Patrons pay last respects to iconic restaurant owner Yakup Arslan
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Yakup Arslan was the founder of the place on a small street that leads off the vibrant İstiklal Avenue. Daily News Photo / Emrah GürelNot many imams in Turkey are used to starting funerals in front of meyhanes, the traditional Turkish restaurants also serving the alcoholic drink rakı. A break with tradition occurred, however, as a large crowd gathered at the door of Yakup 2 on April 3, one of the few historically-rooted meyhanes in Istanbul, to pay their last respect to Yakup Arslan, the iconic founder of the place on a small street that leads off the vibrant İstiklal Avenue.
Along with the intellectuals, journalists, writers and friends, who made up the regular customers of the restaurant, Arslan’s two sons Ufuk and Yıldıray, were also present. Today, these two young men run the establishment that has inspired numerous similar restaurants in the city for more than half a decade.
The street used to be a deserted place in early 1950s, when Yakup Arslan first moved to Istanbul as a young boy to help his uncle Refik Arslan in his small meyhane business there. When he opened his own restaurant in 1977, the duo had already started to give the Asmalı mescid quarter a facelift, with intellectuals, diplomats and businesspeople starting to visit the district for the sake of good taste and long chats with the owners.
Yakup Arslan himself was an influential character as Edip Cansever, a prominent Turkish poet and a regular customer to Yakup 2, was inspired by him in his famous “Çağrılmayan Yakup - Uncalled Yakup” verse. Detlev Glanert, the German composer, even wrote a concerto in the name of Arslan.
Books by the many authors who frequented the locale are displayed in a small library in the restaurant. The Daily News was fortunate enough to cover the historic meyhane late last month. Unfortunately Yakup Arslan was not there as the 63-year old was suffering from cancer.
“This place is no more a meyhane than a family house. The meyhane business is not only about serving rakı, but sharing people’s problems and good times,” Yıldırım Kılınç, the manager told the Daily News during the interview. This time, Arslan’s friends were there to share the sad day of the family and the place before the religious funeral took place in Istanbul’s Mecidiyeköy.