Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | June 7, 2014

molly’s famous pancakes


Probably the best selling food item in Molly’s Cafe was pancakes. I don’t know of any other places in Istanbul who sell real pancakes. Some people think that pancakes and crepes are the same, but they aren’t. Pancakes are thicker and are served with a sweet sauce of some kind (see the recipe for fake maple syrup below). Crepes are thin and can be served with something savoury, such as mushroom sauce. I had many return customers for my pancakes, which filled people right up. This recipe makes a mix that makes several servings of pancakes.






Pancake Mix

6 cups (720 gr) flour (can use 1 cup (120 gr) corn flour for a nice flavour)

1 ½ tsp (7 ml) baking soda

3 tsp (15 ml) baking powder

1 tbsp (45 ml) salt

2 tbsp (90 ml) sugar

Combine all ingredients. Store in a tight container. Use the mix within 3 months.

To make into pancakes:

Mix together

1 egg

¼ to ½ cup (60 – 120 ml) oil

milk to make 1 cup of liquid

Add to 1 cup (about 150 gr) of mix

Mix briefly. Batter should be a little lumpy. This is very important. DO NOT beat the batter and resist the temptation to make it smooth.

Cook on a hot oiled griddle (high medium) until brown on both sides. You’ll know they are ready to turn the first time when there are small bubbles on top. Serve with butter or syrup or jam or even Nutella.

Use the same recipe for waffles– makes a couple.

maple syrup






Real Fake Maple Syrup

I grew up on this. Even back then in Canada maple syrup was very expensive. These days a small container of maple syrup sells for $10 or more in Canada.

3 cups (600 gr) sugar (if you can use 1 cup (200 gr) brown sugar, it makes it better)

1 cup (240 ml) water

Bring to a boil. Take off the heat and add 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla and ½ – 1 tsp (2 – 5 ml) maple flavouring. (Get a friend coming from Canada or the U.S. to bring the maple flavouring.)


afiyet olsun!



Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | May 29, 2014

Saving water: mellow yellow


water dropMany of us have lived through times of limited water. As the news reports here show extremely low levels in the dam reservoirs and lakes, the politicians assure us that there is no problem. One has said that praying for rain is cheaper than rain bombs. Ads on television talk about how every drop of water is precious, but there are no practical suggestions for how to save water. Well, as we pray for rain, there are other things we can do to save water.




Since I have had practice doing without water in the cafe from time to time, I have had some experience with lack of water. I think of it as camping. I have a big stash of full water bottles under my sink and in the bathrooms.



I have been checking out sites for advice we can use here in Istanbul (many talk about outside hoses, etc, which most of us don’t have). Here are some tips.



leaky faucetIf your faucets are leaking, get them fixed. This is usually easy– a new rubber gasket. Even if you have to buy a new faucet, it is usually not that expensive. It also saves money on your water bill.








toiletSave flushes! ‘If it’s brown, flush it down; if it’s yellow, let it mellow.’ I notice in the cafe that men often do not flush the toilet and that is OK with me. Women, even if there is a little bit of toilet paper in the toilet, you can save the flush for the next time.


Put toilet paper in the trash bin instead of in the toilet. That way you aren’t tempted to flush. In fact some old buildings have dodgy plumbing and residents are asked to do that anyway.


Put a big jar full of stones or sand in the toilet tank so it will fill with less water. Make sure the lid on the jar is on tight!

Don’t use your toilet as a trash can. Put tissues or hair into the garbage.

If you are buying a toilet, consider getting a dual flush one to save water.

toothbrushDon’t run the water while you are brushing your teeth. Wet the toothbrush, brush, and then turn on the water to rinse.



showerIn the shower, turn off the water while you are washing your hair or shaving your legs.

Take showers instead of baths. Showers use less water. And take shorter showers.



If you are waiting for the water to get hot, save the water in a bucket and use it for other things, like watering your plants or saving in bottles.


shavingFor men, put a plug in the sink and use the water to rinse your blade, rather than using running water.





bucketAt home, I have learned that it actually takes little water to have a camp shower– water heated up on the stove and then more cool water to mix in. About a large bottle of water suffices with careful use. It actually feels very luxurious to pour water over my head to wash my hair.




cooking vegCook your vegetables in water to just cover, or put in just a few centimeters. It is better for conserving vitamins and saves water. Use the vegie water in soups.




