You would absolutely be forgiven if, while wandering down Alsancak's main drag, you wondered where all those culinary delights Izmir is known for are. Where are all the mezes in olive oil, you might wonder. Where are all the famous head meat (söğüş in Turkish) places and the lokum shops?
In fact, if you walked down Kibris Şehitleri Caddesi, the main pedestrian street in Alsancak, and saw the "fried chicken" joint masquerading as a Chinese restaurant, an Applebees-wanna-be where the 7 TL hamburgers really do sound too good to be true, and several pizza places sporting names like Pizza Tomato and Stockholm Pizza (I am not making this up) and turned right back to your hotel to eat nuts from the mini-bar, I wouldn't blame you.
But if you did that, you'd miss Kekik Köfte, one of the street's food highlights, and I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you about it.
It's a pretty safe bet that if you're at a restaurant named after a particular dish, you'll probably do well to order that dish. And while Kekik Köfte certainly does offer a wide variety of classic Turkish dishes, its signature dish and namesake is most certainly what the majority of customers order and what keeps people coming back.
When Jeff and I are in Alsancak, Kekik Köfte is our lunch spot of choice these days, as we're still not tired of the classic combination of köfte, bread, tomato sauce and yogurt! But Kekik's köfte is slightly different than your average, run-of-the-mill meatball: it's moister, shaped somewhat like inegol kofte, and far tastier than izgara (grilled) köfte.
Don't the köfte look like little breakfast sausage links? Thankfully, they don't taste like breakfast sausage links; I can't stand those. When I was living part-time in Istanbul during the week for work a few months ago, I used to dream about kekik köfte while considering my dinner options. It was kind of crazy, now that I think about it, to be in Turkey's culinary capital and to pine for a food from another city! But, really, that's how good this is!
The Practical Info: Kekik Köfte, Kibris Şehitleri Caddesi No. 17, Alsancak, tel: 0232 464 9594. See a map of Kekik Köfte's location here. There are actually two options when it comes to kekik köfte, one served with just bread and the other with tomato sauce and yogurt, which is absolutely the one you want. Both variations cost 9 TL and include a complimentary salad (called ikram salatası in Turkish) of lettuce, grated carrot and pickled cabbage, plus a small plate of cheese and (more!) bread.