I made a very important discovery last week. After much searching and frustration, I finally stumbled upon an ice cream joint in Turkey that stands out among the rest. Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with Turkish ice cream. Honestly, it’s really good. The issue is that it’s all the same. You can eat at any of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of ice cream stands in Turkey and it would be pretty damn hard to tell them apart. In fact, I’m pretty sure most of them use the same two or three ice cream suppliers. It was kind of hard for me to accept since I’m such a sucker for unique, hole-in-the-wall ice cream places.
Enter Ali Usta. We were spending the day out and about with our friend and co-worker who lives in the area and he told us that it was one of the oldest ice cream shops in Istanbul and how he always had fond memories of grabbing ice cream cones after school with his friends when he was younger. When we walked by, I didn’t hesitate to run over and try it for myself.
Friends, this is not your average Turkish ice cream cone. The flavor is different. The texture is different. It’s obvious that they make it themselves. Also, CHOPPED PEANUTS and DIPPED CONES! I got almond and coffee and was pleasantly surprised that the coffee ice cream actually tasted like Turkish coffee. I totally get the temptation to stop by the tourist stands where they do tricks with the cones, but if you want a REAL Turkish ice cream experience, this is the place.
Our friend introduced us to a lot of hidden gems that day, including this lovely park by the sea, from which you can see Sultanahmet, Galata, and the Prince’s Islands. We chatted as the sun set and watched the dolphins jumping across the horizon. It was ridiculously wonderful. There will be a lot more Ali Usta sunsets to come, that’s for sure.