Wash fruits and vegetables in a basin, rather than running water to clean them.


soaking dishesWhen I have dishes in the sink that need soaking, I arrange dishes so that the other water I am using goes into those dishes or pots. Some people think they should not wash their hands over dirty dishes, but it actually helps to get those bowls and plates soaking. Soak pots and pans for a while before scrubbing them. The stuck-on food will come off more easily and with less water. You can even use a soaking pot for washing other dishes in.


When washing dishes by hand, run the water into a basin to wash them (you can wash as you fill) and then rinse them. You can rinse them in another basin or you can use the water at low volume.


dishwasherDishwashers use less water than washing by hand and the newer dishwashers use less water and clean better.


When rinsing dishes to put in the dishwasher, you can actually use a dish brush to get the food off, rather than running a lot of water over them. If you soak them (see above), the food comes off more easily.


Run the dishwasher only when it is full.


water saverFor both the kitchen and the bathroom, you can get water savers that you screw into your taps. They are available at most big stores like Koctas or Bauhaus and possibly at little hardware stores.





washing machineWhen doing laundry, use the quick setting, as it uses less water.

Set the water level to the size of the load.

When buying a new washing machine, get one that is more water and energy efficient.





plantIf you drop an ice cube, don’t throw it in the sink– put it in a houseplant. Slow watering!

If you have a balcony, put a bucket out to save water when (if!) it rains. You can use it to water your plants.

Water your plants in the evenings, not in the full heat of the day. The water will not evaporate so fast.



Good luck this summer!


Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | May 28, 2014

end of a chapter


sıgn croppedA lot of people were pretty surprised when I announced that I was selling my cafe and moving to the U.S. (inshallah, waiting for my green card). And of course many have asked why. So here are some of my reasons.

First, I want to be close to my kids again. They live in the U.S., one in Texas and one in Oregon. I want to live in Portland Oregon, as I don’t have to have a car there and I still have friends there. Plus the climate is good and Oregon is a beautiful state.

Another reason is that I am tired. I have been working seven days a week 12 hours a day for most of the past five years. I have done most of the baking, cooking, planning, keeping track, dealing with the bureaucracy. And you know the Byzantine bureaucracy was invented here in Byzantium!

However, I love the people part of the cafe. I have really enjoyed meeting and talking to the people who have come in. They come from everywhere and they are very interesting. Some live here and find their way here. Some stumble upon it. Some read my blog or look at TripAdvisor. Some even persevere after not finding it at the old Google maps location and ask till they get here. Their professions include diplomats, aid workers in other countries, bankers, journalists, photographers, teachers. There was a couple who had a bed and breakfast in their own country. There were a couple of Chinese who wrote about my cafe in the Chinese version of Travel and Leisure. In fact, my very first customers were from Cirque de Soleil. My cafe has had good coverage and I am grateful to all the people who have given their support.

Another part of the reason is the difficulties with the government. I think ultimately it would not affect my business in the long run, as the cafe does not rely solely on tourists. However, I am worried about where Turkey is going. I was here in 1998, when there was a ‘soft coup’, but I did not really know what was going on and it was well before google and internet newspapers. Plus I was buried in work. Now I do know what is going on and I have my own opinion of it (not a fan of the p.m., though I supported him in his first few years). I think now he is driving the place into the ground, filling his and his cronies’ pockets at the expense of the people.

Part of it that does affect me is that recently the residence permit system has changed. It is a perfect example of a system that was not broken and in fact had been greatly improved, to a system that the government broke. The decision to take the issuance of residence permits from the police to a government agency has caused a great deal of confusion and grief and I just did not want to go through it. My permit expires July 2, so I am leaving before that.

I have had a wonderful life in Istanbul. This year was good for me because it was indeed the hair of the dog that I wanted to have. I am ready to leave now. I know I will never have a cafe again but I am glad I did it. I may never come back to this wonderful city, but it has been a great adventure to live here. However, it is time to go. I will still write about it here as I get inspired, but Molly’s Cafe has had its final chapter.

