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Dec 21
Reviews (Drinks)
Istanbul Eats Drinks: Otantik Türkü Bar

Authentic at Otantik -- photo by Ansel Mullins
One night in Otantik, a Türkü (Turkish folk music) bar in Beyoğlu, delivers all the emotional peaks and valleys of life itself. As the saz-strumming bard on stage moans out the first few bars of a familiar song of lost love, even the table of stony-faced, rakı-drenched fellows in leather jackets melts with a sigh. Then a foot-stomping number gets rolling and out come the handkerchiefs – if not to wipe a tear then to flap at the band in rapturous approval. Before long everyone is dancing in a wide circle, pinkies interlocked, in a synchronized, shoulder-shrugging shimmy led by one fellow who is either waving a napkin or horsewhistling with his free hand. During a slow jam about a fair-haired bride, exhausted, they slump over a plate of fresh fruit and another glass of rakı. Lovers canoodle and singles yearn to, as the electric saz twangs and thrums to the bard’s squinty-eyed lament. It is a traditional night out and a celebration of Anatolian culture that, for many, is just as culturally significant as the kebab.

There is no shortage of Türkü bars around town, but most feel like a no-go zone. The Türkü genre’s natural environment is, seemingly, subterranean and, well, shady. It thrives in the backstreets around Taksim Square in cramped basement spaces that are both forbidding and suffocating, even with Turkey’s new smoking ban in place.

On the other hand, Otantik, located in a lovely, if slightly shabby, historic building on Beyoğlu’s main pedestrian artery, İstiklal Caddesi, occupies a charming room with high ceilings, period accents and a mishmash of Anatolian décor. The attentive staff, led by the charming manager Bilal, allows an outsider in without feeling like an intrepid anthropologist among the locals.

Otantik has a full dinner menu featuring mezes and kebabs, but we suggest coming here after dinner to get your drink on and soak in the Türkü experience. After a couple of duble rakı, you’ll be laughing, crying and waving a napkin in the air like a local.

Address: Balo Sokak 1, Floor 3, Beyoğlu
Telephone: 212-293-6515
Live music every night, 9pm-2am

(photo by Ansel Mullins)

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3 Responses to “ Istanbul Eats Drinks: Otantik Türkü Bar ”
  1. laurie danial

    Jun 5, 2011

    Can you bring teenagers into these places and/or Araf Cafe Bar…is it appropriate and are they welcome and is it legal?
    thanks, laurie

  2. Laurie,

    The law is 18 and up for bars. Otantik is a restaurant/bar and Araf more of a live music venue. Neither place is likely to card a mature teenager with a parent. These two venues can get a little debaucherous but I’ve never seen anything threatening going on. On the weekends, there is almost always live, local music in a very friendly, well-lit environment at:
    Kumbara Cafe
    Kucukparmakkapi Sokak 9, floor 2
    It is also in Beyoglu just off of Istiklal.

  3. Thank you for this. we will definitely try to catch one of these places.

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