Popeye’s Boat, Fethiye – A True Balık Ekmek Treat

***Update 2017 – A bit like the Ship of Theseus (or Trigger’s Broom, if you prefer) Popeye’s Boat is no longer called Popeye’s and is no longer a boat. The business has moved to dry land, and, along with his fish sandwich boat neighbour Cek, can now be found still serving the same fantastic food at Kırçiçeği Cafe in Fethiye’s nearby Dispanser area.

The fish boat tugs at its moorings, occasionally rocks and gently sways in the strong currents that swirl in the corner of Fethiye harbour – and it’s been doing this for as long as we’ve lived here. If you know this area, you’ll probably have guessed we’re talking about Popeye’s boat, Fethiye harbour’s little piece of furniture tucked tightly into the right-angled bend where the canal flows into the sea.

Popeyes Fish Boat, Fethiye

One of favourite pieces of Fethiye’s furniture

Popeye’s Boat, Fethiye

Popeye’s Boat is a constant for us; a regular go to when we need a quick snack…or even if we just crave its signature offering; balık ekmek. That’s a fish sandwich to those of us more familiar with the English language. And we can safely say, without exaggeration, that we never tire of the fish in bread served on Popeye’s boat because we’ve eaten here right from when we first moved to Fethiye – and we’re still huge fans.

A walk to the Tuesday market in Fethiye usually involves a what-are-we-having-for-lunch discussion. Is it Popeye’s boat for a fish butty (Wigan-speak) or do we go into the market and have gözleme or kokoreç. And the same route when we’re walking to see Fethiyespor at home matches – so a similar discussion: Shall we go to Popeye’s boat for a fish sandwich or shall we wait until we get into the stadium and have one of Fethiyespor’s spicy köfte ekmek (a half bread filled with Turkish meatballs). Always a tough call – which Popeye’s boat often wins – and we visit at other times besides, too. So over the years, a good chunk of our lira has been spent on this boat!

What’s So Good About Popeye’s Boat?

So what does Popeye’s boat serve to its regular stream of school kids, shoppers, tourists and workers on their lunch hour? We have the same every time we go – we don’t even need to order, these days. We manoeuvre ourselves between bench and table, sliding along the seat to a comfortable position, nod a ‘merhaba,’ and the Popeye’s balık ekmek process begins:

Chillies On Popeyes Boat, Fethiye

We always lift the lid from the chillies and put the tongs in place while we wait for our fish sandwich

A fresh Turkish half bread is sliced down the middle. Two strips of mezgit (whiting) are dipped into a tub of batter and carefully laid into a fryer of crackling, sizzling oil. Then a çay arrives. There are cold soft drinks available on Popeye’s boat, too, but you just can’t beat a çay after your whopper of a fish butty! We stir our çay and remove the lid from the glass jar of tiny pickled chillies; our essential ingredient for real fish sandwich enjoyment.

After a few minutes, the battered fish is lifted from the fryer, sizzling and golden. It’s placed between the bread and thinly sliced onion, tomato and a small clump of rocket leaves are pushed right in there, too. A drizzle of lemon juice, generous sprinkling of salt…and voila! Your Popeye’s fish butty is delivered to you on a plate, partially wrapped in paper – well you don’t want it to collapse, do you?

Popeye's Battered Fish In Bread

Heavenly Popeye’s balık ekmek – it’ll fill you up!

Now all that’s left to do is get those tongs to work; get a chilli from the jar, drop it into the sandwich and launch in with the first bite. Another little drizzle of lemon, another chilli placed on top and another (careful) bite. The white of your fish is always proper hot. Sensible people would wait a minute or two for it to cool down… Another chilli, another bite…and so on until the whole thing has been devoured. Wash it all down with your glass of steaming çay – and that’s why we love Popeye’s boat!

If you don’t want fish in bread, you can also get a plate service of fish and chips at Popeye’s. And if battered fish is not your thing, there’s often fried mussels, too. But that’s it. Things are kept simple around here.

Popeye’s Boat & Fethiye Scenery: A Great Match

A Popeye’s balık ekmek is a perfectly good foodie experience in itself – but what also makes it special is the fact that it’s a boat. You’re on the water and you’re looking out across the harbour and the bay. A gentle bobbing as you eat your fish sandwich and look out across Fethiye.

Winter On Popeye's Boat, Fethiye

Look out and enjoy the Fethiye scenery from Popeye’s boat

The scenery is different with each visit: still, humid days; breezy weather and hazy backdrop; crispy cold winter days as in the photo above. And, as Popeye’s boat serves its fish sandwiches year round, that also means you are sometimes treated to autumnal and winter Fethiye sunsets, too. A flat calm sea and sun that disappears behind the hills in late afternoon, leaving behind a sky filled with blends of lilac and fuchsia – colours that repeat themselves in the distant mountains and over the bay.

Fethiye Harbour Sunset

Watching the sun go down over Fethiye from Popeye’s boat

These are all the types of scenes that make you realise why you fell in love with Fethiye in the first place – and you can enjoy them with the satisfaction for a no-longer-rumbling tummy because your Popeye’s fish in bread has more than sorted that little issue out for you!

Popeye’s Boat Fethiye – Useful Information

  • Popeye’s boat is on the corner of Fethiye harbour where the main road of Cahit Gündüz Caddesi meets the pedestrianised area of the harbour. It’s directly opposite the main entrance to the Tuesday market.
  • A Popeye’s balık ekmek (fish sandwich) is 8 TL (updated Summer 2015), around £1.80.
  • Popeye’s boat is open year round. Daytime only in winter. 
  • There is another boat further along the harbour serving the same fish sandwiches as Popeye’s and, these days, the little kiosks along the harbour also serve them, too. We’re creatures of habit, however…
  • Popeye’s boat is just one of the many places where we feed ourselves in Fethiye. Click the link to view other places we’ve written about.

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  1. We like the chippy turn left down to the collection of Sultan’s heads and down the road opposite. We have eaten on the boat and enjoyed it but try the other one you’ll love it I’m sure.

    • Yes been to that one Joseph; Köşem. A long time ago though. Really nice as I remember. We go to Popeye’s boat because it’s quick, yummy and on our route into town or the market. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  2. Anonymous says

    I’ve never had whiting, is there any bones in it, i’m very funny with fish

  3. That is an amazing sunset! Such intriguing and different colors. Great shot guys!

  4. Hi Julia! Wow what a spectacular sunset! I know only too well how Turkey excels at fabulous evenings by the sea like this … I bet the balık ekmek was sublime!

  5. Really beautiful and unusual colors. And Popeye sounds such a right fun and quirky cafe.

  6. @ Joy: Cheers. We do get a lot of fab sunsets in Fethiye. 🙂

  7. @ A Seasonal Cook in Turkey: Bet you’ve seen some amazing sunsets from your place in Assos. 🙂 The balik ekmek is always sublime. 🙂

    @ Sophie: Popeye’s is a great cafe – not the best name, maybe, but the balik ekmek speaks for itself. 🙂

  8. chris thomas says

    Ive been longing to visit here ever since i read this article in rainy england. Visited today and ate the dish – exactly as described. My wife loved it too. If you feel like a nice desert, the turkish ice cream vendor next door has 4 flavours of turkish ice cream- all great. 2 scoops on a cone dipped in chocolate for 5l, then sit on the seats and watch the sun go down.

    • Aww, so glad you finally made it to Popeye’s fish boat then, Chris Thomas. And, of course, glad you enjoyed it, too. All that little area is great for people watching and yeah, lots of opportunity for enjoying an ice cream, too. 🙂

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