If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Istanbul, look no further. Here is your guide on where to eat in Istanbul, Türkiye.
If you’re a foodie looking for a city to cater to your needs, look no further than Istanbul, Turkey.
For sure, Istanbul is a historic city with plenty of culture and buildings that look like they haven’t aged a day since they were initially built (centuries ago, in most cases), but it’s also a favorite for those who adore food.
But, there is no food you won’t find in Istanbul. But the problem is that it’s so immense that you can easily miss somewhere amazing simply because you’re unsure of where it is or don’t even know it exists.
The good news? We’ve got some of the best restaurants in Istanbul recommendations for you. You HAVE to put these places on your visit list if you want to enjoy the best food in Istanbul.
Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!
1. Şehzade Cağ Kebap
A cağ kebap is a Turkish dish of lamb, yogurt, and spices. It is considered to be one of the world’s best kebabs, so be sure to try it if you go to Türkiye. This lamb is slow-cooked over a charcoal fire, and the yogurt keeps it moist and flavorful. Spices add an excellent depth of flavor to the dish, resulting in a delicious kebab.
The best place to have one in Istanbul is at xx. They offer great prices and warm and attentive service. For less than 600 Turkish Lira, we had four kebabs carved from slow-roasted meat on the coals, flatbreads, salad, tomatoes, onions, thick and creamy yogurt, salsa, drinks, and dessert.
It’s tucked away in some back area of chaotic streets, so finding this place is the only drawback – but it’s worth it, I promise you.
2. Pandeli Restaurant
Rüstempaşa Mah. Balık Pazarı kapısı Sokağı Mısırçarşı İçi 1, D:2, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul
Right inside the Egyptian spice bazaar, you will find a true hidden gem with a Michelin star, no less! The restaurant has been there for many years and is a local favorite, founded initially by Pandeli, a Greek man who arrived in the city more than a century ago. Many celebrities have been here to try authentic dishes – maybe you’ll see one!
3. Corner Irish Bar, Taksim Square
Asmalı Mescit, Meşrutiyet Cd. No:11/A Galatasaray, 34430 Beyoğlu
The fact that you’re visiting an Irish bar in the middle of Istanbul might raise a few eyebrows. You should surely go for the authentic fare as much as possible, but a few hours in this particular place will make you feel welcome in such a large city.
It’s a cozy bar with all the latest sports on the TV and every type of alcohol and beer you can think of, and it also has some of the best food in Istanbul – pub style, of course! The burgers here are delicious! This is definitely a spot to head on a cold evening to enjoy a cozy, upbeat atmosphere.
4. Sultan Palace Cafe & Restaurant, Sultanahmet
Alemdar, Biçki Yurdu Sk. No 3, 34122 Fatih
Visiting Sultanahmet during your time in Istanbul is a must. This is the most historic part of the city and where you’ll find the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Just opposite the Blue Mosque and on a back street, you’ll find a maze of authentic Turkish restaurants serving Ottoman cuisine. Be sure to try their Ottoman casseroles and kebabs. Whenever we are asked where to eat in Istanbul, we suggest the Sultan Palace Cafe & Restaurant. This is undoubtedly one of the yummiest restaurants in Istanbul.
The price may not be super-low, but their delicious food is worth it. The service is also second to none, and you’ll probably spend a few hours enjoying the vibrant atmosphere and live music.
We were struggling with what to eat with a decent menu of options to choose from. Roko knew he wanted to try a kebab, while Vladimir was keen on a meat pide with ground meat – hubby and I were scratching our heads and tossing up between two meat dishes to order – when the waiter came over and made suggestions for us.
So, what to eat there? Well, I got the Iskender kebab, while the server suggested a hot and entertaining meal for Mr. Chasing the Donkey. He got the flaming testi kebab, also known as a pottery kebab.
Testi kebabs are a traditional dish from Turkey. The dish is made by slow-cooking meat and vegetables in a clay pot (testi means clay in Turkish), which helps to infuse the flavors and create a succulent meal.
The key to making great testi kebabs is to use fresh, quality ingredients. The meat is marinated overnight in a mixture of spices and yogurt before being simmered over low heat for hours. This allows the flavors to really develop and penetrate the meat, resulting in a tender and juicy dish.
Testi kebabs are ideal for those looking for a hearty and satisfying meal and one for the IG. Vegetables such as onions, carrots, and potatoes are added to the pot, which not only adds flavor but also helps bulk out the meal. The dish is then reheated and flamed at your table – which is super fun to watch.
While there, I suggested you also try the platter of dips – meze as it’s known. It came with bread and was tasty.
It was one of my favorite places in Istanbul to eat, thanks to its simple, laid-back style.
