Top Restaurants in Istanbul
From casual bistros to old-school taverns to Turkish haute cuisine, dining and drinking in Istanbul is one of the great pleasures of visiting this city. Explore the different neighborhoods to find the best baklava, the freshest seafood, and the most delicious mezes—you won’t be disappointed.
7 Soğancı Sokak
5.Kat (Floor 5), in Istanbul’s upscale Cihangir neighborhood, boasts a menu of gourmet cuisine and magnificent views of the Bosphorus in an elegant setting. The prices are a little more than what you pay elsewhere, but then there’s not many places in Istanbul where you can enjoy high-quality dishes such as oven-baked lamb shank, sea bass, and seafood linguine from a rooftop location. Dine here during the day for a buffet brunch and you’ll enjoy the sights and sounds of the Bosphorus, while the evenings are spectacular, with the lights of Istanbul twinkling in the distance. The prix-fixe menu is three courses, with local drinks included.
Tomtom Mahallesi, Yeni Çarşı Cd. No:44, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
This tiny hybrid wine shop–cum–wine bar has impressed many local vino lovers with its intimate ambience, tasty mezes, and friendly service from general manager Suleyman Er and his team. It has imported and local wines available to consume on-site or take away at discounted prices, and it’s perfect for a late-afternoon escape from the crowds of İstiklal Avenue—just 300 feet away—a pre-dinner drink, or a nightcap.
Caferağa Mahallesi, Güneşli Bahçe Sk. No:43, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
One day, I dragged my travel companions—a German, a Turk, and two New Yorkers—to Kadıköy, a neighborhood on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, to dine at Çiya. Everyone was cranky and hungry by the time we found it, but I knew the second we walked in, the trek was worth it. The chef, Musa Daðdeviren, comes from eastern Turkey, and his dishes reflect the diverse traditions of the region. We shared many small plates we picked from the counters at the front: fresh salads flavored with seeds and unusual herbs, stewed beans, perfectly tender eggplant, Turkish meatballs, and hot pide bread. For dessert, we tried candied pumpkin, which had a taffy-like texture like nothing I’ve ever tasted. I could eat there every day.
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi, Kara Ali Kaptan Sok. No:7, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
The blocks of Karikoy from the Galata Bridge going east to Istanbul Modern have emerged as one of the hottest areas in the city in recent years. In this transitioning neighborhood, there are still plenty of local barbershops and offices and shops that reflect the port-related economy of the old Karikoy, but emerging among them are boutiques and cafés catering to a new crowd. Karabatak’s name, Turkish for cormorant, reflects the harbor front location of the neighborhood (Karabatak itself is three blocks inland), but this coffee house which opened in 2011 is all about the new Karikoy. It is the Istanbul headquarters of the Austrian coffee roasting company Julius Meinl and you can sit in its comfortable rooms with tiled floors and vintage furniture and choose from a long menu of coffee drinks, as well as sodas, limonatas, and some sandwiches and snacks. On warm evenings, patrons sit under the vine arbor that forms a roof over the pedestrian street, extending to another popular café, Unter, diagonally across the intersection. (Karabatak is on the right side of the street in this photo.)
Turkish ice cream has a unique quality: a texture that makes it stretch, thanks to salep (orchid flour) that keeps it thick and slow to melt, and mastic, a plant resin that makes it chewy. In tourist areas around Sultanahmet and İstiklal, you’ll see ice-cream vendors in Ottoman costumes stirring the ice cream with a long pole, and if you order a cone, you’ll be an unwitting participant in a playful game of “keep away.” If you’ve already witnessed this fun and just want to enjoy your ice cream in peace, look for any of the city’s Mado ice-cream shops. The name is short for Maraş—the town where the ice cream originates—and dondurma, the Turkish word for ice cream. Mado’s ice cream is also special for the goat milk it uses, and serves a variety of desserts with slices of ice cream to be eaten with a knife and fork.
Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, OIivya Geçidi 7-A, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Istanbul’s location at the crossroads of continents has made it the hometown for many cultures. In 1924, Russians fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution opened the Rejans restaurant on Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue, and it acted as a meeting place for other refugees, artists, and intellectuals for eight decades. The restaurant was reopened in 2016 as 1924 Istanbul, restored to its original glory down to the silverware, with a table permanently reserved for frequent customer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, complete with a bottle of raki. Today, the restaurant serves Eastern European and Russian favorites like pelmeni dumplings, stroganoff, and lemon-infused vodka. Weekends have live music for extra ambience; bring your own old Russian soul.
Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, Hasırcılar Cd. No:14, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
If you need fuel in between bargaining at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market in Eminönü, stop in for lunch at the restaurant above Namlı Pastırmacı. A language barrier won’t be a big issue, as you can point to whatever looks tasty; good bets are mercimek (red lentil) soup and stuffed eggplant. You can find edible souvenirs at Namlı’s downstairs deli, including charcuterie and all manner of cured meats. Namlı also has a gourmet shop in Karaköy, selling olive oil, honey, pickles, and other foodstuffs, and is a popular spot for breakfast.
Harbiye Mahallesi, Mim Kemal Öke Cd. No:19, 34367 Nişantaşı/Şişli/Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
Considerably more upscale than your average deli, Delicatessen is consistently packed with Turkish minor celebrities and society types in the fashionable neighborhood of Nişantaşı. While you might not appreciate who is sitting at the next table, you can appreciate the beautifully presented food and sleek design. The menu is a fairly typical mix of international bistro dishes and Turkish favorites, but always made with fresh and seasonal ingredients. They are especially known for their charcuterie and cheese platters, as well as breakfast, with both Turkish spicy sucuk beef sausage and actual pork bacon (a major selling point for many expats in Istanbul). As it is an actual delicatessen as well as a restaurant, there is a wide range of food for takeout.
Caferağa Mh Moda Cd. &, Caferağa Mahallesi, Damacı Sk. No:4, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
When the crush of 14 million people (and what seems like an infinite number of rude taxi drivers) gets to you, Istanbul has a cure for what ails you: a peaceful ferry ride across the Bosphorus and a seat in the leafy garden at Viktor Levi wine house. The son of a fisherman, Viktor Levi started bringing back his favorite wines from the Aegean Islands more than a century ago, and his namesake restaurant, tucked into a side street in Moda in Kadiköy, now has more than a dozen house varietals, most under 100 lira. A meal by the fountain or inside the restored town house might inspire your own trip to Bozcaada, or just a return trip on the ferry.
Bebek Mh., İnşirah Sokağı No:13, 34342 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
Chef Didem Senol’s pioneering spirit and contemporary take on Turkish dishes make her one of the most interesting chefs in Istanbul, and she shares her culinary talents at Gram, a sort of upscale deli of slow and seasonal foods in the posh seaside neighborhood of Bebek. Choose what appeals from the day’s menu of salads, meats, and other savory dishes, but save room for the baked goods and desserts, as well. Enjoy your picnic at one of the small tables, or take it outside and dine with a Bosphorus view. There are additional locations in the Kanyon shopping center and the Maslak business district.
Cihangir Mahallesi, Türkgücü Cad 55/A, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
A great deal of Turkish cuisine is unassuming but delicious comfort food: lentil soup, grilled meatballs, fried zucchini. These are the kind of dishes served at the homey café Mücver, open for lunch and possibly early dinner if they haven’t run out of food. Many of the dishes are cooked with zeytinyağli (olive oil) or are vegetarian (which sometimes feels rare in Istanbul), and the bright and tasty salads make for a healthy and satisfying meal. Mücver is down the hill from Taksim Square, on a road that snakes between increasingly hip area of Cihangir and the higgledy-piggledy streets and antique shops of Çukurcuma.
Merkez Mahallesi, Birahane Sk. 1/D, 34381 Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
Turkey isn’t known for its beer, with most menus dominated by the serviceable yet flavorless Efes. The craft beer movement has been gratefully welcomed (especially by expats), and a few breweries have popped up in Istanbul in recent years. The Populist brewery is part of Bomontiada, a massive complex of art and performance spaces, shops, restaurants, and nightlife on the site of the former Bomonti Beer Factory, which closed in the 1950s and was abandoned for several decades. Populist’s food menu is standard pub fare, with a few surprises like a lamb burger with Carolina mustard sauce and a flatbread pizza with kokoreç (better-than-it-sounds grilled lamb intestines). The rotating selection of 12 beers on tap might include a Belgian Turkish wheat with anise and a hoppy IPA. To reach Bomontiada, take the metro to Osmanbey, and from there it’s a 10- to 15-minute walk through a historically diverse and rapidly changing neighborhood.
The Marmara Pera Meşrutiyet Caddesi 15 34430, Beyoğlu, İstanbul, Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Known for its elevated approach to Turkish cuisine, as well as its elevated views of Istanbul from atop the Marmara Pera hotel, Mikla is ranked 51st in the World’s Best Restaurants and should be at the top of your list for a memorable night out in Istanbul. Mehmet Gurs, Istanbul’s most famous chef, draws from his Finnish-Turkish background to combine traditional dishes, ancient cooking techniques, and local ingredients with a forward-thinking and environmentally sustainable perspective on food. The menu changes daily but might include manti (ravioli) with smoked buffalo yogurt or lor (cheese curd) ice cream. Even if you can’t get a reservation for dinner here, the city views can be enjoyed along with a cocktail at the bar or out on the terrace.
