The cuisine and food scene in Istanbul

Gastronomy in Istanbul
Updated 2024-02-24 17:07

Discovering the local cuisine is, without a doubt, part of exploring the culture of your new city. Besides leisure activities like concerts, museums, contemporary art, theaters, etc., you will also get a lot of time to enjoy the vibrant food scene. Here is a tasty tour of Istanbul for the foodies.

Popular dishes in Istanbul

If you are around the old city, you should definitely try the kurufasulye, which is a very popular dish. Some of the best places to eat this local specialty are found around Topkapı and Dolmabahçe Palaces.

Street food lovers can grab a delicious simit (Turkish bagel) and tea anywhere across the city. Most people prefer to get their simit at the vaporettos or ships crossing from Anatolia to Europe.

Mantı is another popular Turkish dish and you can get the best versions in Nişantaşı and Şişli areas.

Istanbul is also known for the famous ‘balik ekmek' — literally translated as “fish bread”. This simple yet delicious sandwich consists of freshly grilled fish, often mackerel served in a loaf of bread with onions, a sprinkle of sumac, and sometimes lettuce and tomato. The key to its irresistible taste lies in the freshness of the fish, grilled right on the boat or at the waterfront. The best places to enjoy authentic balık ekmek are along the shores of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Eminönü, located near the Galata Bridge on the European side of Istanbul, is particularly famous for this delicacy.

Eating out in Istanbul

If you are a fan of Turkish food and music, gastropubs and restaurant bars are always an excellent choice. Some restaurants also end up as bars or pubs later at night. It is better to check with the restaurant if you are looking for an after-party. Sunset and Ulus29 are the most popular bar restaurants with good music.

If you are looking for more local pubs, TopaÄacı and Sıraselviler are go-to neighborhoods with many small bars serving great food.

Meze restaurants are very popular in Istanbul as they serve small mezes along with Raki, which is the traditional Turkish drink. Şişhane is the best place to find meze restaurants. Duble Meze and Roof Meze are the most popular meze bars and restaurants in Istanbul.

Istanbul is also about fish restaurants. Most of the fish restaurants are serving mezes. Fish mezes and traditional Turkish mezes are two different things. The best place to discover traditional fish mezes is along the coastal part of the Bosporus, like in Kuruçeşme and Balat on the European side of the city. On the Anatolian side, head to Beylerbeyi and Ãengelköy.

Turkish desserts are another essential part of the local cuisine. Lokma is one of the most popular desserts in Istanbul, and you can get the best of them in Kadıköy'. Lokma is made with a special pastry and served with limonata (lemon juice and sugar).

Expert tip to understanding the food scene in Istanbul

If you are eager to experience Turkish street food in one quick stroll, consider a visit to Istiklal. İstiklal Avenue is more than just a street; it's a vibrant showcase of Turkish culinary culture. Each food stall and tiny café offers a unique taste of Türkiye: from signature döner kebab to the street food classic - the hearty kumpir (a baked potato filled with melted butter and a variety of toppings).

Useful link:

Michelin Guide Istanbul

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