The End, my friends

cafe front


Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | April 30, 2014

Books at Molly’s Cafe


bookshelvesThere are hundreds of books on the shelves at Molly’s Cafe. People move and bring their books, others bring some in to exchange, and others buy them (at 5 lira each, such a deal). I have had some interesting conversations with various people about books.





box of booksSome people are so attached to their books that they never get rid of them. I am not one of those. I get first pick of books that come in here, so I take the ones home that I think I will read. When I finish them (or decide I will not read one after all), I bring them in. Books take up a lot of room and are heavy and I got over the attachment to them a long time ago. There are a few I have kept, but mostly I keep them circulating.



kindleOne person I talked to was sure that the Kindle will kill books like the internet is killing newspapers. However, many staunch book readers say that they prefer the feel of books and like turning the pages. They can see how a Kindle would be useful on a long trip but mostly book lovers love the books themselves. I am one of those. I don’t need a Kindle, since I am not on a long trip and I am rich in books.





internet readingI recently read an article that discussed the effect of internet reading on book reading. Basically reading the internet involves a lot of skimming and scanning, which experts say has a negative effect on reading more substantial things. Certainly the internet has a lot of ‘fluffy’ information on it, from brief tweets to Facebook status to internet newspapers. However, most people who read ‘real’ newspapers also skim and scan, reading headlines to see if they want to read the article, or reading only the caption under a photo. I find myself sometimes skipping paragraphs in some dense novels because I can’t be bothered with them and want to get on with the story. However, since I am a tried and true reader, I mostly read everything there as long as it is interesting. I am not sure how reading a Kindle affects reading books, but I know I would miss turning the pages and the heft of the book. When I was a teacher I would teach about how we predict the next word or phrase and certainly we do that when we turn the page. If we are wrong, we have probably turned to the wrong page!


2nd hand booksRecently I was talking to someone about how with secondhand books, especially in Istanbul, we tend to read books that come our way, rather than going to a book store with a particular book in mind. Since books are so expensive here, we frequent secondhand book stores and see what treasures we find. For example, I never used to read mysteries, but now I often enjoy them. Some interesting books that have come my way include one about Pope Joan, a secret female pope (this is real) and a mystery where the characters are all nursery story characters (for example, the Gingerbread Man is a killer and the bears are being integrated into British society). I have discovered books by Anita Shreve, who I had not come across before. Also when we are in our own countries, we tend to read authors from those countries, so now I am more exposed to British authors, for example.


reading in bedI read at home before I go to bed and in the cafe. Sometimes I just want to read what I call popcorn books. Those are definitely light reading. I don’t have to think about the style or content that much. Nonfiction books are mostly read in the cafe. There are some books here in other languages (Museum of Innocence en francais, for example) but I am too lazy to read them. Travel books often sell fairly quickly, though I am sometimes surprised at where people are going and at the fact that they found a travel book here!


book pilesBooks are useful for other things too. They look good on the shelves and they attract interest. And as you probably know, they prop things up! I have used them to keep windows open, for example. At home I needed something to hold the TV decoder, so I took a pile of big books home to do that.



i love youOne of the things that I enjoy about second hand books is that sometimes I find things in them. I have found dried flowers and plane ticket stubs. Some people leave their bookmarks inside or possibly a postcard used as a bookmark. One of my favourites was a post-it with ‘I love you’ written on it. It was hard to tell if a man or a woman had written it, and of course I had no idea who it was written to, but it was a lovely sentiment to pass on, and the next reader of that book found it.


So, if you are a book lover or your Kindle ran out of juice, come into Molly’s Cafe and browse the shelves. I am sure you will find a book you want to read.




Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | April 29, 2014

May 2014 at Molly’s Cafe


suzanne invitOngoing Stop by to see Suzanne Mordue’s coffee fal series paintings. The originals are for sale and there are also prints and magnets.




may dayThursday May 1 – Stay out of the gas! Cafe will be open.







su ozerFriday May 9 9 to 11pm Su Ozer and friends performing jazz
. Su is a young Robert College student already starting her jazz career. She recently won a Nardis Cafe scholarship to Poland and is ready to get going! Please come and support her. 10 lira





mothers daySunday May 11 Mothers Day Special cookies for mom and 10% off if you are a mother.





