I'm usually not one for organized food tours. It's hard to know, when you're unfamiliar with a city and with a tour company, if they're going to bring you to the places worth eating—or if they're just going to shepherd a big group to a few predictable spots and call it a day.
What I generally do when visiting a new food city is ask local food writers where the must-eat spots are; or, if I'm really lucky, have one show me around. So if I'd headed to Turkey, I'd probably have asked the folks at Istanbul Eats to give me a little tour.
But they're about three steps ahead of me, as they're already in the business of leading small groups to eating destinations: Istanbul Eats Walks. And the day I spent on one of their tours was easily the best eating day I had in Istanbul.
It's not just that they have a keen eye for what's delicious—they do—but that we share a sense of what's worth discovering. Food unique to a place, with a story in that place. Food made by people who care about it, about their craft; food worth talking about, worth traveling for.
What's more, the "Two Markets, Two Continents" tour led us around neighborhoods I otherwise might not have visited, making for a great tour of the city as well as just its food: starting in the metalworking waterfront district of Persembe Pazari before a ferry ride across the Bosphorus—from Europe to Asia—with plenty of market-walking time and the majority of the day spent in districts that tourists would rarely go.
It certainly didn't hurt that our affable tour guide, Megan, had advice on everything from where to buy a carpet, to the easiest way for English speakers to say thank you in Turkish, to where to get a kebab in our neighborhood we were staying, if we happened to be hungry the next day.
I thought about writing up these places individually—but, given that I'd end up crediting every discovery right back to Istanbul Eats, I figured I'd just show you what an awesome day of eating with them looks like.
In the slideshow, our day: tea in a 13th-century caravansaray, a wander through a fish market, bone-marrow-meets-French-toast plus meatballs, my favorite new Istanbul street food trend, the best baklava I've ever had, and much more.
You'll get a sense through the photos, but really, for the best experience, hop on an Istanbul Eats food tour if you're visiting. I'd do another one in a minute.