As I had made plans to go to dinner with a good friend in Ortaköy last night, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a mini tour of this popular neighborhood.
Ortaköy... or loosely translated middle village is on the Bosphorus waterfront on the European side of the city. It is a very neighborhood for Turks from all walks of life and lately, more and more tourists are also discovering its charm.
I will only be writing about the small 3-4 block radius of Ortaköy that is on the waterfront because the other parts of this neighborhood are quite residential with a main street (Dereboyu Caddesi) with food markets, butchers, fast food eateries, pharmacies, fishmongers, bakeries, etc. and surrounded with narrow and hilly streets with middle class max 6 story apartment buildings - most of which are walk-ups.
So, below is a glimpse of the Ortaköy square and the Ortaköy Mosque and Bosphorus Bridge as backdrops. The Ortaköy Mosque is probably the most photographed mosque besides the major mosques in the old city. A long overdue renovation is underway and should be completed some time in 2012. On the opposite side of the mosque is a pier where you can board a city-run ferryboat for a ride along the Bosphorus... but this pier closes early (around 6.30pm on weekdays). On the other side or behind the mosque is an area along the waterfront with a couple of modest tea houses (non-alcoholic beverages and snacks served) and a private pier where you can board privately owned boats for a short trip along the Bosphorus with a return to the same spot. The prices are quite modest (sorry! don't have info on the latest prices) and the ride is about 45 minutes to an hour. It's a no-frills ride but a great way to see Istanbul's waterfront from the Bosphorus strait and make sure to take lots of pictures!!
Ortaköy square and the surrounding narrow and winding streets are filled with side by side eateries, outdoor street vendors selling everything from costume jewelry to clothing and all sorts of touristy trinkets.
As I said, there are dining options for all budgets. You can sit in a tea house on in Ortaköy Square and pay 2 TL for a cup of tea and just a couple of doors down, pay sometimes 3 to 4 times as much for the same cup of tea - but of course, the difference is the ambiance and decor that justify these price differences.
If you don't want to sit anywhere but just enjoy the sights and grab a quick bite, you might want to try one of the stuffed baked potatoes sold at side by side street vendors lined up at the entrance to Ortaköy Square from the main street off to the side from the Ortaköy mosque. All sorts of toppings (American salad, corn, pickles, cheese, peas, etc.) are available and the potatoes are huge!
But, in my article, I want to mention some of the nicer places where you can enjoy a beverage, cocktail, snack, lunch or dinner. So, here goes...
Kitchenette is a newcomer to the area and only opened several months ago. It is one of my favorite places for the casual lunch. But, I am a regular at their branch at the Kanyon Shopping Mall in Levent. This location is great too because they have a lovely terrace where you have a fantastic view of the Bosphorus Strait while you are dining. The menu is modestly priced and includes everything from breakfast treats (Eggs Norwegian is very good), appetizers, salads (I recommend the grilled salmon salad), burgers, pastas, main courses, desserts, and a section of "light" meals for those watching their waistline and daily specials. Alcoholic beverages are served and the wine list includes a nice selection from Turkey and abroad, but I think the number of wines offered by the glass can be more extensive. You don't necessarily need to eat at Kitchenette and can also stop by for a coffee or cocktail.
Kitchenette (www.kitchenette.com.tr) has numerous branches on both sides of the city as well as in Ankara and Antalya. Abroad, they recently opened a branch in Baku, Azerbaijan and in Moscow. The chain is owned by the Istanbul Doors Group and I will be mentioning them more later on in this article and probably in more articles in the future as they are a very very successful group and the owners of some of the best restaurants in Istanbul.
Two other places worth mentioning and right next door to Kitchenette is Çınaraltı - a seafood restaurant that has been around for years and Mado Cafe where you can have snacks, desserts, coffee, tea and their own brand of ice cream.
On the opposite side of the street from Kitchenette is House Cafe (www.thehousecafe.com) and the newly opened The House Hotel - when Ricky Martin was here to give a concert last week, he stayed here (www.thehousehotel.com). The House Cafe also has numerous branches in Istanbul and the House Hotel has a couple of sisters in other parts of the city as well.