If you’re a foodie then you’ve probably got Istanbul on your radar. Blogs like Istanbul Eats and Parla Food have drawn worldwide attention to Istanbul’s food scene. This ancient city has all the ingredients for inspiring cuisine: street food, access to fresh seafood, fine dining, respect for time honored cooking traditions, popularity of artisanal goods (spices, olives, charcuterie) plus a mix of cultures (the city straddles the Bosporus, with one foot in Asian and the other in Europe). The food markets are intense, with powerful aromas of spices and mesmerizing hues of exotic produce. Istanbul is vast, densely populated and confusing to navigate (better to go by landmarks than an address). You’re gonna need a guide, someone to help you avoid tourist traps and experience the real Istanbul—enter Katie Parla’s Istanbul.
The follow up app to Katie Parla’s Rome offers Katie’s tips for the best meze, seafood, flatbread, kebab, street food and fine dining to be found in the fabric of Middle Eastern and European cultures of Istanbul. The app also helps travelers get around, plan based on location and search for food experiences based on budget, distance or type of food. Keep reading to learn how Katie Parla can help you eat your way through Istanbul.
The design of Katie Parla’s Istanbul uses the same template as Katie Parla’s Rome, and the continuity makes her apps easy to use. This app has its own personality though, exhibited by the familiar skyline of Byzantine architecture. The app is beautifully designed with whimsical illustrations. It’s not big budget, but Katie has been very creative and really enhanced the user experience with her artistic flair.
The app is a smorgasbord of venues Katie has personally discovered during time spent living there and researching the origins of the city’s dishes. Her honesty is refreshing, as she writes, “I have consumed lots of terrible dishes so you don’t have to,” promising to guide you to the best places to “eat sweets, shop for pickles, drink cocktails, eat grilled offal and browse farm fresh produce.”
Make sure to check out the Info section, where instead of a generic “about” page you’ll find tons of helpful guidance on tipping, making reservations and using the app. The author’s fun and informative writing style makes for an enjoyable, easy read. She’s totally real and relatable, which creates a sense of trust with users.
Plan Your Next Meal
The home screen is divided into categories: Dining, Drinking, Desserts, Shopping, Tours and Katie’s Picks. It’s easy to get a bird’s eye view of what the app offers without being overwhelmed by recommendations. Looking for a restaurant? Explore the dining section. Thirsty for a cocktail? Consult Drinking. Craving something sweet? Find the best Turkish delight, Baklava and ice creams in the Desserts section.
It’s fun to browse each section, planning your next meal in Istanbul. As you browse the list (Dining for example) you’ll notice each place has been categorized (Fish, Flatbread, Meat, Armenian, Street Food, etc.) as well as neighborhood in the city. At a glance you can get an idea of the price, symbolized by € (dirt cheap) to €€ (inexpensive) to €€€€ (massive splurge). If you’ve turned on location based services you’ll notice miles to each destination appear next to two little bare feet, which is super helpful when you’re in an unfamiliar city.
Another great simple but clever feature is the filter icons on the right side of the screen. Tap the bare feet to arrange the restaurants by what’s closest, or go for the € to arrange venues by price. You can even view all the venues on a map — very handy for getting a feel for the city. GPS location services really enhance the value of this app, but if you’ve got your data turned off and can’t get on Wi-Fi, you’ll be glad to know that all app content and maps are accessible offline.
Taking Foodie Features to the Next Level
The Shopping, Tours and Katie’s Picks sections make this app a truly unique guide for foodies. Shopping isn’t about finding the outlet mall, rather, the most vibrant farmer’s markets, authentic pickle shops, hole in the wall kitchen wares shops, butchers, artisan cheese shops, coffee roasters and spice vendors. It’s great to see such a variety of places (26!) to purchase local, authentic Turkish ingredients.
Any serious foodie will be looking for a guided tour of the city’s culinary delights, and Katie shares her picks, featuring other local experts who are passionate about sharing the cuisine, culture and history of this mysterious city.
Katie’s Picks is a round up of her absolute favorite venues in Istanbul. It’s good to be able to customize the app by selecting your favorite picks from the recommended venues. Simply tap the star button to save a venue and access it anytime in the My Picks section.
Customize Your Search
The search tool is beautifully designed and a pleasure to use, rather than a frustration. Type your query into the search box — especially handy if you remember part of a place name or want to find a restaurant that serves the best meze. The search tool will find your query whether it’s mentioned in a place name or description — so helpful!
Navigation is quick and snappy, with results displaying immediately. Type in Turkish delight and you’ll find four recommendations on where to find this iconic sweet treat. It’s like having a friend at your side who just so happens to be a local.
Katie Parla’s Istanbul lives up to the reputation of what deemed the holy trinity of travel apps with Katie Parla’s Rome, “excellent recommendations from an expert, useful tips and smart tools that travelers can really use on the go.” It’s a clever little app loaded with helpful functions and in-depth descriptions of recommended venues. Even if you’re not planning an upcoming trip to Istanbul, you’ll enjoy dreaming of one.