Food is a big factor when one researches a new city to visit.  Luckily Istanbul doesn’t fall short on its share of deliciousness. In a city with such a rich cuisine and a multitude of restaurants, how do you find a food experience unique enough but also one that is not going to burn a hole in your pocket? Over the years, Datlı Maya has made its name as the small restaurant in Cihangir with a big heart. The restaurant stands out with its ecological and caring approach to food; a unique place that specializes in slow food by using seasonal ingredients that are produced by fair trade and sustainable sources.

The moment you step through the blue colored walls across Firuzağa Mosque, you are greeted by genuine smiles and a very big stone oven. The 80 year-old wood fire oven is the heart of Datlı Maya, which bakes traditional Anatolian recipes and new spins on Turkish dishes. Place your order as you come in, walk up the narrow stairs that will lead you through the open-kitchen and into the small dining room. You will quickly notice that this is an unpretentious place; pour yourself a cup of tea from the copper samovar and grab your silverware from the self-serve pile.

datli-maya-restaurant _G2A4154Custom+Name kahvalti

The menu at Datlı Maya is rich with kebabs, lahmacun (Turkish pizzas), traditional clay pot dishes, soups, salads, mezes and desserts. While the menu might sound heavy with meat, the restaurant actually offers a big variety for those with special dietary needs, such as gluten free and vegan options. One of the most interesting items on the menu is the vegan lahmacun. The traditional lahmacun, the burrito of Turkish cuisine, is a thin dough topped with minced meat, onions, tomatoes and parsley and baked in the oven. Datlı Maya puts its own spin on lahmacun, much like on most of their dishes, with a vegetarian and vegan version. While the vegetarian option with goat cheese aged with thyme and chili paste is unique in its own right, try the vegan one for a taste out of this world. The perfect marriage of beetroot and Jerusalem artichoke purée with garlic porcini mushrooms, arugula and black truffle oil come together beautifully.

Say you had a night out in Beyoğlu and need to regain your energy before starting a long day of sightseeing. The rich breakfast spread at Datlı Maya is calling your name. With an assortment of olives, sundried tomatoes, homemade jams, cheese, bread and tahini from different regions of Turkey, your tastebuds will definitely be satisfied from the different flavors and textures. Don’t skip on desserts at Datlı Maya since these are probably some of the healthiest sweets you will taste. Whole wheat cookies are sweetened with molasses, while a flourless chocolate cake with cognac, walnut and hazelnuts will more than satisfy your sweet tooth.

In case you can’t get enough of Datlı Maya’s tasty creations, remember that cold-pressed olive oil, molasses, herbal teas, tomato paste, medicinal herbs and other scrumptious treasures can be taken home to be enjoyed. As we say in Turkish, afiyet olsun!