All Sports Cafe is a two branch local cafe in Istanbul. Branches are located in Etiler and in Nisantasi. Both branches are cozy and welcoming. The Etiler branch is especially like a home for many. The customers of this branch are loyal locals that come and go every now and then. There are among them business men that hold business meetings over a cup of coffee, individuals who do work on their laptops or read a book, friends of management that just happen to drop by…
The Nisantasi branch is slightly bigger (in fact Etiler branch is quite small, maybe smaller than your younger sister’s tiny room :) ) and has a beautiful garden. This shady garden should be your escapade both from the crowded and crazy Nisantasi streets and other cafes and also from the hot burning Sun in summers.
All Sports Cafe, whether in Etiler or Nisantasi, is truly local. Not the menu; but its people, its aura has an authenticity and a beat that is akin to home. As such, my mother for instance, takes all of her visiting friends at least once to a All Sports Cafe. She reasons as such; “Many expats of Istanbul are already among the loyal clientele of All Sports Cafe. Even then, this place is not touristic at all. My friends, who I take to All Sports, thus get a chance to see a different cosmopolitan shot of Istanbul and also see what my daily life is all about.”
One thing that I have to agree not just with my mother, but many other loyal customers, is that All Sports is indeed like a home. The form of sincerity there is not obtrusive at all. The waiters never change and if you are loyal, they get to know you by name and address. But, they do not annoy you asking obtrusive questions or making unwanted remarks or giving unasked advice. But, they know you. So, they know your preferences. They know your taste. They direct you correctly through the menu. Sometimes when you say “as usual”, they do not make you repeat.
Another very touching thing is that with a knowing team as above, you get to sample new tastes even before there are scheduled into the menu. The team asks of your opinion. They ask you if the new dish is likable, if it would go well with the rest of the menu.
The foundation of the cafe goes far back as 16 years and longer when you consider the friendship involved. Zehra and Aydin (Soyad) are a married couple and friends with Metin Oktay (the other partner). 18 years ago, they all go after a vision of a second home that would be bigger than their own so as to accommodate all of their friends; and let them define the place with their characters. Their friends are not just those that they say “hi” on the street, but also their staff, who as I have already said above are stable at All Sports through these years.
Sports was a part of everyone’s life. As such, the name was incorporated to the Cafe; and the decorations followed the trend. Photos of sportsmen, championships and framed materials surround the wall. Most of these arrived from England. There is a set of paddle and shell, which carry historical significance were bought from the Galatasaray Island (which today is SuAda). The old article hang up on the wall are from the All Sports Newspaper from the 1900s’ England.
With such a friendly foundation, the clientele of All Sports is not necessarily after food as they arrive to the cafe. As goes a Turkish saying, “The heart does not will neither coffee nor the coffee shop; the heart wills friends, the rest is idle pretext.” Nonetheless, the menu at All Sports is also quite fine. Most of the food is your ordinary cafe meals: salads, sandwiches, tartlets and a few main courses. Yet, what is interesting about All Sports is that they are the among the pioneers of the “salad culture” in the local area. That is replacing a main course with a slightly bigger and loaded “salad”. As such, most of their salads are pretty good :) So are their cheddar cheese tartlet, tomato soup, pasta and dessert.
[All images provided by Zehra Aydin]