Istanbul Dining

Original open uri20160815 3469 4us5sd?1471296740?ixlib=rails 0.3
Istanbul Dining
Istanbul's culinary scene is manna for foodie visitors. From the famous doner meat that's sliced straight off the skewer to modern cuisine that puts new spins on Anatolian classics, travelers will delight in Turkish flavors.
By Jessica Lee , AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Moritz Hoffmann/age fotostock
  • 1 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 4us5sd?1471296740?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Experience a Meyhane
    The best place to let your hair down in Istanbul is at a meyhane. Part tavern and part restaurant, a meyhane will charm you with its wandering musicians who serenade diners. The menu is mostly meze (shared small plates), and the drink of choice is raki, a spirit mixed with water until it turns a creamy white. Meyhanes aren't meant for a quick bite. Instead, you'll find both a good meal and a boisterous night of entertainment. For the finest meyhane meze, head to Asmali Cavit in Beyoglu.
    Photo by Moritz Hoffmann/age fotostock
  • 2 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1hv7tix?1471296744?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Turkish Treats
    Istanbul is both a sweet tooth's dream and your dentist's nightmare. Like grown-up versions of Willy Wonka's factory, shops throughout the city are crammed with pyramid piles of lokum (Turkish delight) and trays of pistachio-filled, honey-soaked baklava. For a sugar fix fit for a sultan, go to the famed confectionery emporium Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir in Eminonu. Established in 1777, the store was the first to make rosewater lokum. Continue your sweet tour down the hill at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, where luscious sticky treats are stacked high on the stalls.
    Photo by Megan McMurray
  • 3 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 ydayag?1471296749?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Modern Meze
    Turkish cuisine has undergone a makeover in the past decade. First fashionable in the Ottoman era, meze are snack-sized morsels that can serve as a starter or make up an entire feast. You'll find such traditional meze dishes as acili ezme (spicy tomato and onion salad) and sigara boregi (deep-fried, cigar-shaped pastries) on menus everywhere, but a wave of modern Turkish restaurants are cherry-picking popular classics and giving them fresh twists. The Beyoglu district is spearheading the trend with such restaurants as Meze by Lemon Tree and Lokanta Maya, which fuse Eastern and Western influences to create exciting new meze.
    Photo courtesy of Backpacker Concierge
  • 4 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1sgsliu?1471296755?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Fill Up at Borekcis
    A meal on the go is easy in a city filled with borekcis. These traditional bakeries serve hearty parcels called borek that make a filling lunch or midmorning snack while you're pounding the pavement. Cheese, spinach, potato, or meat is layered on flaky yufka (phyllo) pastry to make this hearty and filling Turkish pie. Look for su boregi (water borek); the dough for this specialty is boiled in water, stuffed with a filling, and then baked in the oven. Borek is usually sold by weight from hole-in-the-wall shops where you can order to eat in or take out. Glammed-up versions also make an appearance on many restaurant menus.
    Photo by Roberto Giobbi/age fotostock
  • 5 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1s1y2eb?1471296761?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Lunch at a Lokanta
    A lokanta is a lunchtime working-man restaurant where you choose from a selection of dishes displayed in a bain-marie. At these eateries, you can delve into traditional Turkish cooking and sample dolma (stuffed vegetables), stews, and the ubiquitous mercimek corbası (lentil soup) beloved by Turks. This is no-frills, local dining at its best and highlights the country's fresh flavors. If you're looking for lunch in Sultanahmet, make a beeline for Sefa Restaurant, a spot popular with locals near the Grand Bazaar. Or walk down Hocapasa Sokak, where you can pick from a range of lokantas on a street seemingly devoted to providing good value at lunchtime.
    Photo courtesy of Backpacker Concierge
  • 6 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1jq8vo7?1471296765?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Anatolian Flavors
    Turkey's heartland is Anatolia—its vast Asian territory—and migrants have brought the rich culinary traditions of the land to Istanbul's restaurant scene. You can sample the tangy flavors of the Hatay province at Antiochia Restaurant in Beyoglu, or the spices of southeast Anatolia at Ciya Sofrasi in Kadikoy. If you want to explore more of what the country's farthest corners have to offer, though, visit the Fatih district, which is full of delis that sell spices and cheese from the east. This is also a top place to discover the succulent, slow-cooked specialties of buryan (pit-baked lamb) and perde pilavi (pastry stuffed with spiced pilaf), which originated in the Siirt province.
    Photo courtesy of Backpacker Concierge
  • 7 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 xeglae?1471296769?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Street Eats
    Istanbul is a city made for street snacking. Everywhere you look, you'll see vendors selling grilled corn and freshly baked simit (sesame bread rings) from carts and stalls hawking doner kebaps and kumpir (baked potatoes). The fish sandwich is the most famous bite; grab one in Eminonu and eat it while walking over the Galata Bridge. Some of the city's other on-the-go snacks are slightly more unusual, such as the ground meat and bulgur balls called icli kofte. And don't leave town without trying an islak burger (wet burger). This garlicky meat patty is smothered in relish and then steamed in a bun.
    Photo by Riccardo Sala/age fotostock
  • 8 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 z0qrl9?1471296775?ixlib=rails 0.3
    King of the Kebabs
    Turkey is the home of the kebap (kebab), and grilled meat in a dizzying array of varieties continues to dominate Istanbul's culinary scene. Popular menu items include fistikli kebap (minced, pistachio-encrusted lamb meat), patlican kebap (skewers of meat with chunks of smoky eggplant), and Adana kebap (slightly spicy minced meat served with onions and parsley). Carnivorous visitors should stop by Zubeyir Ocakbası in Beyoglu for top-quality meat. And if you're shopping in the Grand Bazaar, take a lunch break at Gaziantep Burc Ocakbası. You'll be ready for more haggling after sampling the grilled goodness here.
    Photo courtesy of Backpacker Concierge
  • 9 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1xo4q1k?1471296779?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Foodie Tours
    Dig into Istanbul's culinary roots and you'll find a mix of Iranian, Armenian, Arabic, Mediterranean, and Anatolian influences. This fusion of flavors from ethnic communities, migrants from the countryside, and traders and travelers throughout Turkey's history has made Istanbul a foodie epicenter. If you're serious about eating, there's no better way to discover Istanbul than through a food-focused tour. Backpacker Concierge runs culinary immersion tasting walks and cooking classes, while Culinary Backstreets explores the ever-changing face of the city's cuisine on three city walks.
    Photo courtesy of Backpacker Concierge
  • 10 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 j6u8ce?1471296784?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Pide: Istanbullu-Style Pizza
    Baked until crispy in a traditional wood-fired oven, pide (Turkish pizza) is the country's number one fast food. Unlike Italian pizza, pide is oblong, with a raised dough edge that surrounds a filling. Like the Italians, though, Turks keep toppings simple. Cheese, pastirmi (cured beef), tomatoes, peppers, and ground beef are typical. Look out for the pide hybrid called lahmacun, which has a paper-thin dough base smeared with a spicy meat paste. Pide is everywhere in Istanbul, but to eat where the locals do, head to Fatih Karadeniz Pidecisi in Fatih.
    Photo by Stephanie Chen