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From above, a table full of dishes including stuffed grape leaves, rice, meat, and chile sauce
Dinner spread at Mahir Lokantası
Mahir Lokantası / official

The 38 Essential Istanbul Restaurants

Where to find baklava, flame-blistered pide, juicy köfte, and a glass of pickle juice

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Dinner spread at Mahir Lokantası
| Mahir Lokantası / official

Few cities rival the immense character of Istanbul. Over centuries, it has been the epicenter of nations and home to many ethnicities and cultures. It’s also a melting pot of people from around Turkey. Transplants from the Aegean coast or Eastern Turkey, as well as immigrants from abroad, bring their own cuisines and cultures to pockets across Istanbul, lending unique dynamics to every neighborhood. Over the course of a day, visitors may find themselves wandering around kebab shops in an Eastern influenced area, perusing stores in a posh shopping district, relaxing with a cup of coffee at a laid back European-style cafe, or picking from the area’s freshest produce at a food market.

The dining options are infinite, from fish restaurants among the villas along the Bosphorus to classic street carts to mind-blowing fine dining. Visitors can enjoy a strong cup of Turkish coffee or surprising Turkish wines, a humble simit or perfect meatballs. On weekdays, busy workers grab breakfast on the go and spend little time at lunch, but the pace slows on the weekends and in the evenings. Locals flock to leisurely weekend breakfasts and spend evenings eating, drinking, and talking at favorite meyhanes (taverns) and restaurants. Even on the busiest days, though, there’s always time for tea and coffee, both indispensable parts of food culture in Turkey.

French antiquarian Petrus Gyllius wrote of Constantinople in 1561, “It seems to me that while other cities may be mortal, this one will remain as long as there are men on earth.” Here are immortal Istanbul’s essential restaurants.

Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.

Prices per person, excluding alcohol:

$ = Less than 50 lira (less than $8 USD)

$$ = 51 - 100 lira ($8 - $16 USD)

$$$ = 100 - 200 lira ($16 - $32 USD)

$$$$ = More than 200 lira (more than $32 USD)

Tuba Şatana is a food writer living in Istanbul. She is also creator and founder of Istanbul Food and Sapor İstanbul Food Symposium.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Aman Da Bravo Bistronomique

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Reşitpaşa Mahallesi, Emirgan Sk. No:20
34467 Sarıyer/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 277 15 16
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Tucked on a tranquil street in Reşitpaşa Sarıyer, away from the city center, Aman Da Bravo offers enough good food and cool ambience to make anyone a regular customer. The menu changes seasonally, but co-owners Melis Korkud and chef İnanç Baykar make sure the food and the service are always top notch. Braised lamb neck with artichokes, snap peas and collard greens infused with bergamot, and lima beans with chestnut mushrooms and goat cheese are just some of the exquisite yet simple dishes. [$$$]

A wide, shallow bowl of cooked mussels, onions and, other fixings on a sun-lit countertop
Moules marinières at Aman Da Bravo
Aman Da Bravo Bistronomique / official

2. Petra Roasting Co.

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Gayrettepe Mahallesi, Hoşsohbet Sokak Panorama Selenium Residence Mağaza 1
34349 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 356 10 53
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Soon after third-wave coffee hit town, Kaan Bergsen opened Petra Coffee Roasting in 2013. The roaster quickly became one of the best in town. The shop buys beans directly from the source and roasts them in small batches, so the coffee is always fresh. An espresso julep or sparkling Americano are always good ideas if you need something cold. [$]

A drink at Petra Roasting Co.
Photo: Petra Roasting Co.

3. Lahmacun at Tatbak

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Teşvikiye, Akkavak Sk. 38 B
34365 Nişantaşı Şişli/Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 248 04 25
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Locals enjoy lahmacun any time of day. The flatbread comes topped with meat, minced vegetables, and herbs, and it’s best with parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Never be afraid to fold it and eat it with your hands. Although the city is full of lahmacun shops, Tatbak’s version nails the perfect balance of crispy dough and meat topping. The restaurant has been open since 1960 in the posh Nişantaşı shopping district. In addition to lahmacun, other favorites include kuzu şiş (lamb skewers) and yoğurtlu kebab (meat kebabs with yogurt and tomato sauce served over cubes of pide bread). [$]

