A few blocks behind the hostel there is a yellow and black parking garage by the Bosphorus that shelters Tayfun’s Fish Stand. From his small grill cart, a slender, smiling man prepares the best fish sandwich in Beyoğlu.
We were made aware of this gem by the man behind the front desk at our hostel who said we should visit the best balik stand in Istanbul, and enthusiastically made the trek to the parking garage around dusk. All day, fishermen cast off into the Marmara and bring their catches to Tayfun. We walked up—cameras in hand, looking nothing like native Turks—with other locals who attempted to chat with us using their broken English.
As grey smoke danced off the grill into our faces, we learned that Tayfun is always here with his cart. His father before him worked this stand, according to one of the locals. “Two generations,” Tayfun said while holding up two fingers and smiled with a gap in his front teeth. He looked at us, not his fish, as if he had grilled a thousand in his lifetime.
He effortlessly skinned the small balik and pulled the bones out using small pliers. In perfect rhythm, he flipped one fish after another with lively conversations surrounding him. We watched while smelling our dinner and anticipated the taste.
Tayfun opened a bun to lay the fish, onions, and tomatoes inside. He drizzled lemon juice over the creation, added a dash of some unidentified spice, reached across the grill and through the smoke, fish in hand. We exchanged five lira.
Zach stepped away and bit in. As his eyes closed for a second, he realized the man at the hostel was right: this had to be the best balik in Beyoğlu. He held it out to me and took a bite. The bread was just the right amount of crispy, and the fresh fish was perfectly complimented by the lemon. Happy with the meal, we disappeared around the parking garage, and returned satisfied to the hostel.