The place: Karabatak Cafe in Karakoy
The offerings: coffee, tea, dessert (full menu here)
Price range: 5-10 TL for coffee drinks; 12-15 TL for dessert
The pros: Great customer service and atmosphere, English-speaking waitstaff
The cons: Can’t purchase coffee by the lb/kg late in the evenings
Fun fact: Kabatak is the Turkish word for the cormorant bird, often seen on the Bosphorus
On Friday night, we decided to venture over to Karakoy, a neighborhood caught in what seems to be an eternal transitional period. Once known for its seedy brothels, it’s now the site of hipster cool cafés and chic restaurants. We were recently at Bej – also in Karakoy – for my company’s holiday party and during grad school, I would sometimes attend weekend classes at Sabanci University’s Karakoy building. This time our destination was Karabatak cafe, recommended to me by one of my colleagues. The goal – to get some new coffee for my French press.
After grabbing a bite to eat at Namli Gurme in Karakoy, we set off to find Karabatak. All I knew was that it was by Bej, and sure enough, after only a couple wrong turns, we found it tucked away in a side street. Right when we walked in, we were greeted by several employees all who wanted to help us find a place to sit, and who surprisingly, all seemed to speak fluent English. We settled for a spot by the door right under the bike (see pic below), and took a look at the menu. We both ordered lattes – the cafe serves Julius Meinl coffee, an Austrian brand – which had come highly recommended. Since it was already 8 p.m. by the time we arrived, the cafe had already run out of most of their desserts (including the cheesecake and brownie) so we settled on a latte cake to share. Again, the waitstaff was super helpful and explained the different options and apologized for having so few selections.
The service was quick and we were soon enjoying our lattes which were delicious and the cake which was not as delicious. I didn’t have high expectations for the dessert because I generally don’t like Turkish cake, so honestly, it wasn’t a surprise – I just wish there had been some cheesecake left!
While sipping my coffee, I had a chance to take a better look at my surroundings, and I had the slightest feeling that I might be somewhere else, maybe Portland or Wicker Park. There was definitely a hipster vibe going on. The main room had a tractor which doubled as a low coffee table and supported the espresso machine. The walls were all brick with various decorations including vintage coffee paraphernalia. The atmosphere was low-key and backstreet Istanbul cool. From what I’ve heard since visiting, the place has become a bit of a tourist destination, but to me, it didn’t have an overly commercial feel to it.
The only drawback was that it was too late to purchase coffee by the pound which was one of the main reasons for visiting. Not a major problem though since I am already looking forward to stopping by again, probably on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon after exploring Cukurcuma, another one of my new favorite pastimes.
How to get there: Take the tram to the Karakoy stop and then take Mumhane Caddesi. Karabatak is on a side street right off of Mumhane Caddesi and its sign can be seen from the main road.