Flatbread at Tatbak
Photo by Tuba Şatana

4. Adana Ocakbasi

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Bozkurt Mahallesi, Bay Sungur Sk. No:2
34375 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 247 01 43
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Tucked away on a side street in the busy Kurtuluş neighborhood, this small, shabby grill was once a hidden gem, but now its reputation has spread all over the city. The restaurant’s signature dish is adana kebab, served with grilled tomatoes and peppers, thin lavash bread, and onions with sumac. Start with liver cubes on skewers, then sip raki and watch the usta (master cook) prepare your order on the charcoal fire as the heat slaps your face. Come spring, don’t miss the sweetbreads. [$$]

Kebab at Adana Ocakbaşı
Photo by Tuba Şatana

5. Cherry Liqueur–Filled Chocolate at Üstün Palmie Pastanesi

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Feriköy Mahallesi, Baruthane Cd. 63/A
34375 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 231 92 53
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Only a couple of patisseries make these legendary chocolates, and Üstün Palmie is the best. Everything, even the liqueur, is made on premises and in small batches. Once the chocolates are sold out for the season, you have to wait until next year. The shop is also known for its Easter bread with mahlep (pounded wild cherry pit), mastic, cakes, and ice-cold lemonade. [$$]

Chocolates at Üstün Palmiye Pastanesi
Photo by Tuba Şatana

6. Damla Dondurma

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Feriköy Mh., Kurtuluş cad. No:90
34377 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 233 49 25
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Everyone has a favorite flavor at this old-school ice cream parlor. Since 1989, the Tufan brothers have served up strawberry, lemon, caramel, tutti frutti, and sour cherry all year long. People line up for a taste of childhood, especially if the sun is shining, so be prepared to wait. Order by the scoop or take some home by the kilo. [$]

Ice cream at Damla Dondurma
Photo by Tuba Şatana

7. Karadeniz Pide ve Döner Salonu

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No:, Sinanpaşa Mahallesi, Mumcu Bakkal Sk. No:6
34353 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 261 76 93

Don't leave Istanbul without having a proper döner. Karadeniz Pide Doner does right by the big rotating luscious hunk of meat. They serve it, cut thinly with a big döner knife, atop house-made pide bread. You may also order it plain, as a sandwich, or in a wrap. Asım Usta starts serving his famous döner around 10.30 a.m. and it hardly lasts into the afternoon. Prepare to wait in line — it's worth it. [$]

Döner at Karadeniz Pide
Photo by Tuba Şatana

8. Menemen at Lades 2

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Katip Mustafa Çelebi Mahallesi, Sadri Alışık Sk. 11/12
34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 249 52 08
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In Turkey, breakfast can be many things: an array of cheeses, eggs cooked with sucuk (Turkish sausage) or pastırma (cured meat), an omelette, or simple boiled eggs. One of the most beloved breakfast stops in town is Lades 2. All day long the shop serves its famous menemen: eggs, tomatoes, and peppers cooked over immensely high heat. You may add chicken, cheese, or sucuk to taste, and you’ll need a lot of bread and tea as well. It’s fast, it’s delicious, and most importantly, it’s a local favorite. [$]

Breakfast at Lades 2
Photo by Tuba Şatana

9. Mastic Turkish Delight at Üç yıldız Şekerleme

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Hüseyinağa Mahallesi, Dudu Odaları Sk. No:7
34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 293 81 70
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Head to the bustling Beyoğlu Balık Pazarı, one of the city’s busiest areas, to try this nostalgic confectionery. Since 1926, the shop has tempted locals with colorful jars full of akide şekeri (hard candy), trays of fruit jellies, varieties of lokum (Turkish delight), and tahini halva. Delicious jams made from rose petal, quince, strawberry, fig, orange, and sour cherry are sold from old copper cauldrons, and the mastic Turkish delight melts in your mouth. It’s a delightful shop for picking up boxes of candy and Turkish delight to bring home. [$]

Turkish delight at Üç Yıldız Şekerleme
Photo by Tuba Şatana

10. Pickle Juice at Petek Turşuları

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Duduodaları Sokak 1d, Balıkpazarı, Balıkpazarı, Istanbul, Hüseyinağa Mahallesi
34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 249 13 24

