By Bob Corbett
I wrote this morning of our plans to go to the working class area, eat and then head to the bus depot. We followed the map the hotel gave us but it was misleading and they forgot to tell us the one street was about 1,000 feet straight up, higher than Jack’s beanstalk. We gave up and headed out to try to find the lovely place we ate at yesterday. After returning from Ephesus we walked home a long way from the dolmus bus stop, and through working class areas. We stopped to eat and had a great and inexpensive meal. But, we just couldn’t find it. It was very hot, we were hungry, tired and ready to eat, but I’m just very cheap, utterly despise touristy places and was determined we would find a place where lots of ordinary Turks were eating.
Finally, with poor Sally, game as can be, nearly staggering along with enormous patience, I pleaded to read one more menu before we ate in a tourist place.
Immediately I knew we were in luck. I didn’t recognize a thing on the menu. Better yet, when a waiter -- THE -- waiter (there was only one) hurried out, he spoke about 7 more words of English than I do of Turkish (which means he had a vocabulary of 7 words.) We must have spent 15 minutes trying to tell him such things as: we wanted a big salad, some meat, preferably chicken, with no fries. He agreed to everything, but clearly as could be had no idea what we were talking about.
We sat at a lovely table. Paris style -- sitting side by side facing the street. We were again going at it with the waiter. A neighbor came and spoke a few words. Yes we could get a chicken platter with rice and no fries. Yes we would get salad and yes we could get lamb plate with rice. Okay. The easy part; yes we would get Turkish salad. Two large Efes (Ephesus) beers.
After a good 40 minutes with no food he ceremoniously brought out a small bowl of popcorn. We really cracked up, but it was totally delicious. Then another. Over an hour after we sat, and two of those 1/2 liter beers a guy comes up off the sidewalk carrying a covered package -- our meal. The restaurant we later learned, and the one next door, both of which have large menus, have no kitchen. You order, they send out somewhere and a guy brings the meals.
[Later note: We found out this is a rather common practice in Istanbul as well. Small places have tables, especially outside, and virtually no room inside. You sit, you order, they order out, and your meal is delivered.]
And folks, our meals, not what we expected, were unbelievable. We had a chicken shish kabob with what appeared to be Spanish rice and a salad of just two items, parsley and purple onions. Another dish was a platter of mixed beef and lamb over pita bread in a delicious red sauce. This was a GIGANTIC meal and we were utterly filled. Lots of good bread.
But, by this time the owner had arrived. He spoke English. A very young man permanently in wheel chair having suffered a sever spinal injury in a car accident. Then his charming mother who smoked like a chimney, never not having a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. These two and the owner’s girlfriend and our waiter!!!!! all sat down at the next table and ate, all of us talking between the tables the marvelous waiter (about 20 I would think) having me draw picture of the U.S. to identify where St. Louis was in relation to the places he knew -- New York and Hollywood -- is that where ‘Schwarzenegger is from? I gave him the answer he wanted – yes, not the true answer -- Arnold is from Graz, Austria where I lived in 1972-73 for 13 months.
After the meal we had to pay attention to the name of the restaurant – Raki and Meze -- the famous after dinner drink of Turkey and its most famous dish. We ordered a dessert. Mama showed us the three item menu, recommended 1 of the 3, I chose another. Minutes later it turned out they were out of the one I ordered and we got Mama’s. Good choice. Honey and coconut with pistachios on top -- really good, and we ordered two raki’s. And Turkish tea for Sally and Turkish coffee for me. Turns out raki can be drunk straight up and if you add water it is becomes very cloudy and weaker. I loved my first raki straight up but Sally added water and enjoyed MOST of her raki, passing the remainder on to me.
I went inside to the bathroom (second floor) only to discover the reason why the food was DELIVERED. There is no kitchen. A full-service restaurant and no kitchen. It’s about as large as my living room and all food is brought in cooked and ready to serve. Two elderly woman were sitting inside at one of the four tables smoking a water pipe.
I went up the rickety stairs to the bathroom learning that Bay is men and Bayen is women and learning that I had to stand on a tall stool (provided)to reach the four foot tall urinal.
Three hours after arriving we simply waddled away. The total bill with a GIGANTIC tip was $42 US dollars. We had more fun than we could believe. So, here we are, back in the hotel, bill paid, our laundry collected and about ready to head to the bus depot, tickets in our pocket.
Just a wonderful, wonderful day, the kind I like best. We did almost nothing and got so very close to Turkey and simply feasted. May it continue....
Bob Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org