Istanbul is a city that is filled with cafes, restaurants and food stalls. From the casual tea carts in Taksim to the fancy restaurants in Sultanahmet and the quirky cafes in Karaköy, it is clear that Istanbulians share a fascination for eating and drinking. And, of course, that they like to have tons of options for places to do so. But if there are so many options, what do newly opened cafes do to attract the young and hip Istanbul cafe crowds? Easy. They turn to Breaking Bad.
Strolling around the winding streets of Karaköy, Istanbul, I arrived in an area that is the perfect mixture of the streets in a city in southern Italy and the alternative atmosphere and crowd of a Berlin nightclub. The streets are narrow, so narrow that you can hardly squeeze between the chairs of the myriad of little cafes and restaurants. The chairs are all wooden, and each of the tiny cafes boasts its own creative design. Above my head hang thick layers of vines. Vines and colorful lightbulbs that cast shadows over the crowded streets at night. The crowd is young, bearded and dressed in circular glasses, shorts and black boots. Looking at the great variety of cafes, decorated with everything from Bulgarian paintings and Islamic patterns to heavy industrial designs, it is clear that it is possible to satisfy just about any young and trendy tastebud in Karaköy.
And among these unique cafes and hip crowds, I suddenly stumble upon the quirkiest and most crowded of them all. Heisenberg Karaköy – one of two Istanbul cafes inspired by the television drama Breaking Bad.
It is hard to see the source of inspiration with a quick glance from the outside, but inside, the theme is impossible to miss. Black and yellow pipes on grey, industrial walls. Decorations like Walter White’s hat, a yellow lab suit and sunglasses, and of course, beakers on every table. Menu items include the popular burger “The Heisenberger” and chicken recipes inspired by those eaten in the show. The restaurant may be small, an old shop turned cafe, but it is filled with reminders of the famous television series. And need I say, filled with people.
Believe it or not, but Heisenberg Karaköy is only the little brother in the Istanbul Breaking Bad cafe scene. The significantly larger and more well-known big brother, Walter’s Coffee Roastery, opened in Kadıköy this summer. Although it is a bit more difficult to get to, it quickly established itself as the trendiest of the two. Walter’s Coffee takes the Heisenberg idea to the next level, adding a large Periodic Table as wall decoration, Walter White portraits on pancakes, measuring cylinders instead of coffee cups, and cupcakes with blue sprinkles. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot one of the baristas sporting a yellow lab coat à la Breaking Bad while roasting coffee beans! Crowds of visitors come to enjoy the coffee and of course, to find new Instagram inspiration.
There is no doubt that Istanbul is crazy for Breaking Bad. Be it for the show itself or for the cool interior designs that come with it, there is definitely something that attracts young Istanbulians to the idea of drinking their coffee in cafes inspired by Walter White’s chemistry lab. And need I mention that the two cafes that exist in Istanbul, together with a bar in London, are the only Breaking Bad inspired locations in the world? The city is young, alternative and cafe crazed. And let’s face it, completely in love with Breaking Bad.