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Editor’s note: We asked Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, a columnist for Turkish daily Milliyet, where she heads first for food when she returns to Istanbul after a trip abroad. Aydıntaşbaş is also a commentator on CNNTürk’s show “Karşı Gündem” and has written for numerous publications, including the former International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes and Newsweek.

Funny enough, I don’t really crave Turkish food if I have been spending time out of the country. This is because, for starters, I am a foodie: I crave things. I schlep to the other side of town for a meal. I never hesitate to spend money on good restaurants.

But I guess deep at heart I lack loyalty to Turkish cuisine. Out of sight, out of mind. I never particularly miss food when I travel.

That, of course, is not to say that I don’t have favorite spots across town. One of these is Karaköy Lokantası, where I find myself enjoying the mezes and a dinner with friends several times a month. The food is always fresh, not pricey, and exciting enough.

But it is a very peculiar restaurant in the sense that at lunchtime it takes on an entirely different character – and menu. I do love doing lunches there, though it is quite far from my work. The lunch menu is more plebeian – Turkish home cooking – things like cauliflower with ground beef or bakla beans from your grandmother’s recipe. Being a fan of traditional Turkish food – and that, by the way, does not mean kebabs – I am always delighted by the daily surprises at Karaköy.

I believe my mom or aunt took me there when I still lived in the States and was visiting. I grew up in Cihangir before it was super trendy – when you actually had transvestites and hookers and cynical post-coup-era artists and writers. Back then, “cool” was not around much. Nor the cafés and the gourmet shops. Karaköy Lokantası opened exactly around the time of gentrification in Cihangir. With turquoise tiles and lovely floor patterns, Karaköy Lokantası resembles Istanbul restaurants of a few generations ago.

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