Like most food-obsessed people, I surround myself with enablers equally hungry friends. I am extraordinarily lucky to have lovely friends in Istanbul like Şemsa and Tuba who share my slavish devotion to dining and are seriously in the culinary know. When I’m not around, they go galavanting together to discover the best food in town. When the stars align, I am able to eat with them, but otherwise I follow their advice and go where I am told.

Last week, I had to get some filters for camera lenses, so I went where everyone in Istanbul goes for camera stuff, Sirkeci. The neighborhood, which is sandwiched between the Spice Bazaar and Sultanahmet, is home to the train station, dozens of camera shops and even more hole in the wall eateries. Şemsa recommended that I check out Filibe Köftecisi, where Tuba had once taken her. I hopped on the tram to the Sirkeci stop and after a successful shopping outing, I made my way to Filibe.

I arrived after the lunch rush and I pulled up a chair at one of the three tables on the ground floor and watched as the grillmaster Ziver Usta did his thing, peeling meatballs off a heaping pile and putting them on the grill as orders came in. I ordered one of everything on the menu, a fairly easy feat considering Filibe Köftecisi serves three items–köfte (grilled meatballs), piyaz (beans) and revani (semolina sponge cake). While Ziver Usta worked the grill, the waiter prepared the beans, which were served topped with sliced onions and shredded carrots. When the meatballs arrived, I paired them with a healthy dose of dried chili and suddenly they were gone.

The owner, who was perched at the cash register beside me, told me her revani recipe (well, I caught the ingredients…I’m a genius in Turkish food nouns, but know just about zero verbs) and ordered me to photograph the Usta, gesturing to my newly filter-clad camera. I climbed up the steps near the grill at her command and caught the Usta on his tea break. Sorry, Usta, and compliments on a job well done.

Ankara Cad. 112
Sirkeci, Istanbul