Everything gets pickled in Turkey: cucumbers, green tomatoes, chiles, cabbage, beets, carrots, okra, garlic, plums, and the list goes on. The pickles are paired with meat, stews, and fish, while the pickle juice makes a refreshing drink. At Petek Turşuları, order a pickle juice and ask for your choice of pickles with it. Have a sip of the juice and take a bite of the crunchy, salty, sour pickles while admiring the colorful jars that surround you. Spicy or plain, bottoms up! [$]

Pickle juice at Petek Turşuları
Photo by Tuba Şatana

11. İçli Köfte at Sabırtaşı Restoran

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Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Istiklal Cd No:112
34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 251 94 23
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Keep an eye out for İçli köfte (deep fried bulgur meatball stuffed with ground meat, spices, and nuts). It’s a classic street snack around town. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, the version at the Sabırtaşı Restoran stall is perfectly balanced. Grab one as you walk down İstiklal, and be prepared to turn around to grab more. [$]

İçliköfte at  Sabırtaşı
Photo by Tuba Şatana

12. Mandabatmaz

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Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Olivia Geçidi 1/A
34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 243 77 37
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Turkish coffee is a ritual. The cup of thick coffee should be sipped slowly while chatting with friends or while enjoying a moment alone with a newspaper. Tucked into a small alley, this small coffee house is popular among locals for offering the strongest cup. “Mandabatmaz” literally means “the buffalo won’t sink in,” a reference to the coffee’s thick foam. Take a seat at the unhurried cafe, order your coffee, and slow down. [$]

Turkish coffee at Mandabatmaz
Photo by Tuba Şatana

13. Specialty Turkish Coffee at Kronotrop Coffee Bar & Roastery

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Kuloğlu Mh., Firuzağa Cami Sk. No:4
34433 Cihangir/Beyoğlu/Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 249 92 71
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Coffee, especially traditional Turkish coffee, is indispensable to daily life in Istanbul. A pioneer of the third-wave coffee movement, Kronotrop played an important role in taking Turkish coffee to a new level. With a methodic and technical approach, they brew single origin beans and pour Turkish coffee from redesigned copper pots. Compare their version to a cup from a standard Istanbul cafe and you’ll see the difference. Kronotrop has three branches around the city and a big roastery in Maslak. [$]

Turkish Coffee at Kronotrop
Photo: Kronotrop

14. Kazandibi at Özkonak Muhallebicisi

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Kılıçali Paşa Mh., Akarsu Ykş. No:46
34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 249 13 07

When it comes to puddings, yogurt, and kaymak (clotted cream), the place to go is Özkonak. Walking into the shop, founded in 1962 in bohemian Cihangir, is like walking into a time machine. Puddings, lined up in a display case by the windows, draw in customers, but you’re here for one thing: the kazandibi, a milk pudding made with shredded chicken (yes, chicken!). It’s thick, strong, and addictive, especially with cinnamon on top. [$]

Kazandibi at Özkonak
Photo by Tuba Şatana

15. Mikla

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The Marmara Pera Meşrutiyet Caddesi 15 34430, Beyoğlu, İstanbul, Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi
34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 293 56 56
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Chef-owner Mehmet Gürs launched his New Anatolian cuisine at Mikla in 2012, and many imitators have followed. The menu reflects Gürs's Turkish-Scandinavian heritage, as well as the years he spent exploring local traditions and rich food culture all over Anatolia, and the kitchen honors ingredients from artisans and small producers with careful preparations. For a special night out, order the tasting menu and get the Turkish wine pairing too. There’s nothing else like it in town. [$$$$]

A modernist dish at Mikla
Photo: Mikla

16. Karnıyarık at Şahin Lokantası

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Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Orhan Adlı Apaydın Sk. 11/A
34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 244 25 43

This restaurant’s trademark dish is karnıyarık: eggplant stuffed with mincemeat, onions, and spices, best enjoyed with pilaf and cacık (a refreshing yogurt dish with diced cucumber and mint). The eggplants, displayed on a big tray, are almost always gone by early afternoon. Save room for the kadayıf (shredded dough as thin as angel hair pasta) cooked until golden with a crunchy top, soft interior, and a layer of walnuts in the middle. [$]