Saturday May 17 Cafe will close about 5, as I am going to a wedding.


australiaFriday May 23 9 to 11pm George Oz singing old faves. George has not played in the cafe for a while so come by to hear him play oldies but goodies.





ephemerataSaturday May 24 9 to 11pm Ephemerata Improvization by Curtis and Tyler. This is different every time so stop by to be well entertained! 15 lira




sri lankaFriday May 30 7:30pm By popular demand, we are presenting Ranit’s curry dinner. There will be a vegetarian option. 40 lira, reservations by Thurs. May 29 please.


Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | March 28, 2014

April 2014 at molly’s cafe


April 2014

i don’t know why the fonts are so funky but read on!

CIMG0398Fri. April 4   8:30pm   Improv by Curtis and Tyler This is different every time, so stop by to see how it goes this time! 15 lira

cdn flagFri. April 11   9 to 11pm Some other Canadians Join the Canadians once again as they jam old rock and blues. 15 lira

self devtSun. April 6  1:30 Linda Paull energy workshop Yay, it’s Self Development Sunday part 2.

Linda says ‘a big thanks to all of the participants who were there for the first Energy Workshop event. The energy and discussion were great and everyone got a lot out of it. Most people were keen to have a second go and also some people missed out so I’m going to host a second event, this time on the oh-so-important topic of goals and intentions (with a little gratitude exercise thrown in). In this workshop, you’ll learn how to set goals based on your actual feelings, rather than making a list of stuff you need to do before you run out of time. You’ll learn the difference between an ends goal and a means goal and why it is really important, how to leverage the power of daily intentions and why setting goals can actually keep you away from your desired outcomes instead of helping you to achieve them. ‘ Linda will email PDF material beforehand so participants can read it and get up to speed ( ). Please note that the intro workshop was free but this time, it would be appreciated if you contribute a 25TL donation 🙂 The kittens will probably join us again so hopefully we’ll enjoy their company once more.

coffee falThurs. April 17  7:30pm Suzanne Mordue is presenting her ‘coffee fal’ pieces. These are individualized drawings with their own coffee cups and fal. Stop by and buy something!

sophia lorenFri. April 25 7:30pm Cibali Arthouse presents another interesting evening. What was Loren’s Va-Va-Voom? What sauce did she prefer on her pasta? We will be showing clips of Sophia’s Italian films to learn the secret of her success. Films include The Gold of Naples (De Sica 1954), Poverty & Nobility (1954),Two Women (De Sica 1960),Yesterday,Today and Tomorrow (De Sica 1963) and Marriage Italian Style (De Sica 1964). Films will be in Italian with English subtitles. Your evening will be hosted by our guest curator, Menotti Binelli. Price: 15TL. Food and drink available here at Molly’s. Places limited to a maximum of 12 people. To avoid disappointment, please book your place by contacting us.


Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | March 24, 2014

Baking bread at Molly’s Cafe

bread 1I bake the bread for Molly’s Café and on this chilly day I was thinking about how satisfying it is to warm up the café with the smell of freshly baked bread. I have been baking bread for years. When I was a young hippie mom, I would make 12 loaves at a time to sell and barter and feed my family. Then I would put in everything but the kitchen sink– wheat germ, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, of course whole wheat flour. Here in Turkey my options are more limited, but often I still add pekmez (a grape molasses) as sweetener, bulgur for extra crunch, a little yogurt if there is only a little left in the container, potato water left from cooking potatoes (yeast loves it).

yeastSo today I was also thinking about how bread works. An essential component of bread is yeast. You can get dry or wet yeast. Right now I am using wet yeast, and since I had to buy a whole carton of it, I keep it in the freezer. Truthfully, I was not sure if it would be ok, but it is. I get out a block whenever I need it. Yeast is a living organism. It feeds off the sugar and breaks down the starch molecules into sugars. As it does so, it creates ethanol alcohol, which evaporates, and carbon dioxide. The latter is what makes the bread rise. This is actually a kind of fermentation. The recipe I use has several risings– one is the sponge, there are two more in the bowl (actually, I shorten it to one), and one more in the pan. This allows the bread to turn out a little sweeter.

Recipes call for the yeast to be dissolved in warm water. This is important, because if the water is too hot it will kill the yeast and if it is too cool, the yeast will not wake up. You should test the water with your finger before you put in the yeast.

flourThe flour used in the bread is important, as it should have good gluten. I finally found bread flour at a place in Rami, an area of food wholesalers. I buy it by the 50 kg. However, when I was using the borek flour, it worked ok. The flour feeds the yeast and the yeast raises the bread. Whole wheat flour makes the bread a little heavier, though I add white flour to alleviate that.

