Istanbul’lu, Somerville

Istanbul’lu is a beautiful, small intimate cafe that focuses on simple Turkish home cooking. It’s next door to PJ Ryans in Somerville’s Teele Square. It’s great fun to sample the tapas or mezedhes, small dishes of finger foods. That way you get a variety of tastes. It’s also a great place for vegetarians as many of the dishes do not have meat. The decor is simple and the waitstaff’s attention can vary depending on how busy it is. Wait times can be long if you come during peak dining times. The cafe does not take reservations.

Complimentary homemade flatbread with red pepper sauce

The bread is fresh and soft, with a texture akin to Portuguese sweet bread. It easily soaks up the garlic and red pepper puree.

Sarma, stuffed Turkish grape leaves served with yogurt

These were quite delicious. Stuffed with rice, pine nuts, currants, onions and tomatoes. You can taste the hint of cinnamon.

Imam Bayaldi, baby eggplant stuffed with sauteed vegetables

I enjoyed the succulent baby aubergine. The slightly caramelized onions added sweetness, the green pepper slices added crunch, and the tomato slices added a cool freshness. Note this tapas dish comes cold because it is customary to eat cold and moist foods in the summer.

Kirmizi Beyaz, roasted red pepper stuffed with beyaz peynir

Beyaz peynir is a white Turkish sheep’s milk cheese. The texture is smooth and creamy, like a Greek yogurt only with a more condensed thickness. The sweetness of the roasted red pepper and the tangy beyaz peynir go well together.


This zucchini fritter is delectable. It’s one of my favorite Turkish appetizers to eat. Make sure to get each bite covered with fresh tomato, lettuce, and yogurt sauce.

Paca Soup, lamb, yogurt, and garlic village-style soup
I’ve had this soup at other Turkish restaurants and it’s one of my favorites. The flavor is simple. The small, tender chucks of savory lamb easily fall apart when you bite into them. The cool yogurt adds a creamy mouth-feel.
Pistachio burma

Turkish rolled shredded phyllo dough stuffed with ground pistachios, syrup is poured over the burma as it cools after baking. Intensely sweet yet crispy at the same time.

Turkish coffee

Strong slightly sweet dark coffee flavored with spices (cardamom I think) that was so good. Served with grounds in the bottom.

More tempting treats from the pastry case
Walnut burma (above), Baklava (below)

Late night after being stuffed at Istanbul’lu, I ended up eating this yellow crimson watermelon with friends. It’s actually sweeter than regular red watermelon. It tasted slightly like honey.


237 Holland St. (Teele Square)
Somerville, MA 02144
Tel: (617) 440-7387

Istanbul'lu on Urbanspoon

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