Nothing beats traveling to a city where you have close friends who can show you around town and take you to all the best restaurants that only the locals know about. A guided food tour is the next best thing.
On the recommendation of a colleague who had recently traveled to Turkey, we signed up for a culinary walk with Istanbul Eats. Our guide, the amazing Angelis, led us on a five and half hour eating tour through markets and small restaurants in the Karaköy neighborhood on the European side of the city, and Kadıköy, on the Asian side.
Personally, I think it can be very intimidating to walk into a restaurant in a new place when you aren’t familiar with the cuisine and don’t speak the language well. A culinary tour is a great ice breaker for diving into the food scene. In addition to introducing us to dozens of kind of food, drink and desserts, Angelis from Istanbul Eats showed us how to order in different kinds of situations, how to garnish our food, what to look for in street food, and talked to us about the way various cultures intersecting over time led to the food we were eating now.
Apart from the amazing food we had that day, Istanbul Eats gave us a printed guide to all their favorite places to eat in the city, organized by neighborhood. Afterwards we consulted that book constantly and often organized our city exploration around a place we wanted to eat from the book. They were some of the best meals of my life and many of them were back street or upstairs places so far from the beaten tourist path, I’d never have found them otherwise.
Another great result of the tour was that we were able to make friends with a few of the other travelers who we spent the day eating and walking with. We met up with one couple a few times for dinner, drinks and sightseeing and it was wonderful to have new friends with whom to experience city life.