It's a sad fact that in Turkey all bars are basically the same. There are no pubs here with half a dozen ales and lagers on tap, there are no dive bars where the vodka tonic is a bit too strong, and there are very far bars that make every effort differentiate themselves from any other place.
Most bars here are pretty much exactly the same: same chairs, same tables, same crappy music, same Efes beer. In fact, some bars are even called "Efes Beer Pub" just so you know what exactly is on tap. As if it's any different from the guy next door, or the guy next door to him. Maybe, if you're lucky, instead of Efes, there will be Tuborg on tap, but never at the same bar. It's either one or the other.
That's why Cerveza, a small bar in our neighborhood, is kind of refreshing. We first started going there when we moved to Izmir a year and a half ago, and to be honest, I'm not sure why exactly. It probably had something to do with the fact that the people there were nice to us instead of surly like most of the other bars in our neighborhood.
It probably helped too that the inside looked cool; with its dark green booths and wood paneling, Cerveza reminded me of a real pub, a place with character, not just the result of some guy's dream to get rich quick by selling a few pints of Efes and overpriced french fries to Izmirlis on a Friday night. It's a place where people know each other's names. And the bartender remembers that you like your Efes in a glass from the freezer.
Plus, Cerveza had a dart board, and no body else had a dart board. Back when we first moved here, there was only one dart board, affixed to one narrow wall like an afterthought almost.
But then, the one dart board became three and pretty soon an entire wall was dedicated to the dart boards. Naturally, the tables had to be rearranged. Slowly, the game began to catch on and regulars started coming back two, three, sometimes four nights a week to play against their friends.
And that's when Jeff started going more regularly, and I started to go too, on the weekends I was at home during those few months recently when I worked in Istanbul. Tuesday nights became practice nights and Thursday nights became league nights (the only night of the week when, if you're not part of the league, you can't play darts).
And even though the dart boards are supposed to officially be closed on Wednesday nights, for those people (ahem, like myself) not too keen on darts, the boys couldn't help themselves last week.
Next time you're in Izmir, stop by one night. Maybe you'll find us there.
The Practical Info: Cerveza, Cemal Gürsel Caddesi 470, Bostanli. Tel: 0232 364 4700. To get there, walk from the Bostanli Ferry Station towards Karsiyaka. At the first light, turn left and you will a road that sort of forks to the right away from Hasan Ali Yucel Boulevard (the street you were just walking on). This street is Cemal Gürsel Caddesi. The bar is just up ahead on the right. See a map of where Cerveza is here.