It’s hardly a secret that Turkey boasts one of the best cuisines around the globe, therefore researching where to eat in Istanbul is a smart move. There are so many restaurants in this megacity and we are here to help you find the best Turkish food spots.
We’ll tell you where you can indulge in fresh-off-the-grill kebabs, succulent aubergines, and creamy pumpkin paste for your tasty meze.
8 Turkish Restaurants in Istanbul You Don’t Want to Miss
Honestly, you’ll be hard pushed to eat bad food in the city, but just in case, we put together a list of eight best Turkish restaurants in Istanbul. We’ve also included street food options for you to try out. And to answer your question – yes, street food is safe to eat in Istanbul.
Bon Appetit or Afiyet Olsun as Turkish say.
1. Lades Menemen Restaurant
Eating Turkish breakfast in Istanbul, or anywhere in Turkey, is like a ritual. The food is rich in flavour, comforting and healthy. Packed with fresh and natural ingredients it will set you right for the busy day ahead. Consider it as one of the unmissable Istanbul attractions.
We found Lades Menemen Restaurant perfect for the morning feast. And even though this place is very simple in the interior, what comes to your table could feed a king.
Here’s what you should eat in Istanbul for your ultimate breakfast experience:
- Peynir – Zeytin – A combination of white cheese and marinated olives.
- Bal – Kaymak – Soft butter and local honey side dish. You’ll dip your bread in this heavenly sweetness.
- Sade Menemen – A skillet full of tasty scrambled eggs with tomato and pepper.
- Yumurta – A fried egg still cooking in a silver dish. Mind your fingers, the dish is still hot!
- Karışık Menemen or Karışık Yumurta – Scrambled/fried eggs with mixed meats.
- Sogus – A plate of fresh pepper and tomato for extra juicy sweetness.
And, of course, no breakfast in Istanbul can be complete without Turkish tea or coffee.
Total Cost: 38TL with all the trimmings for two.
Address: Lades Menemen, Katip Çelebi Mahallesi, İstiklal Caddesi, Sadri Alışık Sokak, No 11, Beyoğlu, İstanbul
2. Zübeyir Ocakbaşı
Zübeyir Ocakbaşı is easily one of the best restaurants in Istanbul. It’s packed with the local crowd enjoying a juicy Shish or Iskender kebab on any day of the week.
This fantastic grill house in Beyoğlu is our top choice for dinner. You can walk in and grab any seat available, but we recommend booking a table for dinner in advance. If you can bear the heat, ask for a seat underneath the copper hood. Here is where you’ll experience cooking of the Turkish food first hand.
The menu is traditional Turkish, with plenty of tasty choices. Start with meze – the cold starters. Hummus, smoked aubergine and creamy pumping dips are rather scrumptious here.
From the mains, make sure you try the aubergine kebab – it’s tender, juicy and absolutely fabulous.
Total Cost: 90TL – 110TL for two.
Address: Zübeyir Ocakbaşı, Şehit Muhtar Mahallesi, Bekar Sk.No:28, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
3. Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı
This is a top lunch spot in Istanbul. Watching the cağ man skillfully cutting the meat of the horizontal spit will be your entertainment of the day. As for the food, it’s the best lamb kebab in the city.
Unsurprisingly, the cağ kebab is the main item on the menu. To ignite your taste buds, pair it with buffalo yogurt, crispy onions, freshly cut salad, and slightly spicy roasted pepper dip.
Order the lentil soup too. It’s a great warmer if you are exploring Istanbul in colder months.
Located near the central train station, this small and friendly Turkish restaurant is only a short distance walk from the main Istanbul attractions in the old town.
Save it on your Google maps now because you won’t want to miss it. If you want to eat well in Istanbul, you have to come here.
The Cost: 40TL- 65TL for two.
Address: Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı, Hoca Paşa Mahallesi, Ankara Caddesi & Hoca Paşa Sokak 3/A, 34112 Fatih/İstanbul
4. Ficcin Restaurant
This Turkish – Circassian restaurant is a little different from the usual Turkish food scene – kebabs. But it’s, nonetheless, sensational.
The Turkish Mantı – delicious Turkish dumplings stuffed with spiced minced meat – drowned in rich garlic yoghurt and pepper-infused oil is the staple dish at Ficcin. They are delicious.
Spinach stuffed crepes is another beautiful dish to here. Tender and juicy, they go really well with the refreshing yoghurt dip.
Total Cost: 65TL for two.
Address: Ficcin, İstiklal Mahallesi, Kallavi Sok. No:13 D:1, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
5. Balkan Lokantası in Beşiktaş
For a home-cooked food head to Balkan Lokantası in Beşiktaş.
It’s a self-service affair so grab a tray and trust your senses. Some of the dishes might look unfamiliar, but whatever you choose will taste fresh and satisfying.
The two-story building can accommodate a hungry army, but it gets busy during lunchtime so don’t be too late.
