It's hardly a secret that Turkey boasts one of the best cuisines around the globe. Therefore, researching the best places to eat in Istanbul is a great idea.
This mega city has countless eateries, 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 the creamiest pumpkin dip for your tasty meze.
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A foodie mini-guide to Turkish street food and top restaurants
You'll be hard-pushed to eat tasteless food in the city. Still, we compiled a quick list of some of Istanbul's best Turkish restaurants. We've also included street food options for you to try out. And yes, street food is safe to eat in Istanbul.
For the best experience, book a food tour in Istanbul with a local knowledgeable guide.
Bon Appetit or Afiyet Olsun as Turkish say.
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 one of the unmissable Istanbul attractions.
We found Lades Menemen Restaurant perfect for the morning feast. This place is modest in the interior, but what comes to your table could feed a king.
Here's what you should eat here for your ultimate breakfast experience:
- Peynir - Zeytin: A combination of white cheese and marinated olives.
- Bal - Kaymak: A cream and local honey side dish. You'll dip your bread in this heavenly sweetness.
- Sade Menemen: A hot skillet of scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes and peppers.
- Yumurta: A skillet of fried eggs. Mind your fingers - it's still cooking!
- 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, breakfast in Istanbul can only be complete with Turkish tea or coffee.
Come early, especially on weekends. Otherwise, you won't get a seat. The place can feed many hungry mouths across two levels, but it gets packed with the locals fast just after 11 am.
Address: Lades Menemen, Katip Çelebi Mahallesi, İstiklal Caddesi, Sadri Alışık Sokak, No 11, Beyoğlu, İstanbul
Zübeyir Ocakbaşı is easily one of the best restaurants in Istanbul. It's always packed with the locals 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 for dinner in advance. If you can bear the heat, ask for a seat underneath the copper hood. It's where you'll experience the cooking of Turkish food first-hand.
The menu is traditional Turkish, with plenty of tasty choices. Start with the meze - a cold starter dish. Hummus, smoked aubergine, and creamy pumping dips are exceptional here.
From the mains, try the aubergine kebab - it's tender, juicy and fabulous.
Address: Zübeyir Ocakbaşı, Şehit Muhtar Mahallesi, Bekar Sk.No:28, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı
Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı is our top lunch spot in Istanbul. Watching the cağ man skilfully preparing meat on the horizontal spit is the 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. Pair it with buffalo yoghurt, crispy onions, freshly cut salad, and a slightly spicy roasted pepper dip to ignite your taste buds.
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 stone's throw 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're going to eat well in Istanbul, you'll want to come here.
Address: Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı, Hoca Paşa Mahallesi, Ankara Caddesi & Hoca Paşa Sokak 3/A, 34112 Fatih/İstanbul
This Turkish-Circassian restaurant is 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. So delicious!
Another beautiful dish is cheese and spinach-stuffed crepes. Tender and juicy, they go perfectly with the refreshing yoghurt dip.
They also bake fresh pastries for breakfast if you're staying nearby.
Address: Ficcin, İstiklal Mahallesi, Kallavi Sok. No:13 D:1, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
For a home-cooked food affair, head to Balkan Lokantası in Beşiktaş.
It's self-service, so grab a tray and trust your senses. Some 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 come as early as possible.
Address: Balkan Lokantası, Sinanpaşa Mahallesi, Akmazçeşme Sokak, No 6, Beşiktaş, Istanbul
Tarihi Karadeniz Döner
To taste an authentic Turkish Döner kebab in town, head to Tarihi Karadeniz Dönera, nearby the earlier-mentioned Balkan Lakantasi restaurant.
When you see a long line 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.
The place is always packed during lunch, so it's best to order your meat to take away.
Address: Tarihi Karadeniz Döner, Sinanpaşa Mahallesi, Mumcu Bakkal Sk. No:10, 34353 Beşiktaş/İstanbul
This place is the Turkish baklava institution. Always busy, Karaköy Güllüoğlu serves the flakiest syrup-soaked filo pastry treats in the city.
Check the menu and head for the counter to order your delights and Turkish tea.
The Fıstıklı Havuç Dilimi Baklava (Palace Baklava with Pistachio) is a popular choice among 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.
Address: Karaköy Güllüoğlu, Rıhtım Cad. Katlı Otopark Altı No: 3-4 Karaköy, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Mandabatmaz is not a restaurant, but we wanted you to experience great Turkish coffee. Thick, chocolatey and full of aroma, it's some of the best coffee you'll drink in Istanbul.
To find this hidden gem, venture into an alleyway off Istiklal Street. The cafe looks old-school so it's easy to spot. Order your coffee, grab a stool outside and enjoy!
Address: Mandabatmaz, Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Olivia Geçidi 1/A, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
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.
Turkish cakes here are as light as clouds and so delightful. Try the divine Trileces (three milks) cake; it's something the sultan would have had for sure!
It might not be the best spot, but it's a cafe with arguably the best view in Istanbul.
Street food in Istanbul
Along with all the exciting things to do and see in Istanbul, street food is a must. Here's a quick list of our favourites:
Simit: Sometimes called a Turkish bagel, Simit is a Turkish version of a pretzel. Small carts all over the city sell these crisp from the outside and chewy from the inside bread circles.
Balik Ekmek: The famous fish sandwich made fresh from the day's catch, raw onions, fresh lettuce and a squirt of lemon juice. You'll find them sold at the elaborately decorated boats at the southern end of the Galata bridge by the Eminönü (Turyol) ferry terminal.
Midye Dolma: 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. Packed with delicious ingredients, it looks like a jacket potato.
The Ortaköy district, next to the beautiful Ortaköy Mosque, is one of the best places to eat Kumpir in Istanbul. The street is even named after this dish - Kumpir Sokak or Baked Potato Street.
Many stalls here sell the large 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 to breakfast or a quick snack when on the go.
If you are travelling as a couple, consider sharing one - they often come in hefty portions.