Postcard From Tom: The founders of Istanbul Eats

July 15, 2011

OUTSIDERS LOOKING IN ON ISTANBUL

Chicago native Ansel Mullins and his girlfriend went to Istanbul in 2002 with the idea that a year in one of their favorite cities would be a fun segue from New Orleans and his communications post with the outgoing mayor, Mark Morial.

“That year adventure turned into a decade,” says Mullins, 33, who ended up finding work restoring historic flats, marrying Madeline Roberts and eight months ago adding a son to the equation. Early on, he met New York-born Yigal Schleifer, a freelance journalist and fellow food enthusiast. Both men were tired of reading restaurant reviews of tourist traps or hearing from friends who said they didn’t care for the food in Istanbul. “There was a big gap between what people wanted and the recommendations” they were getting from uninformed sources, says Mullins.

“Let’s change this,” Schleifer recalls. Two years ago, they introduced a blog, Istanbul Eats, which morphed into a book (and a walking tour) of the same name a year later. Schleifer, who returned to Washington with his wife, Rachel Levitan, earlier this year, still contributes to the site as “editor-in-beef.” Mullins is known as the “grublisher.”

If proof were needed that Istanbul hungered for honest and timely food assessments, the authors appear to have found it. “The Turkish edition is outselling the English one,” says Schleifer.

Tom Sietsema

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