Karnıyarık at Sahin Lokantasi
Photo by Tuba Şatana

17. Asmalı Cavit

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Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Asmalı Mescit Cd. 16/D
34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 292 49 50

The quintessential Turkish dining experience consists of a long night at a meyhane, sitting around a table with friends and ordering all sorts of mezze with lots of rakı (anise-scented alcohol). The fantastic mezze at Asmalı Cavit include eggplant salad, tarama (fish roe spread), fava beans, marinated sea bass, lakerda (salted bonito), samphire salad, şakşuka (mixed fried vegetables with yogurt and tomato sauce), and more. After cold mezzes, continue with yaprak ciğer (thin slices of liver served with onion) and just keep going. Mezze is a way of life, and Asmalı Cavit is a favorite among locals and chefs in town. Şerefe! [$$$]

Mezze spread at Asmalı Cavit
Photo: Courtesy Asmalı Cavit

18. Yeni Lokanta

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Tomtom Mahallesi, Kumbaracı Ykş. No:66
34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 292 25 50
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Yeni's simple yet elegant decor can transport you away from the noise of Istiklal just outside, especially when servers bring burnt butter and sourdough bread to your table, offering a sneak peak of the rest of the night. Chef-owner Civan Er skillfully incorporates local ingredients into modern Turkish cooking. The menu could include paçanga (air-dried cured beef wrapped in grape leaves), zucchini flowers, dried eggplant mantı (ravioli), and hummus. The special sucuk (sausage) served over bean puree is so good you may want to order seconds. Yeni Lokanta is a great venue for a weekday dinner. [$$$]

Dining room at Yeni Lokanta
Photo: Courtesy Yeni Lokanta

19. Galata Simitçisi

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Kemankeş Mah., Mumhane Cd. 47/A
34425 Karaköy - Beyoğlu/Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 244 77 75
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Simit, a sesame-coated ring of dough, is the most common all-day street food in Istanbul. Although it can be found in every corner of the city, few are as delicious as the version at Galata Simitçisi. Buying one directly from a simit bakery guarantees it will be crispy and fresh. Why settle for mediocre when you can have the best? In addition to a simit, try a çatal, a semi-savory cookie that crumbles in the mouth (“çatal” literally means fork, which it resembles). Both are great with Turkish tea. [$]

Sesame-coated simit at Galata Simitçi
Photo by Tuba Şatana

20. Mürver

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Kemankes Kara Mustafa Pasa Mah, Kemankeş Cd. 57-59
34425 Karaköy/Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 372 07 50
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The Mürver team cook everything from steak to calamari to vegetables on an open fire, serving dishes with all the drippings. Lunch and dinner menus differ, but service is always attentive. Chef Yılmaz Öztürk serves a dreamy octopus dish, the perfect appetizer before succulent Thracian lamb. Don’t skip the cracklings, presented with firik, salty yogurt, and bitter apricot compote. Go to be dazzled by the Historical Peninsula restaurant, and stick around for the excellent cocktails. [$$$]

Octopus dish at Mürver 
Photo by Derya Turgut

21. Nato Lokantası

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Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi, Necatibey Caddesi Karanlık Fırın Sk.no.4 Karaköy
34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 249 64 24
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Esnaf lokantası are tradesmen’s restaurants where workers can enjoy a traditional Turkish home-cooked meal away from home. One of the best examples is Nato, which has been serving the Karaköy neighborhood since 1952. The menu of vegetable stews, soups, pilafs, and meat dishes changes daily, but everything is displayed on hot plates. Whatever you choose is served immediately to your table, like an open buffet but better. Kuzu haşlama (braised lamb with light lemon sauce) is not to be missed, and don’t leave without trying a half portion of döner on pilaf. Be prepared to share your table with a complete stranger, too. [$]

A traditional plate at at Nato Lokantası
Photo by Tuba Şatana

22. Neolokal

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Arap Cami Mahallesi, Bankalar Cd. No:11
34420 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 244 00 16
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Inside Salt Galata, a former bank in Karaköy that’s been transformed into a modern art gallery, chef Maksut Aşkar serves modern interpretations of local dishes from throughout Anatolia. The food looks so pretty, you may not want to eat it, and the view overlooking the Historical Peninsula and the Golden Horn is spectacular, too. [$$$]

