(Editor’s Note: In honor of the May Day workers’ holiday, we are rerunning last year’s post that takes a look at the dining possibilities at two union halls, Istanbul-style. Happy May 1!)
Gazeteciler Lokali-Beyoğlu: The Write Stuff
Journalists in Turkey are notoriously overworked and underpaid (at least that’s what Turkish journalists will tell you). The part of the story they tend to leave out is the free reign they enjoy over Istanbul’s Journalists’ Union lokal, a classic little dining room and clubhouse with an Ottoman-era fireplace, dark wood wainscoting and a ritzy address right on İstiklal Caddesi. This faded elegance, almost entirely lost in Istanbul, sets the stage for a raucous affair that sometimes resembles dinner and at other times a gypsy wedding celebration. On the weekends, journalists and those-in-the-know pack this place for a long meal accompanied by live music.
The set menu includes a bounty of seasonal cold meze, including artichokes stewed in olive oil, pickled beets and smoked eggplant puree. From the hot starters we recommend the sarma, chard leaves stuffed with ground beef and drizzled with garlicky yogurt. A fresh green salad leads up to the main course crescendo of meat or fish – take your pick, they are both good.
The food is reliably good and the location is excellent, but we think it’s the price of this all you can eat and drink deal that appeals to the hard luck hack. At 60 lira, it’s a night out even a Turkish journalist can afford.
Address: İstiklal Caddesi 22, 1st floor, Beyoğlu
Telephone: (212) 292-4167
Metalurji Mühendisliği Lokali: Fish Alchemy
We never thought much about metallurgy as a profession. Nor did the concept of union membership ever seem very appealing, with all the meetings and monthly dues. That all changed after a mighty fine night at the Metallurgist Union’s lokal, where dinner can be a communal affair – during our meal a dish of pickled anchovies was sent over by another table of friendly metallurgists. The simple, fresh food here is always tasty and, as all fans of this place point out, very cheap.
About the food, one regular said, “I don’t go there to eat fancy food. I go there to sit at  a table with my friends and eat a heaping plate of fried fish.” That about sums up the dining experience: there’s nothing dainty about it but the place has a convivial spirit that seems to infect the entire room as if someone left the laughing gas running.
A few meze – of which the patlıcan soslu (fried eggplant cubes in a tomato sauce) was our favorite – a large green salad with shredded cabbage and carrots, a plate of fried “chacha” (pinky-sized bait fish), two orders of unidentified but very good boneless white fish that fried up like a catfish, and enough rakı to make us giggly and then sleepy cost 25 TL per person. That’s reason enough, for some, to consider a career change, and union membership.
Address: Taksim Caddesi 14, Taksim
Telephone: No phone
(Editor’s Note II: Unfortunately, the Metalurji Mühendisliği Lokali has closed since this review was originally published. The Journalists’ Union lokal is still open.)
(photo by Yigal Schleifer)