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Istanbul

tea istanbul turkey turkish pour pouringIstanbul is a great place for seafood, grilled meats and small dishes called mezes -- not to mention raki, an anise-flavored spirit. The Old City area has few stand-out restaurants. Instead, look elsewhere -- Istanbul's bustling harbor, known as the Golden Horn, rings the waterfront and is a good place for snacking at outdoor markets and food stalls. The Beyoglu district, in the heart of Istanbul, has numerous cafes -- and offers great people watching. Another good noshing neighborhood is Ortakoy, where you'll find waterfront cafes and wonderful bistros tucked into its narrow streets.

You'll have to cross over to the Asian side of the city to get there, but the authentic Turkish dishes at Ciya Sofrasi are worth the trip. Menus change regularly, but recent offerings include lamb chops with quince, and dried eggplant stuffed with rice, pepper, onion, garlic and mint. Save room for desserts like "Heaven's Mud" -- a pastry with thick cream, cinnamon and sugar.

During the summer months, the open-air terrace at the Sunset Grill & Bar is the place to be for warm breezes and stunning views over the Bosporus. The food's nothing to sneeze at either; the eclectic menu is a showcase of various cuisines from around the globe, including Japanese, Italian and (of course) Turkish. There's a sushi bar too. Reservations are highly recommended.

Seafood lovers will enjoy the Sultanahmet Fish House, which offers a dizzying array of dishes from the sea -- including balik corbasi, a traditional Turkish fish soup. Salads and kebabs round out the menu. The colorful dining room is adorned with beautiful handmade lamps.

There's a full menu of affordably priced Turkish dishes at Saray Muhallebicisi, but most people come here with one thing in mind: dessert. The patisserie divides its sweet options into "milky desserts" (rice pudding, ice cream, milk pudding with almonds) and "pastry desserts" (baklava, syrup-fried cake balls).

On the menu at the charming Sofyali 9, located in the Beyoglu neighborhood, are a variety of delicious meze dishes, as well as fresh fish and plenty of raki.
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