A dish at Neolokal
Photo by Seren Dal

23. Tarihi Karaköy Balık Lokantası

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Arap Cami Mahallesi, Tersane Caddesi & Kardeşim Sokak Grifin Han D:45/A
34420 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 251 13 71

On a small street lined with hardware shops, you will find the best grilled fish in town. A display set in the restaurant’s small windowsill shows off the most appetizing fish, some of which will soon be your lunch. Start with skewered shrimp and a crunchy salad, but be sure to order the sea bass en papillote, cooked in parchment paper with tomatoes on the charcoal grill. Lunch only. [$$]

A dish at Tarihi Karaköy Balık Lokantası
Photo by Tuba Şatana

24. Cankurtaran Gıda

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Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, Ragıp Gümüşpala Cad. Çiçek pazarı Sokak Mısır Çarşısı No:33
34116 Eminönü/Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 527 14 74
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The Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, is more than just a tourist destination. Even locals come for Cankurtaran Gıda, a market stall famous for high quality goods since 1964. Wares include cheeses from all around Turkey, plus the best pastırma (cured meat), sucuk (sausage), honey, and olives in town. Do not leave without tulum, ewe’s milk cheese ripened in a goatskin casing. It's pungent and earthy, and hails from Erzincan in the southeastern part of the country. [$$]

Cankurtaran Gıda
Photo by Tuba Şatana

25. Şehzade Cağ Kebap

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Hoca Paşa Mahallesi, Ankara Caddesi & Hoca Paşa Sokak 3/A
34112 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 520 33 61

Cağ kebabı is like the ancestor of döner. The lamb meat is sliced thicker than döner, and cooked on horizontally a big skewer over hot charcoal. Cut and served on small skewers called cağ, the meat is succulent, and best devoured with thin lavash bread, onion, ezme (spicy tomato and herb salad), and yogurt. The dish made its way to Istanbul years ago from Erzurum, a city in eastern Turkey, and Şehzade is the best place to try it. For dessert, try the kadayıf dolması, a fried sweet filled with nuts and soaked in simple syrup. [$]

Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı
Photo by Tuba Şatana

26. Hocapaşa Pidecisi

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Hoca Paşa Mahallesi, Ankara Caddesi & Hoca Paşa Sokak No:11
34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 512 09 90
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Since 1964 this small shop has served humble, delicious pide to residents of the Sirkeci neighborhood. The flatbread is prepared to order and topped with kıyma (ground meat, spices, tomato), pastırma (cured meat), kavurma (confit of meat), and peynir (cheese). The usta (master cook) will prepare your pide right before your eyes, patting the dough, topping it, and placing it in the wood-burning oven. The kavurmalı pide is especially good, the fat of the meat melting into the dough in the oven, and it pairs well with pickles and ayran (yogurt drink). It doesn’t get more local than this. [$]

Pide at Hocapaşa Pidecisi
Photo by Tuba Şatana

27. Baylan Pastanesi

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Caferağa Mahallesi, Muvakkıthane Cd. No:19
34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
(0216) 346 63 50
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One of the oldest pastry shops in the city, Baylan Pastanesi is famous for its kup griye, an ice cream dessert made with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, whipped cream, and almond brittle. It goes especially well with an espresso. If that sounds like too much, Baylan’s petit fours, ice cream cakes, and homemade chocolates will satisfy any sweet tooth. A classic charmer, Baylan is a perfect reason to visit the Asian side of town. [$]

Kup Griye at Baylan
Photo: Baylan

28. Çiya Sofrası

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Caferağa Mahallesi, Güneşli Bahçe Sk. No:43
34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
(0216) 330 31 90
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Take the ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul for a true taste of Anatolia. Çiya Sofrası acts as a memorial kitchen, serving the forgotten dishes of what chef-owner Musa Dağdeviren calls “peasant food.” Start with the salads and mezzes, then move to the seasonal stews on the hot plate. Don’t forget to save some room for the rich lamb kebabs cooked on charcoal. The food at Çiya delivers bold, vibrant, uplifting flavors. Prepare to be amazed. [$$]

The kitchen at Çiya Sofrası
Photo by Tuba Şatana

29. Basta Street Food Bar

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Caferağa Mahallesi, Sakız Sk. No:1
34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
(0216) 414 08 65

