I almost made the mistake of not wanting to give any thought to having lunch at the Grand Bazaar. The bazaar is a tourist attraction so eateries there must be tourist traps, right? Well, apparently not so. At least, not every restaurant there is a tourist trap. After lunch at Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu (thanks to the recommendation from IstanbulEats), I am a believer that excellent food can be found at the Grand Bazaar. Yes, there are sub-par restaurants at the bazaar that cater to the millions of tourists that visit daily. But, the bazaar is not only a place for tourists. It is a place where shopkeepers from the 4000+ shops gather to spend their working days everyday throughout the year. Surely they have to eat and they eat at the bazaar too. They just know the right place to eat at the bazaar. Forget about the hustle and bustle of the bazaar for a moment and escape into an oasis of calm. We veered off the main shopping area into Cebeci Han where a quiet courtyard awaited. At the courtyard were several small shops either doing carpet repair, serving tea, or food.
We walked into a cosy interior where the room only seated two tables. It was a hole-in-the-wall but a very lovely and warm place which we did not mind being at while surrounded by bamboo walls, Turkish patterned table cloth and cushions on the seats. Kara Mehmet seats most of the customers at the outdoor tables facing the courtyard but it was a cold and wet day so the obvious choice for us then was to sit inside. We arrived just after lunch hour and hence missed the lunch crowd so we had the entire room to ourselves after a young Turkish man was finished with his meal shortly after we placed our lunch order. Our server barely spoke English but he tried his very best to understand us in his most friendly manner. With some gestures and basic Turkish words we learned for this trip (which by the way, learning some Turkish words helped us go a long way), we managed the interaction well. For drinks, you can order tea/çay [chai] or Turkish coffee/kahve [kah-vay] and the drinks will be brought over from the tea house next door. We both got kahve for after our meal-- I like mine as az şekerli [ahz-sheh-kehr-li], with little sugar; T likes his as orta şekerli [or-tah-sheh-kehr-li], with medium sugar.
Shortly after we placed our order with the server, the owner of Kara Mehmet returned to the restaurant probably from his short break earlier. The pleasant and older man generously brought a plate of ground aubergine to our table with compliments of the house. Right after he placed the aubergine on our table, with his bare hands he picked up the pieces of flatbread inside the basket that was served to us previously by his employee and then replaced them with warm flatbread which he held in his other hand. What a lovely, lovely gesture that we appreciated very much. It was a cold and wet day but this place was warm all around to the heart and stomach. The lentil soup definitely played a part in warming our stomachs while we waited for our kebap.
The spicy adana kebap, which is what this place is known for, was worth savoring during every bite. They have a non-spicy kebap but we recommend the adana kebap which is really not all that spicy. Every part of the meat was moist, juicy, and flavorful with a very slight hint of lemon squeezed over it during the grilling process. The resulting taste was excellent without a heavy meatiness. The side of fresh vegetables was light and fresh with a citrus dressing. We noticed that Kara Mehmet loves incorporating lemon in their food as the lentil soup too had a very slight hint of lemon. What a refreshing difference it made to the soup. At the end of the meal, we were satisfied travelers without the sluggish feeling after a full lunch.
Just when we were about to finish with our meal, our kahve were brought over from next door. We sipped it slowly and popped into our mouths the piece of Turkish delight that came with each of our drinks. What a lovely way to finish up our equally lovely lunch.
Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu
Iç Cebeci Han No: 92, Grand Bazaar