5. Lale Lokantasi
Keçeci 50, 34000 Beyoğlu
You might think that finding authentic food in the heart of Taksim would be difficult, and in most cases, it is, but not when you stumble upon Lale Lokantasi!
This is a true gem when it comes to trying several traditional dishes. The menu changes daily, and you’ll see almost a ‘buffet style’ layout; you tell the server what you want by pointing at it, and they’ll spoon it into a bowl and add it to your tray.
This type of restaurant is expected in Istanbul, and they’re all self-service. They’re also a cheap way to eat when you’re in a rush.
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6. Eleven Brothers Kahvalti & Muftak Cafe, Besiktas
Sinanpaşa, Çelebi Oğlu Sk. No:26, 34353 Beşiktaş
You’ve no doubt heard about the famous Turkish breakfast. Well, in Besiktas, a street of restaurants is dedicated to serving this fantastic morning meal. Breakfast here goes on until around 6 p.m.!
Eleven Brothers is undoubtedly a favorite, and it has a vast range of extras you can add to your regular breakfast. Try their gozleme, menemen, pisi, and wash it down with plenty of traditional cay (tea). You won’t be hungry for a good few hours afterward, and you’ll get a lot of food for your cash!
7. Betro Burger, Besiktas
Sinanpaşa, Şair Nedim Cd. No:26 A, 34357 Beşiktaş
This isn’t an average burger. Betro Burger is an experience like no other, and if you’re in the Besiktas area (highly recommended), check out this place. It’s always busy, so be aware that you may need to wait for a table occasionally, but never more than ten minutes.
Burgers here are baked and enclosed in thin pita bread. They also throw in a free chocolate calzone with your order, so it’s a complete meal! It’s almost like a burger pie, but it’s the most succulent, delicious burger you’ll ever try in your life.
8. Karadeniz Doner Asim Usta, Besiktas
Mumcu Bakkal Sokağı No:6, Besiktas
This isn’t any old doner meat. If you check out the ‘best places to eat in Istanbul’ sites, you’ll always find this famous place on the lists. It’s one of the most well-known doner places in the entire city, and it’s been in operation since 1971. That should tell you a lot about it!
This is a tiny place, a street cafe, if you will. But you can sit upstairs if the Istanbul weather isn’t feeling too warm. You’ll always queue; sometimes the queue can be pretty large, but that should tell you it’s good! Once the doner is gone, the cafe closes for the day, but it’s the most delicious doner you’ll ever try in your life.
9. Wama’s, Taksim
İstiklal Cd. no:157, Beyoglu, Taksim
I have been to Wama’s countless times. I’m talking double figures here, and I’ve never had a bad meal. Every single time I ended up blown away, I definitely added this to your foodie list in Istanbul.
The menu is huge, and you can watch the chefs cooking your meal right in front of you in the open kitchen. You’ll find food from all over the world, including traditionally cooked lamb chops, tacos, homemade pizzas (made from scratch – you can see them twirling the pizza base around!), lasagne, and even Chinese food. This is a proper all-rounder restaurant, so if you’re visiting with family, there will be something for everyone.
10. Esmer Cafe & Restaurant, Taksim
İstiklal Cd. No:40, Beyoglu
Esmer is an Italian restaurant; the pasta offered here will make your mouth water. They also serve homemade pizzas, and you can watch the chef making them in front of you. The restaurant is small and has two floors, but if you can, try to sit outside to watch the busy Istiklal crowd as you enjoy your mouth-watering food. It’s definitely one of the best restaurants in Taksim, if not the whole of Istanbul, and the prices are pretty reasonable considering that it’s a top restaurant in the middle of the city.
11. Salt Bae Burger, Galataport, Karakoy
Kılıçali Paşa Mah. Meclis-i Mebusan Cad. No: 8 İç Kapı No: 102, 34433 Beyoğlu
Galataport is a new addition to our best food in Istanbul list, and it’s a great place to enjoy shopping, coffee, views, and great food. You’ve undoubtedly heard of Salt Bae and the famous Nus’ret restaurants. Thankfully, this place doesn’t set you back several paychecks for a burger, and it’s a lower-cost option for those who want to try his delicious burgers.
There are only burgers here, although you can try sliced meat if you want to. Be sure to check out the famous Salt Bae burger, the original one. It’s super juicy and oh-so-delicious. Every burger comes with a set of black gloves to protect your hands from the juices. A word of warning – only order the double burger if you’re super-hungry; even a single one will fill you up for hours.