Chefs Kaan Sakarya and Derin Arıbaş opened this small corner bistro in Moda and started serving dürüm (wraps), lamb brisket, homemade lamb sausage, smoked chicken, and beef ribs. You may also hear locals raving about the restaurant’s hummus and sütlaç, a milk pudding with rice. The chefs’ backgrounds in haute cuisine make everyday comfort food into a treat. [$]

A dish at Basta Street Food
Photo: Basta / Instagram

30. Beyti

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Şenlikköy Mahallesi, Orman Sk. No:8
34153 Bakırköy/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 663 29 90
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Although far from the city center, Beyti is an institution that has served meat lovers since 1945. Housed within a modern Ottoman Turkish-style building, the restaurant serves prime cuts hand-picked by owner Beyti Güler. Start with zeytinyağlı (vegetable dishes braised in olive oil) then move on to su böreği (börek pastry made with phyllo dough and cheese) and a mixed grill plate. Then enjoy the Beyti kebab or a rack of lamb. This Istanbul classic is popular for lunch and dinner. [$$$]

Turkish spread at Beyti
Photo: Beyti

31. Mahir Lokantası

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Cumhuriyet, Tavukçu Fethi Sk. 28/B
34380 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 234 93 94
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In the buzzy business district of Şişli, Mahir Lokantası is a humble locals hangout that serves food inspired by eastern Turkey, home of owner Mahir Nazlıcan. Born to a family of restaurateurs, Nazlıcan is always on the premises making sure customers enjoy their meals. The menu offers specials each day of the week, and regulars show up on certain days to enjoy their favorite plates, like kuru dolma (stuffed dried vegetables), içli köfte (meat stuffed bulgur balls), kuzu incik (lamb shank), vegetables stews, rice dishes, hearty soups, and one of the best lahmacun (meat-covered flatbread) in town. Don’t miss kadayıf and semolina for dessert, along with some tea. [$$]

From above, a table full of dishes including stuffed grape leaves, rice, meat, and chile sauce
A full spread at Mahir Lokantası
Mahir Lokantası / official

32. Giritli Restaurant

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Cankurtaran, Keresteci Hakkı Sk. No:8
34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 458 22 71
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Whether you’re dining in the courtyard in the summer or inside the historic mansion in winter, a meal at Giritli offers a truly relaxing experience on the Historical Peninsula. The restaurant serves Aegean cuisine by way of Crete, home of owner Ayşe Şensılay’s grandparents. On weekends the restaurant offers a prix fixe menu while on weekdays diners can also order a la carte, but in either case menu items change due to availability and season. Start your night with countless cold mezzes, before moving on to hot mezzes, and finally fish or meat for a main course. Look for girit mezesi (a spread of goat cheese, green olives, garlic, and walnuts), grilled octopus, seasonal wild greens, denizci pilavı (rice cooked with spices and seafood), and köpoğlu (fried vegetables topped with garlic yogurt). [$$$]

Patio tables set with gingham tablecloths on a stone patio beneath shading trees with a large house wrapping around the courtyard
Patio seating at Giritli
Giritli Restaurant / official

33. Pandeli Lokantası

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Mısır Çarşısı No: 1, Rüstem Paşa
34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 527 39 09
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The story starts with Pandeli Çobanoğlu, who served piyaz (bean salad) from a street cart near the Spice Market until he worked his way up to this iconic restaurant. Today Pandeli Lokantası is one of the oldest restaurants in town, with 119 years of history and a list of historic guests like Winston Churchill, Audrey Hepburn, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Located on the first floor of the Spice Market, the space mesmerizes guests with its iconic blue tiles, but many diners sit looking out at the ferries and trams passing through Eminönü Square. Pandeli serves classic Istanbul cuisine with a couple modern twists thrown in. The signature dishes are divine, including hünkar beğendi (charcoal-roasted eggplant, pureed with milk, butter, and cheese, then served with tomato braised veal), dönerli patlıcan böreği (eggplant pie topped with döner), lamb shank with mashed spinach, sea bass en papillote, almond cookies, vişne tiridi (bread soaked in cherry syrup, served with clotted cream). [$$$]

A corner table with dark leather banquet and chairs beneath bright blue tiled walls and a window looking out on Istanbul
A table with a view at Pandeli Lokantası
Pandeli Lokantası / official