As I said above, I often add other ingredients. These include oats, bulgur, corn flour, even leftover rice. The sweetening can be sugar, pekmez, or honey. The original recipe calls for milk powder, which I do not have around. I may add a little yogurt or even some cooled scalded milk, or not add any milk products, in which case it is vegan bread 🙂 Some breads, such as challah or bagels, call for eggs, which make a richer bread. Some people add walnuts or olives to their bread, but since mine is for sandwiches or toast, I don’t use those.

Bread, unlike pastry, likes to be handled. The more you handle it, the better it rises.

bread machineSome people ask if I use a bread machine. No! First, it does not produce the amount or the kind of bread I want. But mostly I believe bread responds to the thought put into it. Perhaps the yeast is tuning in. I know that when I am not fully into making the bread, it often turns out too heavy. It is calming to knead the bread and the smell as it is baking is heavenly.


It actually does not take that much effort to make bread. It takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes to mix up the sponge and maybe 15 minutes to knead it. After that, it just needs some time to rise. And when you are done, you have lovely homemade bread to serve.

I am pasting the recipe I use below. As I noted above, I usually don’t add milk products and I skip one rising. Since I use it for sandwiches, I pat it into pans and cut it into shape. This recipe fills four big pans and each pan cuts into eight sections. Afiyet olsun!

Tassajara Yeasted Bread

This is the bread I used for everything, sandwiches and toast.

6 cups (1.5 litre) lukewarm water

2 tbsp (30 ml) yeast

½ – ¾ cup (100 – 15- gr) sugar

7 – 9 cups (850 – 1000 gr) flour (preferably whole wheat, but white is fine)

*Can also add about 1 cup (120 gr) fine bulgur or 1 cup (120 gr) corn flour instead of one cup of flour

*You can also add up to 2 cups of yogurt instead of the liquid if you have some you want to use up

*If you have water from cooking potatoes, yeast loves it, so you can use that as all or part of the liquid

*I often use pekmez or honey instead of sugar, about the same amount

Dissolve yeast in water. Stir in sweetening. Stir in enough flour to make a thick batter. Beat well with a spoon (100 strokes). Let rise 30 to 60 min.

2 1/2 tbsp (40 ml) salt

1/2 – 1 cup (240 ml) oil

6 – 8 cups (700 – 800 gr) more flour

Fold in salt and oil. Fold in additional flour until dough comes away from sides of the bowl. Knead on floured board, using more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking, about 10-15 min, until dough is smooth. Let rise 30 – 50 min.

Punch down.

Shape into loaves. I put it in pans and cut it accordingly to make panini sized bread. Let rise 20 min.

Bake in 350 F (180 C) deg oven for 30 min for small loaves to one hour for big ones. Remove from pans and let cool.

Original recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book




Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | March 9, 2014

St. Patrick’s Day


Nowadays St. Patrick’s Day is an excuse to drink green beer and turn green from drink. Some cities, such as San Antonio, in Texas, dye their rivers green. But who was St. Patrick and why do people outside Ireland celebrate this day?

irish civSeveral years ago I read a fascinating book call How the Irish Saved Civilization. Basically, Patrick, from a wealthy Roman-British family, was kidnapped and then enslaved by Irish raiders when he was very young and sent to Ireland to tend sheep. Due to the harsh winter climate, most of these young slaves died. However, Patrick managed to survive and stayed for several years. He returned to England and studied in Gaul to become a priest. Around 432 , when he was a bishop, he decided to go back to Ireland to make the Irish into Christians. It is said that he used the shamrock with its three leaves to teach the Trinity of God the father, his Son, and the Holy Ghost.


illum manAs part of his mission in Ireland, Patrick set up monasteries, where the monks copied manuscripts sent to them from other monasteries in other countries. This is the part where the Irish saved civilization. There were a whole lot of manuscripts waiting to be copied in Ireland while libraries were being burned elsewhere (think, Alexandria). Thus, the manuscripts, many of which are the basis of western civilization at that time, were essentially saved.



shamrockWhy do people wear green on St. Patrick’s Day? I always thought it was because Ireland is the Emerald Isle due to its green landscape. However, the green refers to the shamrock, which even today is associated with this day. According to our childhood tradition, even if you’re not Irish, if you are not wearing green on St. Patricks’ Day, someone can pinch you.



