Karaköy: long shadows, deep color.

  • December 23rd, 2011

    SLANTED SHADOWS AND PLENTY OF LOCAL COLOR ENLIVEN AN ALLEYWAY OUTSIDE A MOSQUE.

    Kara means black in Turkish and köy means village. Despite its somewhat ominous sounding name, however, Karaköy is brimming with local color. Being waterside and full of great, yet often derelict properties, it’s also caught the eye of both local and international developers. But somehow it hasn’t lost its authenticity as a thriving neighborhood full of everyday locals, so it easily tops my list as one of the most compelling corners of the city. For me its back alleyways summon the mood of old Ara Güler photographs, somehow dense with feeling and full of character.

    NEW CAFES AND SHOPS ARE APPEARING IN FORMERLY RUN DOWN BUILDINGS.

    NEW FACES, NEW PLACES BUT KARAKÖY IS STILL A LONG WAY FROM GENTRIFIED.

    Karaköy is very much a corner, and it’s all about interesting convergences, such as the Bosporus and the Golden Horn, the new and the old, just to name two. There’s an interesting tension between the great old hans crammed with hardware, LEDs and shipping electronics and some of the smart new eateries like Bej and Karaköy Lokantasi which appeal to a different kind of customer.

    THE FISH MARKET. BOOTS RECOMMENDED.

    On the Golden Horn side of the Galata Bridge, between the shore and the Persembe Pazari (Thursday Market), is the Karaköy fish market. There are street vendors selling Balik Ekmek (easily my favorite sandwich in the world) a  fish sandwich which is particularly good spiced up with some chili flakes, chopped onion and fresh squeezed lemon. Wash it down with an Efes pilsner all for less than $7.

    In any case, when you’re here, expect your stomach to growl. The air is dense with savory smoke wafting off spitting grills. If you’re looking for something more gourmet, and a little less scruffy, or open air, then head back to the to Bosporus side of the Galata Bridge where there’s Maya, Bej, and Karakoy Lokantasi to name just a few of the more chi-chi looking, but not necessarily expensive brasseries. Maya comes highly recommended, but I find it hard to beat the blue tiled beauty of Karaköy Lokantasi for delicious, inexpensive food and a lively but entirely unpretentious mood.

    BALIK EKMEK (A GRILLED FISH SANDWICH) IS THE ULTIMATE CHEAP LUNCH.

    KITCHENS LIKE THIS THICKEN THE ATMOSPHERE WITH GRILL SMOKE.

    CITY OR VILLAGE?  LITTLE BIT OF BOTH.

    The one time when Karaköy might live up to the menace of its name is at night. I’ve never experienced nor heard of anything sinister occurring in the in the neighborhood, but when those long shadows begin to bleed into night, I’m not sure I’d  want to poke about the back alleys alone.

    Still, there’s that bar I keep hearing about … but more on that later.

    EVENING DESCENDS ON THE GOLDEN HORN.

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