This narrow street behind the fish market is probably the most famous street in Beyoğlu where “meyhanes” are lined up. Meyhane is a traditional Turkish restaurant that literally means “drinking place” where the drink is “rakı”. Rakı is enjoyed with a type of food called “meze”, hot or cold appetizers to share, served in waves starting with the cold ones. In fact, it’s said in Turkish that meze or rakı means friends. That’s why, different than with other national drinks, rakı is consumed with friends, preferably more than one, with conversations, a lot of humor, and many toasts. By the time the bottle is empty, the noise in the meyhane will be loud, maybe people are singing even if there is no music. Sharing is the key word for a meyhane where people share a bottle and mezes on the table.
Stephen Kinzer, a New York Times chief in Istanbul describes meyhane in his book “Crescent and Star” the best: “At a meyhane, the world can either be invited in or shut out. Turks have not yet decided which is the wisest path. By the time they drain their final glasses and step out into the darkness, they have often concluded that their country is either the “golden nation” destined to shape world history or a hopeless mess certain to remain mired in wretched mediocrity.“