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Cousins bring Turkish culture, cuisine to Green Bay

Istanbul Fish & Seafood to open on Hansen Road at beginning of May

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April 18, 2024

GREEN BAY – It’s pretty safe to say most Wisconites have enjoyed a Friday Fish Fry or two.

But, how many can say they’ve tasted Turkish-inspired fish dishes?

Fatih Okcu said in Northeast Wisconsin, that number is likely low, which is exactly why he and his cousin decided to open Istanbul Fish & Seafood in Green Bay.

Originally from the Istanbul, Turkey area, Okcu said his family has been in the restaurant business for a long time.

“Our family has been in the seafood and fish restaurant (business) for 35-40 years,” he said. “All my family, and my cousin’s family, my uncles – all have seafood restaurants in Turkey.”

Eateries that specifically serve fish dishes, Okcu said, are common in Turkish culture.

“Turkey is (in the) Middle East, and (around) Anatolia, Austria and (other) European countries,” he said. “So, if you go to Istanbul and a seafood restaurant, you will see a lot of cultural (dishes), you will see Italy, you will see Greece, you will see Turkey and you will see Egypt.”

This, Ocku said, is why the Istanbul Fish & Seafood menu will offer a mix of cultural dishes throughout Europe and the Middle East.

“We have hot appetizers, cold appetizers; we’ve got so many desserts and we’ve got many fish dishes,” he said.

The restaurant – located at 940 Hansen Road – is set to open May 1.

From Turkey to the U.S.
Three years ago, Okcu said he and his cousin moved to the U.S. with a dream of opening a restaurant.

“We were in New Jersey and Texas before, and New York, but we moved to Wisconsin almost a year and a half ago,” he said.

After doing a little bit of research, Okcu said Green Bay seemed like a great fit for their Turkish-inspired restaurant.

“There’s so many people coming from the Middle East (to Green Bay),” he said. “There’s Indian food, Somalian food, African food. (And) there’s an American football team, so everybody’s coming to Green Bay. We got some offers from Appleton and Oshkosh, but we chose Green Bay because of those reasons.”

Fatih Okcu said one of the more popular Turkish dishes is the seabass cutlet, which comes with french fries and a special cream sauce. Photo Courtesy of Istanbul Fish & Seafood

And, though there are restaurants in Green Bay that offer seafood options, Ocku said Istanbul Fish & Seafood will be the first of its kind in the area.

“There’s some restaurants that have‚ shrimp, crab or lobster, but we will have almost 40 (different) kinds of fish,” he said.

Opening a restaurant in the U.S., Okcu said, was an adjustment in itself, partly because the process is the opposite in Turkey, which means entrepreneurs open a restaurant first and then obtain all necessary licenses.

With all the proper paperwork in place, the 24-year-old entrepreneur said he has a “great team” already in place for the kitchen and is ready to hit the ground running.

In the beginning, he said he and his cousin will be the only two servers.

A peek at the menu
Okcu said the team at Istanbul Fish & Seafood probably has a combined 100 different dishes in mind for the menu, but will be starting with around 50 to choose from.

And, unlike what customers may be used to at other restaurants, where they choose one dish, Okcu said Istanbul customers will choose four to five dishes.

One of the options customers can choose from is the sea bass spaghetti.

“It comes with spaghetti, tomato, sea bass, chili pepper and soy sauce,” he said.

Another likely popular dish, Okcu said, is the sea bass cutlet.

“The sea bass cutlet comes with french fries, a special cream and some different sauces,” he said.

Other options include roasted swordfish, red porgy, roasted angler fish and grilled calamari.

The appetizer and dessert options, Okcu said, are just as important.

Turkish pistachio baklava is made with phyllo dough and pistachios. Photo Courtesy of Istanbul Fish & Seafood

Some of Istanbul Fish & Seafood’s appetizers will include fish soup and lakerda, which is made up of pickled bonito and atom – a garlic-infused yogurt with sauteed dried cayenne peppers.

Gracing the dessert menu, Okcu said, will be a Turkish favorite, pistachio baklava, which is made with phyllo dough, pistachios, sugar syrup and lemon.

During lunchtime (between the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Okcu said they will also serve free Turkish coffee, which he said is “the best coffee in the world.”

In addition to the restaurant’s cultural dishes, Okcu said they will also offer some American food options.

“Some people say, ‘I don’t like fish at all,'” he said. “And some kids don’t like fish, but when they try our fish, they will love it because the taste is fresh.”

To keep up to date with the opening of Istanbul Fish & Seafood, follow its Facebook page.

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