“Good coffees is worth the stairs.” That’s the motto that’s helped make Montag Coffee Roasters a fixture of the coffee scene in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district. The original location occupies some prime real estate overlooking the fish market, and despite being a floor removed from street level, is almost always crowded. As such a pillar of the city’s Asian side, perhaps it was inevitable that Montag would expand to the more densely populated European side. But rather than opening up in specialty coffee hot spots, like Nişantaşı or Cihangir, Montag chose the up-and-coming Bomonti neighborhood.
Perhaps best known for lending its name to one of Turkey’s largest beer brands, Bomonti is a historic neighborhood in Istanbul’s Şişli district. In the early 20th century short story writer Sait Faik Abasıyanık vividly described Bomonti’s gritty backstreets, home to the less privileged members of Istanbul’s literati. Today, it’s the latest hotspot for food and beverage in the city– spearheaded by the renovation of the once dilapidated Bomonti brewery into the Bomontiada complex. Whether it’s the American-style brew pub The Populist, the esteemed Ara Güler Museum, or the popular concert venue Babylon, it’s a unique convergence of the arts– culinary or otherwise.
Montag Bomonti is not part of the Bomontiada complex, but it might as well be. Sipping my coffee from Montag’s step-like outside seating, the spire from the 19th century brewery is in plain view– quite literally a stone’s throw away. Compared to Kadıköy, the interior at Montag Bomonti feels a little more upscale; lots of marble and mirrors with splashes of greenery. The narrow, shotgun space is a little cavernous, but such is retail in dense, urban Istanbul.
Like many Istanbul roasters, Montag only offers single origin coffees for both espresso and filter. Unlike most Istanbul coffee shops, however, Montag offers a line up of cocktail-inspired signature beverages, such as the “White American.” Served shaken and up, the drink has a foamy texture perhaps more reminiscent of a Ramos gin fizz than the Dude’s go-to libation. Still, it’s a refreshing and well balanced signature drink– a sign of a diversifying and maturing specialty coffee scene.
Fans of the original location will be happy to know there’s still a staircase at Montag Bomonti– only this time it’s for overflow seating. Good coffee might be worth the stairs, but the stairs are now optional.