I’d intended to do only one more post on Istanbul (a wrap-up of the good and bad meals we had there), but in looking over my notes and photos from the trip, I thought the Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi deserved a dedicated shout-out.
Left to my own devices, I would’ve avoided the place. It was (1) listed in our guidebook and (2) located in the tourist-packed neighborhood of Sultanahmet – two factors that scream “tourist-hell-to-be-avoided.”
But you see, Jon has a few Istanbullu friends (as in: Turkish friends currently living in Istanbul). And we’d asked them for recommendations. And independently of each other, two of them called this place the best koftecisi in town. [Koftecisi, in case you didn't guess, means the place serves one thing only: kofte, aka the burger of Turkey.]
Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi is a massive restaurant, covering at least three floors. And yet, both times we ate there (yes, it was so tasty, fast and cheap we stopped by twice), the place was packed. Yes, there are tourists. But there were a lot more Turkish-speakers than there were guidebook-toting peeps like us.
And it’s a perfect example of why it pays to be a specialist. There’s a menu, but really, it’s unnecessary, because the only decisions you’re asked to make are: (1) how many orders of hot-off-the-grill kofte you want; and (2) what kofte accompaniments do you want. Being big eaters, my friends and I ordered one plate of kofte each, and they were juicy, smokey, and addictively cuminy-meaty. Ask your server for some chili-paprika sauce, and you’ll be in heaven.
In case the meat is just too much, you can also get some “salad” – creamy white beans and crunchy lettuce and carrots – to go with your kofte.
Despite having stuffed ourselves both times, our tab for four (including soft drinks) never exceeded 80 Turkish Lira/£30. That’s about £8 a person for a fast, tasty meal in the heart of Istanbul’s tourist district. Tarihi Koftecisi is cheap, convenient and tasty. I couldn’t have asked for a better lunch break in between all the sightseeing and shopping.
Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi Selim Usta, Divan Yolu (ordu) Caddesi 12; 212-520-0566; near Sultanahmet tram station. Note all the similarly-named competitors nearby and don’t be fooled.
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