Affordable eats in istanbul

Look for the word “lokantası"—these canteen-style restaurants offer some of the tastiest home-cooked meals in the city.

137 İstiklal Caddesi
Take a break from shopping along Istiklal Street at Hala, which specializes in authentic home-cooked Anatolian cuisine. You know you’ve found it when you see women with white headscarfs kneading dough in the front window. They’re preparing and cooking Turkish savory pancakes called gözleme. Hala is a great place to try gözleme along with other traditional staples like Ali Nazik kebabs and manti (meat dumplings served with yogurt and oil, caramelized with tomato paste, and seasoned with mint and red pepper). Wash it all down with a glass of Ayran, a salty yogurt drink adored by many Turks.
Firuzağa Mah., Cihangir, Türkgücü Cad. 59/A, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
After a morning of wandering Istanbul‘s winding streets, it is a treat to find a delicious eatery like Datli Maya, ready to welcome you with brick-oven baked bites in the form of lahmacun (similar to a thin-crust pizza) and other delicious menu items, and a cup of sweet tea. Dine in on the cozy second floor, then get a pastry or cake to go on your way out for later. It’s easy to find in the streets of the trendy Cihangir district, with its bright turquoise shopfront and location across from a public gazebo. Lovely space, tasty food, nice people, great find.
Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, General Yazgan Sk. No:8, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
You’ve strolled the 1.5km of Istanbul‘s famous Istiklal Street for a spot of shopping, but hunger sets in and the purse strings are tight. Where do you go for a bite to eat? Answer: Helvetia, a modest lokanta (restaurant) tucked away on a quiet side street in Tünel. With its relaxed, no-frills atmosphere, this place is a local favorite for lunch and dinner. The food is deliciously fresh, generously served, and an excellent value for money. Plates overflow with homemade mezes featuring Turkey’s home-grown produce—olive oils, yogurt, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, spinach, kofte, chicken, and more. Choose among the mostly vegetarian mezes by pointing to the dishes lined up on the counter near the open kitchen. To get there: Follow the tram line on Istiklal to the Tünel funicular (tram) exit. With your back to the funicular exit, see a book shop on the other side of the road. Just to the left of this shop is the Tünel Pasaj, a pedestrian arcade lined with cafes and shops. Walk through the arcade to the end. You will see Helvetia on the corner as you exit the arcade.
5, Mollafenari Mahallesi, Nuruosmaniye Cad. Armaggan No:41, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
From the fertile lands of Anatolia to gourmet kitchens around the world, Nar Lokanta is a restaurant with a gourmet shop that offers a range of natural products grown, produced and packaged to the highest international standards in Turkey. The olive, hazelnut and pistachio oils as well as nuts, dried fruits, preserves and Turkish delight make ideal gifts for your friends back home—or for yourself.
Beyazıt Mh., Tığcılar Sk. No:56, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
If you’ve been pacing up and down the passages of the Grand Bazaar contemplating that perfect purchase, chances are you’ll need refueling eventually. Hidden on a backstreet just outside gate 16 of the Grand Bazaar is the cozy and charming Keyf-i Mekan Cafe and Restaurant. “Keyfi” means “merriment,” but in Turkey keyfi is also a way of life, one that’s full of pleasure. So expect the small menu featuring delicious Turkish-style home-cooked food to fulfill both these meanings. The food will surely fill the belly and energize you to take those bazaar vendors head on! Choose from the menu of mezes, or meat dishes or peek at the mouthwatering “specials of the day” on the counter. The cafe is open every day, except Sunday when the rest of the bazaar is closed too.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: United States
Journeys: Sports + Adventure
Journeys: Family
Journeys: United States