12. Nevizade Kadir’in Yeri, Taksim
Hüseyinağa, Nevizade Sk. 6/A, 34435 Beyoğlu
You can’t visit Istanbul and not have the whole fish and raki experience. Nevizade is a backstreet off Istiklal Street famous for balik (fish) and raki restaurants. It’s narrow, loud, and always busy, but it’s an authentic experience. Nevizade Kadir’in Yeri is one of the best and has a huge menu of different types of fish – we loved the sea bass. You don’t have to drink raki, but if you do, be sure to pick a few meze to go with it.
Some traditional musicians move around the street, standing and serenading you for a tip.
13. Adana Ocakbasi, Sisli
Bozkurt Mahallesi, Bay Sungur Sk. No:2, 34375 Şişli
Adana Ocakbasi may not look like much. It’s tiny and looks like it wouldn’t be amazing, but you learn a crucial lesson: never judge a book by its cover! Trust us when we say it is one of the best places to eat in Istanbul. You only have to mention this restaurant to any local; they’ll tell you how fantastic it is. It’s the single best place to try Adana kebab, a meat kebab served with tomatoes, peppers, and onions, with pitta bread. You can also try raki here if you want to spend a little time watching the chef prepare your meal.
14. Hocapasa Pidecisi, Fatih
Hoca Paşa Mahallesi, Ankara Caddesi & Hoca Paşa Sokak No:11, Fatih
The fact that this particular restaurant has been around since 1964 says a lot. The restaurant is small in Sirkeci, Fatih, but packs a serious punch. This is one of those places you could easily miss if you didn’t know it was there.
Hocapasa Pidecisi served pide (flatbread) with various toppings, made to order. Kiyma is a personal favorite, which is minced beef and onion, but you can also try pastirma, cheese, potato, and the list goes on.
You’ll be able to watch them making the pide as you wait for yours to be cooked. It’s a real experience and a pretty low-cost one. Be sure to wash it down with Ayran, a traditional Turkish yogurt drink.
15. Borsam Tasfirin, Kadikoy
Osmanağa, Serasker Cd. No:78, 34714 Kadıköy
Suppose you are on the Asian side of the city and want to know where to eat in Istanbul. Look for the vibrant Kadikoy, which is packed with places to eat. But if you want to try lahmacun (you must; it’s delicious), then Borsam Tasfirin is one of the best places to go. It’s been there for over 30 years, and the chef is seriously experienced.
Lahmacun is made to order in a wood-fired oven, and you can watch as they do it. Be sure to wrap plenty of salad inside your lahmacun and a good squirt of lemon before you eat it. Again, try Ayran if you want the authentic experience, but cola is just as good!
Other Foodie Experiences In Istanbul
Istanbul is a true foodie city, and it’s not only about visiting different restaurants to check out what’s on offer! Here are a few other experiences you should add to your list.
Don’t Avoid Street Stalls
You might think that street food is unhygienic or somehow unhealthy, but street corner food in Istanbul is famous and a great way to eat on the go. You should be fine if you stick to popular areas, such as Sultanahmet, Kadikoy, Ortakoy, Besiktas, and Eminonu. Of course, if you don’t like the look of a street cart, pass it and find another, but you shouldn’t avoid all street food – you’re missing out in a big way if you do that!
Ask Locals Where They Eat
Istanbul is a huge city, but it’s also a massively touristic city, and that means you might struggle to find the best places amongst the crowd of restaurants on offer. As with anywhere worldwide, you must avoid extremely touristy parts if you want to try authentic Turkish cuisine. A great way to find the best places is to ask a local – perhaps a shop worker or someone in your hotel.
It’s also worth noting that although Sultanahmet might claim to have authentic cuisine, a lot of it isn’t the best. It’s also inflated in price.
Istanbul Food Tours
There are several food tours you can take in Istanbul. These are ideal if you want to learn a lot in a short space of time and you want to try lots of different things. The ‘Taste of Two Continents Food tour’ is a very popular option and takes you over both sides of the Bosphorus to try different cuisines.
Check Out The Spice Bazaar
Yes, it’s extremely busy, but it’s definitely worth visiting! This is the place to go if you want to buy authentic spices to take back home. It’s also a super Instagrammable spot, with colorful baskets of spices at every turn. It is also easy to find, as it is right next to the Grand Bazaar!
What You Should Eat In Istanbul
You will find simit absolutely everywhere in Istanbul, and it’s a handy go-to snack that will tide you over until mealtime! Basically, simit is a ring-shaped bread that is crusty and dipped in molasses to give it an extra shine, and you can eat it alone or with cheese, Nutella, or jam. Delicious and super cheap!
You’ll find this mainly around Eminonu, although most small restaurants serve this, too. Balik ekmek is a fillet of freshly caught fish in bread, and you can add a few seasonings of your choice.