34. Apartıman Yeniköy

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Yeniköy, Köybaşı Cd. No:153
34464 Sarıyer/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 223 44 77
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What began as a neighborhood bistro has become a destination for Sunday breakfast, killer cocktails in the evening, and farm-to-table dishes all the time. Murat Kazdal runs the operation while his sister Burçak leads the kitchen. Chef Kazdal is obsessed with sourcing quality ingredients, which she uses to apply subtle flourishes to classic Istanbul recipes. Specials change by the season, the week, and even daily, but keep an eye out for pekmezli patlıcan (fried eggplant drizzled with molasses), midyeli pazı salma (swiss chard wrap containing rice and mussels), and cuttle fish casserole. With the restaurant’s good food and cool vibes, it’s easy to become a regular. [$$$$]

A swing-top jar with chunky spread and wooden serving spoon beside slices of toasted bread and pickled vegetables
Eel bergamot stew served with bread and pickles at Apartıman Yeniköy
Apartıman Yeniköy / official

35. Kıyı Restaurant

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Tarabya, Haydar Aliyev Cd. No:186 D:A
34457 Sarıyer/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 262 00 02
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Open since 1966, Kıyı is an iconic fish and seafood restaurant located right on the water (“kıyı” means “coast” in Turkish). It’s the place to try classic seafood dishes like tarama (a spread made with fish roe, olive oil, and lemon), lakerda (salt dried bonito), midye dolma (rice-stuffed mussels), fried calamari, and octopus salad. From beans braised in olive oil to a meticulous selection of seasonal fish cooked delicately, Kıyı is still the best of its kind. [$$$$]

A wood-paneled dining room with bright illustrations on the walls and white tablecloths and place settings on the tables
The dining room at Kıyı
Kıyı / official

36. Karaköy Lokantası

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Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, Kemankeş Cd. No:37 A
34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 292 44 55
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A modern tradesmen restaurant by day, and a meyhane (tavern) by night, Karaköy is popular among whitecollar workers, artists, writers, and lovers of good food from Istanbul and abroad. At lunch diners choose from a daily menu, while at night they line up to choose mezzes from a display case. Options often include olive oil-braised artichokes, fried liver, chile oil-topped yogurt, beyin söğüş (simmered lamb brain served cold, drizzled with olive oil), spinach roots cooked with olive oil, kidney bean salad, fried liver, crispy fried zucchini, calamari, octopus, and seasonal fish. Reservations are only offered for dinner and tables can be hard to come by, so reserve a week in advance or try your luck walking in for lunch. [$$$]

A table set with white tablecloth and dishes including dips, bread, meat, and stuffed grape leaves, against a sunny shaded window
Lunch at Karaköy Lokantası
Karaköy Lokantası / official

37. Araka

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Yeniköy, Yeniköy Mahallesi, Kapalı Bakkal Sk. No:8
34464 Sarıyer/İstanbul, Turkey
(0212) 223 72 23
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After the popular MüzedeChanga closed, the restaurant’s chef, Pınar Taşdemir, opened her own simple, eloquent restaurant at the end of 2018. Araka was a hit from day one thanks to Taşdemir’s contemporary, refreshing cooking, both in her a la carte and tasting menus. She shows off her skills in signature vegetable dishes (“araka” translates to “pea” in Turkish) like beetroots braised in olive oil topped with cheese mousse and purslane salad with mashed fava beans, building complementary flavors across different dishes like sea bass ceviche, smoked bonito with collard greens, and lamb with onions. [$$$$]

A dining room with exposed brick wall, many octopus-like pendant lights, and empty wood tables set for a meal
The dining room at Araka
Araka / official

38. Alaf Kuruçeşme

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Kuruçeşme, Kuruçeşme Cd. No:19
34345 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
0532 015 94 19
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Chef Deniz Temel says his cooking tells a story about his nomadic roots. At Alaf Kuruçeşme, his dishes wander across Turkey, reflecting flavors and characteristics from seven regions. You can feel the heat and generosity of Şanlıurfa in his kıyma (soupy, cracked wheat salad served with meat tartar) and the breeze of the Aegean in the restaurant’s sea urchins. From the dried meat from Thrace to the selection of Anatolian cheeses, the gastronomic journey always feels fresh and exciting. The restaurant’s location overlooking the Bosphorus doesn’t hurt either. [$$$$]

