Istanbul is one of the prettiest and most exciting cities in the entire world. Resting seductively between two continents, Asia and Europe, Istanbul has traditionally been a melting pot of cultures, religions and ethnicities like no other. No wonder why food in Istanbul is equally diverse and, thus, fascinating.
The city’s diversity is evident in the mouthwatering dishes of Turkish cuisine in the most eloquent way. A blend of tastes from the East and the West, food in Istanbul is actually a valid reason to visit the city in its own right. Here’s just a handful of the countless places where you can taste authentic food in beautiful Istanbul.
1. Asmali Cavit
When in Istanbul, you most certainly need to visit a meyhane at least once. Unlike other types of eateries in Istanbul, a meyhane serves alcoholic drinks alongside its delicious meze dishes. You won’t want to go to a meyhane if you just need to grab a quick bite and leave. This type of traditional restaurant is all about taking it slow and savouring the tastes while chatting the evening away over a glass of raki or two.
Asmali Cavit is by far the best meyhane we’ve visited in Istanbul. This is why it’s always packed with locals and, especially, on a Saturday it’s next to impossible to find a table without prior reservation. At Asmali Cavit, try as many different meze dishes as possible but make sure you taste the heavenly yalanci dolma (vine leaves stuffed with rice and seasoned with herbs).
Asmalı Mescit, Mahallesi, Asmalı Mescit Cd. 16/D, 34430 Beyoğlu, Istanbul
If you, like us, consider food an essential part of any given culture and you always want to try a destination’s typical dishes, then you should definitely pay Hayvore a visit. The latter is a lokanta, a no-frills restaurant serving traditional hearty food which tastes as good as any homemade meal.
Like in any other lokanta in Istanbul, at Hayvore you will be greeted by huge cauldrons filled to the brim with colourful freshly made food. This restaurant specializes in dishes from the Black Sea area so don’t miss the opportunity to try fried hamsi, a kind of fish which is very common in that region. Our personal favourite dish at Hayvore is kuru fasulye, a delicious stew made of dry white beans in a rich tomato sauce.
Tarihi Galatasaray hamamının, Turnacıbaşı Cad, olduğu Sokak No:4, 54300
3. Zübeyir Ocakbaşı
For meat lovers, Istanbul is heaven on earth. The most popular meat-based dish in Istanbul is hands down the kebab. A kebab is made of ground meat (usually lamb or beef or both), seasoned with spices and served with vegetables. There are hundreds upon hundreds of kebab places in Istanbul. Yet no place beats Zübeyir Ocakbaşı, a smart restaurant in the heart of Beyoglu, one of Istanbul’s best neighbourhoods.
Apart from the fact that Zübeyir Ocakbaşı serves only top quality meat, there’s yet another reason why you should visit this restaurant. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to sit by the grill and watch (or even participate) while your dish is being prepared.
Şehit Muhtar, 28, Bekar Sk., 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
4. Forno Balat
We love a good bakery and we always scout around for the best ones during our travels. Forno Balat is not a bakery in the strict sense as it’s home to a cosy seating area where you can take your time enjoying its delicacies in the most comfortable way. Keep in mind that you may have to wait in line to be seated but it’s totally worth it.
Situated in the cosy Fener neighbourhood, Forno Balat is where you’ll try the best pide (boat shaped dough with toppings of your choice), lahmacun (flat bread topped with minced meat and herbs) and menemen (scrambled eggs in tomato and pepper sauce) in Istanbul, so it’s essentially the ideal place for a filling brunch.
Balat, Vodina Caddesi, Fener Kireçhane Sk. No:13/A, 34087 Fatih/İstanbul
5. Hafiz Mustafa
Did you honestly think we would leave you without dessert? No way. Visiting Istanbul and missing out on its superb dessert options would be unacceptable. The best place to eat dessert to your heart’s content is at one of the Hafiz Mustafa pastry shops which are scattered across the city.
If you have a sweet tooth, then the Hafiz Mustafa pastry shops are going to be your favourite places in Istanbul. Everything we’ve tried there, from baklava (filo pastry with pistachio and butter) to künefe (a miracle of string pastry filled with cheese and doused in butter) to muhallebi (milk pudding that comes in many flavours), was simply and undoubtedly divine. So, perhaps you’ll need more than one trips to Hafiz Mustafa in order to appreciate these tastes to the fullest. That won’t be hard, though. There are Hafiz Mustafa shops literally everywhere in Istanbul.
Mimar Hayrettin Mah. Yeniçeriler Cad. No.39/1 Beyazıt, Fatih / Istanbul
Bahçekapı Hamidiye Cad. No.84/86 Eminönü, Fatih / Istanbul
Şenlikköy Mah. Yeşilköy Halkalı Cad. No.93/3 Aqua Florya AVM, Bakırköy / Istanbul
Katip Mustafa Çelebi Mah. İstiklal Cad. No.37/1-2-3-4 Beyoğlu / Istanbul
Gümüşsuyu Mah. Sıraselviler Cad. No.11 Beyoğlu / Istanbul
Mollafenari Mah. Nuruosmaniye Cad. no.44 Fatih / Istanbul
Kuloğlu Mah. İstiklal Cad. No.121/1 Beyoğlu / Istanbul
Hocapaşa Mah. Muradiye Cad. No.25/B Fatih / Istanbul
Sultanahmet Mah. Divanyolu Cad. Türk Edebiyat Vakfı No.14 Sultanahmet / Istanbul
Gümüşsuyu Mah. Sıraselviler Cad. No.7/B Beyoğlu / Istanbul
Mimar Sinan Mah. Hakimiyeti Milliye Cad. Atlas Sok. No.42 Üsküdar / Istanbul
Like the city’s countless charms, the list of amazing things to eat and where to eat them in Istanbul is endless. However, if you manage to visit all of these places during your trip to Istanbul you will definitely get a very good taste of how unique and diverse the Turkish cuisine is.
Authors: Katerina and Maria of It’s All Trip To Me
Katerina and Maria started It’s All Trip To Me in an effort to help people with full-time jobs, like themselves, travel more by making the most of their vacation time. With highly informative Travel Guides, carefully planned-out Itineraries and the best Travel Tips, they’re on a mission to inspire people to go out there and see the world one trip at a time. Katerina captures their travel moments to eternity through her camera while Maria is the one who puts them down on paper. They currently live in their hometown Athens but they have a strong passion for Italy, which they visit at least a couple of times every year. Follow their travels on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!