The small boats along the waterside in Eminonu are bustling with people trying to grab this super-popular snack.
Also known as roasted chestnuts. You’ll find stalls selling these everywhere, particularly in Taksim, and they’re a handy snack to have in your bag as you walk around and take in the sights.
Breakfast isn’t complete without menemen! You’ll often see this described as a Turkish omelet, but it’s quite different in reality. All traditional restaurants and any that do a Turkish breakfast will serve menemen, and don’t be surprised if people eat it well after breakfast time!
Menemen is a mixture of peppers and tomato sauce with scrambled eggs, all mixed and eaten with fresh bread. Delicious!
If you’ve traveled to Greece, Bulgaria, or any of the Balkan countries, you’ll have seen a variation of borek. This pastry has various fillings, and it’s a true favorite.
You can eat it at breakfast or grab some on the go as a snack. The most popular fillings in Istanbul include cheese and spinach (peynir ve ispanak), minced meat (kiyma), and potato (patates).
A visit to Istanbul wouldn’t be complete without a doner kebab! You can have it in a wrap, pitta bread, or bread itself, or you can have it on a plate with chips, rice, and salad.
Of course, you can go for meat, chicken, or a mixture of both. One of the most famous places to enjoy doner is at Karadeniz Doner in Besiktas – but make sure you go early in the day because once that huge chunk of rotating meat has gone, it’s gone for the day!
Another super-popular meal or snack is pide. This is a flatbread with various toppings. It’s not hard to find pide in Istanbul, and you’ll also find it in Borek shops too.
The most popular fillings are just cheese, meat, minced meat, and onion, or cheese and sucuk, a type of fermented sausage extremely popular in Turkey.
On most streets, you’ll find a cart selling midye dolma, which is mussels. Freshly caught, eat these on the go with a squeeze of lemon!
You’ll hear lahmacun referred to as ‘Turkish pizza,’ but it’s not really the same at all! This is an extremely flat piece of dough with minced meat, tomatoes, onions, and herbs flattened down onto it and then baked in a scorching stone oven.
Once ready, add some green leaves, onions with sumac, a little tomato if you want, a squeeze of lemon, roll it up, and enjoy!
Besiktas and Fatih are great spots for fresh gozleme, which is another type of flatbread with different filings, basically the same as the fillings you’ll find in borek.
Gozleme is traditionally eaten at breakfast, but it’s a great snack at any time of the day; you can ask for it to go, rolled up and ready to eat.
One of Istanbul’s most famous street foods is kokorec, but it’s not for the faint-hearted! Kokorec is lamb intestines grilled over a hot fire, cut into tiny pieces, and served with salad on fresh bread. If you didn’t know it was lamb intestines, you’d think it was meat, but when you know …
Head down to Ortakoy, right next to the huge Bosphorus bridge, and you’ll find countless stalls, mostly selling super-sweet waffles and kumpir, aka jacket potato. However, this isn’t just a jacket potato with some cheese on top – oh no!
The jacket potatoes here are HUGE, and you can have as many toppings as you like; if you want sweetcorn with ketchup, chicken, and tuna, who are we to judge?
You’ll sometimes hear manti called a dumpling or ravioli, but it’s simply a tiny parcel pinched together with meat or vegetables.
Manti is either boiled and served with yogurt over the top or sometimes fried (citir manti) and served with yogurt.
Remember To Try These Drinks
- Ayran: a salty yogurt drink that most locals adore!
- Turkish coffee: known locally as Turk kahve, this is quite strong and has an earthy taste
- Cay: the famous Turkish tea found absolutely everywhere in Istanbul
- Raki: if you’re enjoying fish or kebabs in the evening, it would be rude not to try a glass of raki to wash it all down!
And Don’t Forget The Sweets
- Lokum: you’ll see Turkish delight referred to as lokum, and there are countless flavors to try. It’s definitely going to a market where they serve Turkish delight by weight rather than buying a box – it’s much fresher this way. You’ll also find small deep-fried balls of dough called lokum; they’re super-sweet but hit the spot!
- Kunefe: most traditional restaurants will have kunefe on their dessert menu. This is a small pie of spun pastry which is soaked in super-sweet syrup and honey. What’s inside? Cheese!
- Baklava: of course, you can’t go to Istanbul and not have some baklava, perhaps with some ice cream (dondurma). You’ll easily find baklava in Istanbul, and there are countless varieties to try.
Now you are set to get your fix of traditional Turkish food, try a tasting menu, dine on a rooftop terrace, and where to find the best wine list in town. I am sure one of these great restaurants is the perfect place for you.