irish dinnerNowadays, there are St. Patrick’s Day parades and festivals all over the world. Here in Istanbul, as far as I know, Molly’s Café is the only place that offers St. Patrick’s Day dinner on the day itself– lamb stew, cabbage salad, Irish soda bread, and Irish apple cake. There might even be some beer– but not green.



blarney stoneAh begorrah, I am off to kiss the Blarney Stone…




Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | January 27, 2014

Feb 2014 at molly’s cafe

February may be a short month, but at Molly’ Cafe, it is a full one!

italy mapSat. Feb. 1 9 to 11pmMalarazza Italian folk music Elisabetta Lanfredi and friends will play traditional Italian music from around Italy. Elisabetta is a musicologist and will also tell stories about the music she plays. If you missed them before, this is a good opportunity to listen to Elisabetta’s beautiful voice during an interesting and entertaining evening! 15 lira for the music.

heartSun. Feb. 9 12 to 5pm Valentine Gift Fair Come and shop for your valentine! Nicki’s chocolates, Margaret’s rose pin and barrettes, Mousso’s handmade jewelry, books about Istanbul, and more.


flower heartFri. Feb. 14 7:30pm Valentine’s Dinner for singles Come for dinner! Chicken cacciatore, pasta, salad, red velvet cake. 40 lira. Reservations by Thurs. Feb. 13 please.


udSat. Feb 15 9:00 to 11:00 pm Ivir Zivir is back by popular demand to offer their rousing Turkish and Balkan music. 15 lira for the music.


guitarSat. Feb. 22 9:00 to 11:00pm George Wabisca and Naim Korudag will rock us out with bluesy and classic vocals and guitar. 15 lira for the music.


inside out istSun. Feb. 23 4:30pm Lisa Morrow will do a talk about her book, Inside Out in Istanbul. This is a good opportunity to hear some stories about this interesting city.


Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | December 5, 2013

So you want to open a café… advice from Molly’s Café

sıgn croppedSeveral different people have walked into my café and exclaimed that they too wanted to open a café Many of these people have never even worked in a café So, for them especially I want to write about some of the realities of running a café



tiredFirst of all, since this is my own business, I work a LOT. Seven days a week, at least 12 hours a day. Sometimes 15 or 16 hours a day if there is an event. Mostly I enjoy it, but I get very tired after the really long days.


IMG_0214What do I do in the café? Everything. I was raised having to be in charge of my younger siblings while our mother worked. I remember her instructing me over the phone how to make rice pudding– when I was 12. My father baked bread and made the best lemon meringue pie. They both made pancakes. My mother baked cookies and cakes but always said she could not do pies. Later I was a young hippie mother and made everything, even tofu once (it was not as good as the boughten tofu). I baked 12 loaves of bread at a time for sale and for trade. My kids grew up eating homemade wholewheat bread with homemade jam on it. They started life with a vegetarian mother, but that changed after their father slipped them meat. I decided anyway that I did not have a good reason to be vegetarian other than that my friends were. At any rate, we ate what I cooked and baked– no opening of boxes or ordering in. Little did I know that I was preparing to open a café with home-cooked food. So, yes, I make the soups, salads, bread, cakes, pies, cookies, hot chocolate mix, pancake mix, Mrs. Mollyworth’s fake maple syrup, all of it.


dishwasherPlus, I wash dishes. I load and unload the dishwasher (yes, folks, the dishes are very clean in this café). I take orders, I make the food, I deliver orders. I chat up the customers, answer tourist questions, deal with the neighbours. I keep track of money out and money in, pay the bills and the rent and the taxes.





CIMG0009I also hire people to help me. I have to guess when the busy days will be to know whether the helper will be actually helping or sitting around. Of course when we have a program I expect we will be busy. Usually weekends are steady, but sometimes they are slow. If a helper does not work out, I have to find a new one. I have to train each new helper. This is how you make coffee or tea, this is how you prepare a plate, this is where you put away the dishes. I have had helpers from several nationalities and ages. I have had male helpers, but I prefer girls or women, as this is a woman’s café and women tend to work better in this environment. When good helpers leave, I am very sad and when they don’t work out I feel no compunction at letting them go.