A bowl of stew with a large meatball in the center on a slate table with table setting
Kıyma at Alaf Kuruçeşme
Alaf Kuruçeşme / offical

1. Aman Da Bravo Bistronomique

Reşitpaşa Mahallesi, Emirgan Sk. No:20, 34467 Sarıyer/İstanbul, Turkey
A wide, shallow bowl of cooked mussels, onions and, other fixings on a sun-lit countertop
Moules marinières at Aman Da Bravo
Aman Da Bravo Bistronomique / official

Tucked on a tranquil street in Reşitpaşa Sarıyer, away from the city center, Aman Da Bravo offers enough good food and cool ambience to make anyone a regular customer. The menu changes seasonally, but co-owners Melis Korkud and chef İnanç Baykar make sure the food and the service are always top notch. Braised lamb neck with artichokes, snap peas and collard greens infused with bergamot, and lima beans with chestnut mushrooms and goat cheese are just some of the exquisite yet simple dishes. [$$$]

Reşitpaşa Mahallesi, Emirgan Sk. No:20
34467 Sarıyer/İstanbul, Turkey

2. Petra Roasting Co.

Gayrettepe Mahallesi, Hoşsohbet Sokak Panorama Selenium Residence Mağaza 1, 34349 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
A drink at Petra Roasting Co.
Photo: Petra Roasting Co.

Soon after third-wave coffee hit town, Kaan Bergsen opened Petra Coffee Roasting in 2013. The roaster quickly became one of the best in town. The shop buys beans directly from the source and roasts them in small batches, so the coffee is always fresh. An espresso julep or sparkling Americano are always good ideas if you need something cold. [$]

Gayrettepe Mahallesi, Hoşsohbet Sokak Panorama Selenium Residence Mağaza 1
34349 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey

3. Lahmacun at Tatbak

Teşvikiye, Akkavak Sk. 38 B, 34365 Nişantaşı Şişli/Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
Flatbread at Tatbak
Photo by Tuba Şatana

Locals enjoy lahmacun any time of day. The flatbread comes topped with meat, minced vegetables, and herbs, and it’s best with parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Never be afraid to fold it and eat it with your hands. Although the city is full of lahmacun shops, Tatbak’s version nails the perfect balance of crispy dough and meat topping. The restaurant has been open since 1960 in the posh Nişantaşı shopping district. In addition to lahmacun, other favorites include kuzu şiş (lamb skewers) and yoğurtlu kebab (meat kebabs with yogurt and tomato sauce served over cubes of pide bread). [$]

Teşvikiye, Akkavak Sk. 38 B
34365 Nişantaşı Şişli/Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey

4. Adana Ocakbasi

Bozkurt Mahallesi, Bay Sungur Sk. No:2, 34375 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
Kebab at Adana Ocakbaşı
Photo by Tuba Şatana

Tucked away on a side street in the busy Kurtuluş neighborhood, this small, shabby grill was once a hidden gem, but now its reputation has spread all over the city. The restaurant’s signature dish is adana kebab, served with grilled tomatoes and peppers, thin lavash bread, and onions with sumac. Start with liver cubes on skewers, then sip raki and watch the usta (master cook) prepare your order on the charcoal fire as the heat slaps your face. Come spring, don’t miss the sweetbreads. [$$]

Bozkurt Mahallesi, Bay Sungur Sk. No:2
34375 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey

5. Cherry Liqueur–Filled Chocolate at Üstün Palmie Pastanesi

Feriköy Mahallesi, Baruthane Cd. 63/A, 34375 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
Chocolates at Üstün Palmiye Pastanesi
Photo by Tuba Şatana

Only a couple of patisseries make these legendary chocolates, and Üstün Palmie is the best. Everything, even the liqueur, is made on premises and in small batches. Once the chocolates are sold out for the season, you have to wait until next year. The shop is also known for its Easter bread with mahlep (pounded wild cherry pit), mastic, cakes, and ice-cold lemonade. [$$]

Feriköy Mahallesi, Baruthane Cd. 63/A
34375 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey

6. Damla Dondurma

Feriköy Mh., Kurtuluş cad. No:90, 34377 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey