When we first walked into Arap Nazmi weeks after first coming to Turkey, we were dealing with a lot of fear regarding what kind of people Turks might be, as well as fear over the many challenges the country was facing. Arap Nazmi was exactly what we needed to get past these fears and truly embrace the culture, and the spirit of Arap Nazmi is a picture of the spirit of Turkey.
Beyond the best köfte and piyaz in town (not to mention delicious creative takes on traditional Turkish food – brown butter and yogurt, anyone?), the story of Arap Nazmi is just as captivating as the food. Arap Nazmi opened in 1979, giving it impressive longevity for a Turkish restaurant. The founder’s name is Nazmi, and “Arap” means…you guessed it, Arab. His friends have long playfully called him Arap Nazmi because of his dark skin. Such jokes have become very politicized in the U.S., but Arabs and Turks are brothers, and so it doesn’t carry the weighty history that it does in America. Nazmi has two sons, Volkan & Hakan. Volkan, the oldest, is an amazing athlete and was working his way up the ladder in Turkish professional basketball when he started to notice the business that his father had worked so hard for was failing. While being a professional athlete was his dream, he couldn’t bear to see his father’s business go under. So he left his career and took over Dad’s business. It not only recovered, but has thrived – they serve over 200 orders a day, had a major remodel and expansion in 2017, and the opened a 2nd store in 2019 in the Antalya resort town of Kaş. Now Volkan oversees both stores while his younger brother, Hakan, is the main overseer of the Antalya city branch.
Regarding food, Americans tend to love the kaşarlı chedarlı köfte (cheesy meatballs) with french fries, but we recommend starting with the classic köfte + piyaz and branching out from there. Our personal favorite is the yoğurtlu soganlı köfte – diced pita, köfte with onion mixed ın, yogurt sauce, and browned butter on top. Also if you’re in the mood for a good salad, their chicken salad is refreshing and so yummy.
All köfte meals are served with a side of grilled peppers and onions, and they serve complementary salad
Hakan and part of the Arap Nazmi team.