‘Our top Istanbul Restaurant Recommendations, check out where to eat best local food in Istanbul’
This town is the ultimate foodie’s heaven where east meet west. You will find luxurious hip diners and hidden gems-cheap eats on the same street.
Turkish cuisine is as diverse as our culture. A blend of three empires, eight bordering countries, four neighbouring seas, and myriad ethnicities goes into our cuisine. Add to the mix generous amounts of spicy flavours from Southeast Asia and some Western gourmet influences, and you’ve got good food anywhere.
One of the few restaurants in Sultanahmet frequented by actual Istanbulites, Balıkçı Sabahattin is a busy meyhane* specializing in fish and mezes*.
Housed in a two story building with a lovely garden, Giritli is renowned for its spectacular selection of hot & cold mezes*, and unique fish dishes prepared with special herbs in the Mediterranean tradition of Turks who once lived on the island of Crete. Fixed menu.
Kebab heaven with selections including the famous Shish Kebab and flaming Testi Kebab. Excellent central location for those desiring a quick-but-delicious meal on the sightseeing circuit. Vegetarian options available.
Five minutes from the former residence of the sultans–the Topkapi Palace–experience Imperial Ottoman cuisine with authentic recipes resurrected from the royal court archives. Note the ornate ceiling flower-patterned glass dome, a reference to the magnificent Hagia Sophia museum a mere stone’s throw away.
This upscale restaurant is renowned for its fabulous city views. However impressive the panorama, it pales in comparison to the cuisine. The New York Times reviewed the menu as “Forward thinking, but deeply rooted and above all delicious.” Mikla is the place to indulge oneself for a special night on the town. The stylish rooftop bar is rumored to make the best Margaritas in Istanbul.
Meze by Lemon tree:
A small intimate restaurant with a cozy feel, attentive wait staff, and an impressive range of mezes*. Though the offerings are classics, some modern experimental dishes are also served–but always within the bounds of traditional Turkish cuisine. *Our tip for an amazing night on the town: Take in the views at the rooftop bar at Mikla (above), and then head across the street to Meze by Lemon Tree and dive into meze nirvana. You can have it all!
By no means a fancy establishment with haute cuisine. Rather, a simple and friendly eatery frequented by patrons looking for a quick, hearty, and delicious meal. Popular with vegetarians.
An “Ocakbaşı” is where meats are freshly prepared and cooked before your eyes, and Zübeyir Ocakbaşı has rightly earned the reputation as one of the best grills in İstanbul. Known for their legendary kebab dishes as well as salads and mezes. It’s not easy to stand out in a city chock-full with kebab restaurants. Zübeyir does so effortlessly.
A popular restaurant for both tourists and locals, Antiochia specialises exclusively in the cuisine of Antakya(in Hatay Province). Influenced by Syrian, Lebanese, Ottoman, and French culinary cultures, Antakya cuisine is famed for its spicy dishes and grilled meats. Antiochia offers all this and more—including unusual and surprising meze options, highly spiced and nuanced in flavour.
ISTANBUL UPMARKET RESTAURANTS
Nusr-Et Steak house Etiler:
A carnivore’s paradise owned by the former butcher now turned world-famous cultural icon “Salt Bae.” The venue is small and demand is high due to media exposure and Salt’s reputation for serving the highest quality meats. Make sure to reserve well ahead.
Modern Istanbul at its most glamorous with a clientele dressed to match. The menu offers both classic and modern dishes. Breathtaking views of the Bosphorus and main bridges from the terraces in summer. Check out the audacious chandeliers in the restaurant and adjoining bar. After hours turns into a chic night club.
RANA by Topaz:
A luxurious meyhane* with a lively ambiance, a wide selection of mezes*, and amazing views.
Tables bythe windows go fast, so book your seats a few days ahead. Live music on the weekends.
GOLDEN HORN RESTAURANTS
Near the Spice (Egyptian) Bazaar right on the Golden Horn (Halic), Hamdi has served the residents of
Istanbul mouth-watering kebabs since 1970. Get a table with window views for an experience you will not soon forget.
Balat Sahil Restaurant:
This old-world family owned meyhane is a hidden gem on the Golden Horn. Known for outstanding mezes*, there is no menu; one chooses the fresh meze* from what is displayed at the counter each day. You are guaranteed to come across dishes you’ve never heard of. As authentic as it gets.
AWAY FROM CITY CENTER
One of the oldest meat restaurants in Istanbul, Beyti has been open since 1945 and was named after itsfounder Beyti Guler. In fact, Beyti is the only living Turk to have a kebab named after him! Located near the Ataturk International Airport in Florya, Beyti is well worth the trip out from the city center.
ASIAN CONTINENT RESTAURANTS
This place is İstanbul’s culinary glory. Incredible variety of traditional dishes, making Ciya, a truly uniquerestaurant experience. Inspired by cuisines from Mesopotamia to the Ottomans, from the Balkans to the Caucasus and from Asia to the Arabian Peninsula, Georgian, Israeli/Jewish, Armenian and Syrian, a magnum opus of Anatolian food culture all at one single table. No alcohol served here but there are many bars in the neighbourhood.
Surrounded by nature preserves and streets lined with antique wooden houses, İsmet Baba is anunpretentious fish restaurant located on the Asian side of the Bosphorus in the peaceful neighbourhood of Kuzguncuk. Simple and delicious fresh fish. İsmet Baba retains what most modern establishments have lost: old-school Istanbul charm and character. This place is the real deal.
*The word Meyhane is of Persian origin. “Mey” roughly transliterating as wine, and “hane” as house. Historically the Meyhane were owned by members of İstanbul’s non-Muslim minority. Under Ottoman law the Meyhane were allowed to produce and sell their own wine and other alcoholic beverages—including the popular rakı—and operate as tavern-like restaurants.
*Meze is generally a shared selection of appetizers—hot or cold, spicy, savory, or sweet—that are served along with the omnipresent most popular alcoholic beverage in Turkey: Rakı. Meze can consist of basically anything that goes well with Rakı—vegetables, fish, or fruit. Usually served at the beginning of multi-course meals, Meze can easily be an entire meal in itself, as servers bring a huge tray to the table piled high with numerous mouth-watering options from which to choose.
*In general having a reservation is always a plus, not only to get a better table, but also to receive a warmer welcome. A 10-15 % tip is customary in Turkey.