SL370341Sometimes I have to deal with dodgy people. I fend off the odorous almost street people, I stand up to the guys who I don’t trust. I send off the men who ask for nescafe who would put off my real customers. I scold people who try to be mean to the street cats that I feed. I don’t often have unhappy customers (that I know of), but if there should be a complaint I deal with it calmly and politely, venting later.




televisionSomeone asked me recently what I did for a social life. Well, folks, this is it. By the end of the day I am not usually ready to go out. Lying on the couch and watching television sounds better to me, as I know there will be another long day coming.




dictionarySome customers ask if I speak Turkish. Yes, I do. It is not perfect, but it is enough for dealing with customers and bureaucrats. I could not do this if I did not speak the language. Plus it allows me to enter the culture more. In addition, it means I am not constantly asking a Turkish person to go with me to the various bureaucracies. However, I am still not very good on the phone, so sometimes I ask someone to help me then.




photo (1)As I was in the process of reopening my café this time, some people asked what my ‘concept’ was. I found it an irritating question. To me, the idea of a concept is that you are creating something artificial. Here, with the open brick walls, the exposed electric cables, and the cement floors, I joke that my concept is industrial home. However, I would say that this café, like my other locations, is organic. People give me things, I get things second or third or fifth hand, and I fit them all in together to make a comfortable environment where I hope people feel at home. If anything, that is my concept. On the other hand, a customer was recently telling me about his friend who had spent $350,000 on decorating a café, including $400 door handles on the bathrooms. To me, this is excessive. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend and I have found over the years that I can do a lot with a little.


cafe frontOne American woman came in saying she wanted to open a café on the Aegean. She had visited Turkey often, but she had never lived here. I advised her to live for at least a year where she wanted to open a café. That way she would have time to learn the language and know the people. Someone had told her that there were lots of expats in the town she was thinking of, but what did that mean? 20? 1000? And would they want to go to a café she might open? I could make my café go because I had been here for ten years already and I knew a lot of people from work and from the house parties I used to give. And since I have been in Galata since 2002, I know the local people and they know me. On this new street I am getting to know the ‘esnaf’, the other businesspeople, and that also is an important component.


remaining photos 08 231I have seen many places open that the owner renovates and then staffs with cooks and waiters, expecting to sit around and get rich. However, often the customers do not come and the doors close permanently in a short time. If the owner does not deign to get in and get his or her hands involved, failure is much more of an option.





leaping the chasmRisk is the name of this game anyway. ‘Build it and they will come’ may work for some, but it is highly unlikely. I am lucky in that I have a particular niche (homemade non Turkish food) and that I have a lot of friends and a wide customer base, built up over a few years. But still there is a risk. Customers are capricious and the economy or the political situation could go south at any time. My feeling, based on my days as a poor university student, is that people can always afford a cup of coffee, though that will not necessarily keep my doors open! Ultimately, life is a risk and we jump in or not. I have jumped many times, not always successfully.



belediye binasiI wrote in another blog about the process of setting up a limited şirket. However, there are other hoops to jump through, one of the biggest being getting a permit from the municipality. Truthfully, of the five years I have had my café, I have had a hard-won permit for only six months. I am in the process of trying to get one again. Ach! The manager of the permit department pointed to a large white spot on his map of Beyoğlu and informed me that it was under the aegis of the government and the people in his department had been instructed not to issue permits. Around the time I was visiting that department, several hotels in the neighbourhood were being closed down. Why? No one seems to know for sure, aside from the fact that they did not have permits. Since I rent my space from one of those hotels, I am hoping that they bring their influence to bear and that it has a positive effect on my café In the meantime, the hotels on my street have taken down their signs, but mine is still up. The last time I went to the belediye (the municipality) I asked the manager yet again what to do and he gave me his phone number, though I had to ask someone else his name. So I am playing the waiting game again and hoping they do not get mean and close me down.


heartThere is a very romantic concept of having a café, that you as the owner will graciously welcome customers and please them with little effort on your part. This is absolutely not true. You have to work hard and sometimes that includes being nice to people you don’t like (luckily that does not happen often). One thing I really like is introducing people to each other so they can meet new, usually interesting people. Many years ago I wanted to have a place where interesting people would come and interact and I am fortunate that my café has become that reality.




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