Erenköy Mahallesi, Kamiller Sokağı No:4, 34738 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
Istanbul Eats was a food blog founded by a pair of American expats who were intrepid in their exploration of the Turkish food scene, going where few foreigners had gone before: tiny teahouses, tradesmen’s cafeterias, and back-alley taverns, all in search of delicious eats. They expanded the blog to a guidebook and then food tours, which are currently in a dozen other cities, from Beijing to Tbilisi. The company is now called Culinary Backstreets, and Istanbul remains at the heart of the operation, or rather, the stomach. Even if you are a picky eater reluctant to try anything you can’t pronounce, or an adventurous traveler who’d never deign to take a guided tour, you’ll find something worth getting out of your comfort zone on one of their food walks. They range from a three-hour “kebab krawl” to a full-day tour encompassing two markets on two continents.
Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Meşrutiyet Cd. No:53, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
The Grand Hotel de Londres (also known as Buyuk Londra) has been open for more than 100 years, and while its interior is immaculately kept, there’s something about it that is charmingly stuck in the past. You can imagine Ernest Hemingway at the bar in 1922, reviewing notes for his story in the Toronto Daily Star. Wander through the lobby with its antique furniture, past the requisite portrait of Atatürk, to the tiny elevator that will take you up to the rooftop. The bar there is scenic without being a scene: no seasonal cocktails or artisanal ice cubes here, just a simple but serviceable menu and gorgeous views of the Golden Horn and the Old City. If you can, try to arrive before sunset to hear the call to prayer echo throughout the streets, then descend the grand staircase back into the noisy nightlife of Pera.
Rıhtım Cad. Katlı Otopark Altı No: 3-4 Karaköy, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Unlike the boxes of gummy lokum seen in every souvenir store in Istanbul, baklava is the real Turkish delight. You may sample many versions of the layered, nutty pastry, but there’s only one Karaköy Güllüoğlu, which makes its baklava in the style of Gaziantep, the town in southeastern Turkey that is known for its pristine version. The shop near the Karaköy docks now even boasts a gluten-free variety and pastry portraits of Atatürk and Barack(lava) Obama, and is busy until its late-night closing time.
Kılıçali Paşa, Defterdar Ykş. 52/A, 34425 Beyoğlu İstanbul, Türkey
A proper Turkish kahvalti (breakfast) spread should cover the table with small, colorful dishes, including assorted cheeses, fresh tomatoes and cucumber, cured olives, and many varieties of jams and spreads. A proper Kurdish breakfast will be enjoyed at leisure and possibly not first thing in the morning. Van Kahvalti Evi serves both traditional Turkish and Kurdish breakfast dishes from Van (a Kurdish town in eastern Turkey) all day, with plenty of glasses of hot tea. Try menemen: scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers, and onions, or savory gözleme (flatbread) filled with cheese and potato. Be sure to save room for a side of kaymak (clotted cream), to be enjoyed spread on bread and drizzled with honey. It’s enough to make anyone a morning person, or at least a breakfast person.
Hüseyinağa Mahallesi, Nevizade Sk. No:16, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
On Istanbul’s Nevizade Street, pushy waiters try to lure you into their restaurants, diners bump elbows in the narrow maze of outside tables, and boisterous revelers (and smokers, this is Turkey after all) shout over the street musicians, making plans for the night’s next stop. Krependeki İmroz is one of the oldest meyhanes (taverns) on the street, its name referencing the original restaurant’s location on Krepen Pasajı in 1941. Should you be able to score a seat at İmroz, you’ll be poured a glass of milky raki (Turkish anise-flavored liquor) to sip while you peruse the menu of grilled fish and meats, and a waiter will appear with a heaving tray of mezes (small dishes of shared appetizers) for you to point at and eat. Dinner will likely be a long, multicourse affair filled with things you’ve never tried and don’t remember ordering, but you’ll know you enjoyed all too well.
Katip Mustafa Çelebi Mahallesi, Sıraselviler Cd. 2/2, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
In the light of day, perhaps a moist, garlicky hamburger sitting in a steamy case under a heat lamp doesn’t appeal. But imagine yourself at the end of a long, possibly alcohol-fueled night on Nevizade Street, and Istanbul‘s wet burgers (islak burgers) are rather delicious. Late nights do ensure the survival of this street food, a slider-size burger soaked in a flavorful tomato sauce and generally consumed a few at a time, a few lira at a time. Islak burgers are found wherever there’s nightlife, with the largest stable of them around the intersection of İstiklal Avenue and Taksim Square.