Total Cost: 5 dishes plus bread – 35TL.
Address: Balkan Lokantası, Sinanpaşa Mahallesi, Akmazçeşme Sokak, No 6, Beşiktaş, Istanbul
6. Tarihi Karadeniz Döner
To taste a true Turkish Doner kebab in town, head to Tarihi Karadeniz Dönera, stone’s throw away from the Balkan Lakantasi.
When you see a line of people queueing up for ‘the best Doner kebab in Istanbul’ you’ll know you’re in the right spot. They are all waiting for the famous, freshly shaved Doner kebab sandwich.
It’s likely that the place will be packed for lunch so order your meat to take away.
Address: Tarihi Karadeniz Döner, Sinanpaşa Mahallesi, Mumcu Bakkal Sk. No:10, 34353 Beşiktaş/İstanbul
7. Karaköy Güllüoğlu
This place is the Turkish baklava institution. Always busy, Karaköy Güllüoğlu serves the flakiest baklava in the city.
To order your delights and Turkish tea, check the menu and head for the counter.
The Fıstıklı Havuç Dilimi Baklava (Palace Baklava with Pistachio) is a popular choice amongst the locals, in case you are struggling to decide. But if you want to taste a mix of sweet treats – order Karışık Baklava, the six-piece baklava platter.
Total Cost: 24TL for Karışık Baklava and tea x2
OK, this is not a restaurant but we didn’t want you to miss out on great Turkish coffee.
To find this hidden gem, venture into an alleyway just off the Istiklal street and make yourself comfortable on one of the tiny chairs outside Mandabatmaz.
Thick, chocolatey and full of aroma, the hot brew is as delicious as you’d expect it to be in Turkey.
Total Cost: 13TL for two.
Address: Mandabatmaz, Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Olivia Geçidi 1/A, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
9. Bonus Suggestion – Topkapi Palace Cafe
The medieval Topkapi Palace is one of the top places to see in Istanbul but to make your visit extra special, make your way down to the terrace for tea and cake.
You could argue that it’s one of the best cafes in Istanbul with a view.
Turkish cakes here are as light as clouds and so delightful. Try the divine Trilece (three kinds of milk) cake, it’s something the sultan would have had for sure!
Total Cost: 36TL for a cake to share and tea x2.
Eat Street Food in Istanbul – it’s Delicious
Along with all the exciting things to do and see in Istanbul, street food is a must and here’s a quick list of what to eat in Istanbul right on the street:
Simit – Sometimes called a Turkish bagel, Simit is a Turkish version of a pretzel. You’ll see tiny carts all over the city selling these crisp from the outside and chewy from the inside bread circles.
Balik Ekmek – It’s a simple but popular fish sandwich made fresh from the catch of the day, raw onions, fresh lettuce and a squirt of lemon juice. You’ll find them sold right from the 3 elaborately decorated boats at the southern end of the Galata bridge by the Eminönü (Turyol) ferry terminal.
Midye Dolma – Again, you will see this street food option all over Istanbul. Midye Dolma is a mussel stuffed with spiced rice and pine nuts. You eat them right there at the stall, with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Kumpir – Another nation’s beloved street food for hungry locals and travellers alike. It looks like a jacket potato. One of the places in Istanbul to eat Kumpir is Ortaköy district, right next to the beautiful Ortaköy Mosque or on the Kumpir Sokak (Baked Potato Street).
Here you will see rows of stalls with colourful ingredients selling the oversized baked potato for a very cheap fare. A tasty snack to devour while enjoying the view of the iconic Bosphorus bridge in the distance.
Pomegranate juice – It’s sweet and sour, fresh and delicious. Have a go, the juice is really refreshing and readily available.
Börek or Patatesli Börek – A flaky pastry layered with cheese (Börek) or potatoes (Patatesli Börek). You will find Börek in little bakeries around the city. It’s a great alternative for breakfast or a quick snack. If you are travelling as a couple, you might consider sharing one as they might come in pretty hefty portions.
Food and Drink Costs for Your Eating in Istanbul Budget
The great thing about the food scene in Istanbul is that you can eat street food for a mere 2TL per Poğaça (a tasty breakfast roll stuffed with various fillings) or dine in and have a succulent chicken shish for up to around 20TL.
Here’s what we spent on food in total over 6 days:
- Breakfast – 74.60TL
- Lunch – 174TL
- Dinner – 383TL
- Tea/coffee and cake – 133TL
- Snacks – 6.5TL
Drink Costs to Be Aware Of
Tea and coffee vary from 2.5TL per cup at the local stalls and eateries to 8TL in touristy places.
Alcohol, however, is more expensive in Istanbul. A shot of Raki will cost you 15TL, the beer starts from around 20TL per bottle in a bar.
A special thanks goes to Mark Wiens, our food hero, for creating the most delicious food videos on YouTube not just in Istanbul but in many other worldwide destinations.