Alaçatı, Çeşme & Urla
Alaçatı treats its guests to an excellent feast with everything from snacks to mezes and desserts. It is a top gourmet destination with a selection of local and fine restaurants for al fresco dining.
At the same time, small restaurants hosting their patrons on old-style miniature chairs and tables placed alongside the streets offer many dishes ranging from artichoke, a specialty of the region, to Aegean mezes and olive oil dishes where traditional recipes are given modern interpretations.
Alaçatı is a foodie paradise with a rich variety of restaurants boasting talented chefs who masterfully bring together traditional and modern Turkish cuisine. Local dishes often feature the lightness that is unique to Mediterranean cuisine and are a delight to both behold and taste. Local herbs and produce are at the heart of these local dishes.
Numerous restored old houses in Alaçatı also serve as restaurants. Local delicacies include seafood, eggplants, küşneme (lamb dish), muska börek, and pickled rock samphire (Crithmum).
After a walk along the colorful streets of Alaçatı, it’s time to indulge yourself in some popular local street food! There are also late-night bars for those who you wish to extend their evening.
Alaçatı is one of the best destinations to try a type of sandwich known as kumru, a special comfort dish unique to the region. Kumru is one of the special tastes of Alaçatı. Its special bread is made from chickpea yeast and has a sesame top. Including a variety of sausage including sucuk (dry, spicy, and fermented sausage), tomatoes and tulum cheese in the special kumru bread of İzmir, this is a great snack in summer and the best way to assuage your hunger after a swimming session in the sea.
Mastic Gum Milk Pudding
Mastic gum milk pudding and mastic gum ice-cream; based on milk, and made without eggs or whipped cream, they are almost diet desserts, must be tasted. Should you also wish to cool down, make sure you save some space for Alaçatı’s very own mastic gum milk pudding (sakızlı muhallebi) and mastic gum ice cream (sakızlı dondurma).
Mastic Gum Ice-Cream
A traditional flavor of the Aegean is mastic gum (damla sakızı), a pine tree resin. On its own it’s an acquired taste, but on the main shopping street in Çeşme people still line up to buy mastic-infused treats at the tiny patisseries. The old-fashioned pastry shops are known for its mastic gum- flavored ice cream.
Going Wild for Plants
The area’s wild greens – known collectively in Turkish as “ot” – are celebrated each spring at the popular Alaçatı Herb Festival (Alaçatı Ot Festivali). People from around the region stream into Alaçatı’s tiny town center to attend cooking demonstrations, participate in herb-gathering excursions in the hills around town, and sample the greens-inspired wares of local home cooks – from thyme honey to lavender-flower paste and nettle bread to spinach cake.
These local herbs and greens, traditionally harvested on a subsistence basis, have become so trendy to cook with that they risk being overharvested. Alaçatı now has a demonstration garden behind its municipal building where neat rows of local herbs and greens are planted: dandelion, golden thistle, wild fennel, chicory, sea beets, mallow, and sorrel, among dozens of others. Here, horticulturists hope to determine which ot can be cultivated in gardens in order to reduce the pressure on wild populations.
Year-round, dishes of wild greens cooked in olive oil feature heavily on the menus of the dozens of small restaurants tucked away on Alaçatı’s winding cobblestone streets, many inside restored stone houses so picturesque they look like they must be part of a movie set. Traditionally paired with rakı, an anise-flavored spirit, these meze dishes also go very well with the acidic white wines of the region. Urla promises uniquely pleasing moments year-round. If you’re planning a visit in spring, make sure to stop by the center of Urla to taste mouthwatering Aegean dishes. You’ll enjoy the region’s broad selection of famous greeneries, St. Benedict’s or blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus), an herb delicacy called arapsaçı, and artichokes. In spring, the town hosts the Artichoke Festival that draws many tourists.
Türkiye’s Aegean kitchen is famous for its herb dishes, mezes (hot or cold small dishes served before or during meals) made using olive oil, and artichoke dishes. In all likelihood you will not know the herb presented before you on the dinner table, but you’ll never be disappointed if you try it.
Variety of Local Herbs
Herbs are an important part of Alaçatı and Urla cuisine. As most of them are endemic to the region, or used in cuisine in their authentic ways, they are named by locals and know with their local names. Sarmaşık (Ivy), ebegümeci (common mallow), ısırgan otu (nettle), cibez (radish-like herb), radika-karahindibağ (dandelion greens), Şevket-i Bostan (holy thistle), deniz börülcesi (samphire), hardal otu (leaf mustard), kenger (gundelia), kuzu kulağı (sorrel), yaban enginarı (wild artichoke), arapsaçı (wild fennel) are just some of the most consumed herbs of Alaçatı and Urla. These herbs are mostly boiled or sauted, dressed in olive oil and lemon and take their place on the tables as salads.