and onion, is to köfte what coleslaw is to BBQ. Dressed in olive oil and vinegar and served chilled, this classic side is a köfte house mainstay that shouldn’t be missed.) That’s about all there is to ordering in a traditional Turkish köfte joint – and tradition is what Köfteci Hüseyin is all about.

Köfteci Hüseyin may be a classic spot, but its handmade patties do distinguish themselves from the rest. While some places lard their meatballs with breadcrumbs, giving their köfte a somewhat rubbery consistency, Hüseyin’s patties have an unusually high meat content. Hüseyin’s silver-dollar-sized patties are also quite plump, allowing them to remain juicy inside while their exterior gets pleasantly charred on the grill.

Sit down for a portion and a half of Hüseyin’s köfte, served along with a big hunk of fresh bread, a dollop of spicy red pepper sauce and fresh chopped onions, and you will understand why these are not “just meatballs.”

Address: Kurabiye Sokak, Akgün İş Hanı 14, Beyoğlu
Telephone: 212-243-7637

(photo by Monique Jaques)

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13 Responses to “ Köfteci Hüseyin: The Cadillac of Meatballs ”
  1. Bursa Çiçek Köftesi at the bottom end of Barbaros Bul. in Beşiktaş is my favorite köfte place,
    They do their kofte in a kind of iskender kebab style, bloody delcious and the best thing is they are also available in the bustling pub upstairs.

  2. nathan,
    that sounds good. there used to be a place on istiklal called “pideli kofte” where the signature dish was just like an iskender with kofte patties in place of the doner. since it closed ive been missing a little pideli kofte in my life. thanks for the besiktas tip.

  3. I know Hüseyin’s place, it’s really one of its kind, tastes just like my mother’s.

    Also I want to recommend Edirne Kırkpınar Köftecisi; they are specialists in Thrace style (Edirne, to be exact) meatballs. I’m from Thrace and I can easily say that every little town in Thrace has their own style of making meatballs, (you must have heard of Tekirdağ köftesi, for instance). This is one of the best. Try “Kıyık Şiş Köfte” with its own sauce and yoghurt. Also they make their own breads, always warm, always crusty outside, cotton-like inside, delicious.

  4. Thanks, Alkan. Where is this Edirne kofte place?

  5. They have 3 shops; one is in Beşiktaş but I don’t know the exact address of it since I haven’t eaten there yet, one in 4. Levent that has only delivery service and last one is in Osmanbey, on Halaskargazi street, between Pangaltı and Nişantaşı metro exits. Coming from Taksim, it’s on the left side of Halaskargazi street, after 5 minutes walk from Pangaltı exit, you can’t miss its green sign.

  6. Great site, gentlemen. I like to follow your comments about our daily meal places.

    About köfte, I should say that the place Alkan says (I prefer Beşiktaş Çarşı branch) is really remarkable, especially the “kıyık köfte” with “silivri yoghurt”…

    Plus, if haven’t done yet (i may have missed), i will advise you to taste Sur Kebabı and Sur Tatlısı (a dessert of ice cream and hot semolina halva together), at the Sur Kebap place at Unkapanı/Surdibi. I’ll be waiting your comments about the dessert.

  7. hi shere…do you have the exact address from Edirne Köfte in Besiktas Carsi? And also the add from Sur Kebab?
    Thanks a lot

  8. After 30 years in the same hole-in-the-wall, Kofteci Huseyin is moving to a slightly larger hole-in-the-wall directly across the street. Their current address is being turned into a hotel, according to grillman Cumhur.

  9. edirne kirkpinar koftecisi is on “sinanpasa mah. sinanpasa koprusu sok. no: 6a, besiktas”, the street going in between the old “define bufe” and migros.

  10. rl reeves jr

    Feb 15, 2012

    Breakfast at Kofteci Huseyin this morning. Be aware that this shop sells out each day and rolls down the garage door to head to the house with a duffel bag filled with cash. I attempted to eat here a few times before striking paydirt. They’re normally done with service by 1-2 pm so I hit em up at 10:45 this morning.

    Outstanding meatballs fully on par with the offering at Merih and a very good value at 10 TL. The team running the place could not be more friendly either with the English speaker giving me the full run down of the history of the restaurant.

    Interesting to sit and eat while the wholesale renovation of their old location across the street continues apace.

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