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Oct 29
Reviews (Eats)
Kristal Ocakbaşı: The People’s House

Kristal Ocakbaşı, photo by Ansel Mullins

Outside of Kristal Ocakbaşı, a small grill joint tucked away on a side street in the Pangaltı neighborhood, Obama sat greeting the regulars who streamed in to watch a soccer game while feasting on kebab. “What’s the news, Obama?” asked one man with shoulder-length white hair. “Selam aleykum, Obama,” said another. One woman patted him on the head and baby talked to him, calling him by the affectionate nickname “Obiş.” Though we’d never heard such fond regard for the American president, Obama – the tanker-sized street dog of Eşref Efendi Sokak – took it in stride, yawning lazily. It was just another Monday night among his adoring constituents.

Even for newcomers to the scene, the congenial atmosphere of this informal meat-eating clubhouse is hard to miss. Residents heading home with their shopping bags stopped in, watched a bit of the soccer game, nodded to the grill master and headed on. Waiters sat down with customers. One customer reached over and lit a cigarette from the red embers of the grill, as if he were in his own backyard. This sort of atmosphere is an essential element for a neighborhood institution, be it a teahouse or a dive bar, but it is the grilled meat of Kristal that can draw a crowd from far beyond the confines of residential Pangaltı.

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