Istanbul is a foodie’s delight.
There are thousands of restaurants where you can taste Anatolian, Ottoman, Balkan, Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine. The ingredients are fresh, the kebabs making it difficult to know where to go to eat in this mega metropolis. Here are some of our favorite restaurants in Istanbul for the best Turkish cuisine for any occasion.
Asmalı Mescit, Meşrutiyet Cd. No:107 D:F, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Aheste is one of the trendiest foodie destinations in Istanbul. This lovely restaurant located in Pera is intimate, romantic and sultry. Aheste’s space is the ideal date night setting with a cozy exposed-brick dining room in the front and a cavernous hall with soaring ceilings and arches in the back. Despite the romantic setting, Aheste will impress anyone, whether it’s a date, family, friends or work colleagues.
Aheste leans into modern Turkish cuisine while honoring its deeply rooted culinary traditions and gorgeous ingredients. The menu is split into cold mezes, hot mezes and main courses. Among the mezes, you’ll find unique, delectable items such as seabass with yuzu sauce, sourdough battered haddock with garlic walnut sauce and carrots with za’atar and goat cheese cream. The mains include slow roast lamb shoulder and chicken confit with kepse pilaf. There’s a special vegetarian menu as well. The tasting menu features a wide selection of all the greatest hits and at a very affordable price so it’s worth getting just to try all of the gourmand goodies this trendy restaurant has to offer.
Caferağa, Güneşli Bahçe Sok, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
Çiya Sofrasi is one of the most storied old-school kebab houses in Istanbul which has been serving delicious kebabs since 1987. Located in the heart of Kadikoy market on the Asian side, Çiya Sofrasi is the perfect place to taste and soak in Istanbul tradition.
We truly had one of the best meals of our entire trip at Çiya Sofrasi. True to the name, there are tons of kebabs to choose from; whether you want your kebab with spicy lamb, tomato, garlic or eggplant, Çiya Sofrasi offers enough choices to please anyone. The secret is the way they prepare grill their meat, because the meat on every kebab is unbelievably juicy and flavorful. The menu is extensive and goes beyond just kebabs as Çiya Sofrasi revives forgotten recipes from regions stretching from Anatolia to Mesopotamia to Arabia to the Balkans.
The main location has two multi-story restaurants right across from each other. One has a charming rooftop and the other has terrace seating on the street; both of which are fabulous settings to enjoy the mouthwatering kebabs coming out of the kitchen. The indoor dining rooms are also full of old-world charm, with vintage photographs chronicling the history of the restaurant on the walls. çiya Sofrasi is definitely a can’t-miss stop for any traveler in Istanbul looking for the most delicious kebab with a rich lesson in traditional Anatolian food cultures.
Sultanahmet Fish House
Alemdar, Prof. Kazım İsmail Gürkan Cd. No:16, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Sultanahmet Fish House is considered the “sole fish house in Istanbul” and serves up delicious seafood in the touristic heart of Sultanahmet. Sultanahmet Fish House is a lovely and bright place to gather and eat. The walls are painted a happy yellow with colorful jars and lanterns decorating the space.
The menu at Sultanahmet Fish House is just as bright and happy as the décor. The menu offers a wide variety of seafood: everything from shrimp, sea bream, calamari, mackerel and more. The menu also offers your seafood to be fried, grilled or saucy. The fish is prepared in delicious Aegean and Mediterranean styles. A must-have is the fish prepared in an aromatic saffron sauce which is absolute heaven to smell and taste. Also, remember to order the smoky and savory calamari that’s prepared with red peppers and spices which is going to be difficult to forget.
Whenever you’re in the mood for some seafood that’s prepared in an authentically regional style, Sultanahmet Fish House is a historic and dependable option that will make your taste buds tingle. Its location between the Hagia Sofya and Spice Bazaar makes it the perfect stop for lunch on a day packed with sightseeing in the Golden Horn.
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi Necatibey Cad, Baş Cerrah Sk. No:4, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Sure, there are plenty of cool trendy restaurants in Karaköy. But Kapi Karaköy is our favorite as a laidback and affordable option which still offers delicious Turkish food.
Kapi Karaköy is located in one of the small alleyways in the bustling heart of Karaköy. The restaurant has an awesome patio where you can sit outside and enjoy the charming pedestrian street. And the dining room inside the restaurant is just as charming, with rustic exposed brick walls, simple wooden chairs and tables plus a roaring wood oven where the tasty kebabs are cooked.
Kapi Karaköy gives diners the chance to have an authentic Turkish meal with a variety of deliciously-prepared mezes, meats and raki. You really can’t go wrong with any of the cold or hot starters, whether you opt for the fried paçanga with cheese, the yogurt sauce with eggplant and garlic or the uber-flavorful thyme and pomegranate salad. You definitely need to try at least one of the meat dishes, as the meat is cooked over a real fire in the wood oven. The lamb steak, liver shish or spicy meat on skewers are all excellent choices.
Add on top of that a solid drink menu with Turkish wines, beers and raki, and you’ve got a restaurant where you can’t go wrong. Kapi Karaköy is the perfect place to enjoy good food, ambience and company at laidback prices.
Demirtaş, Yüksekler Sk. No:4, 34134 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Giriftar Süleymaniye Café is an upmarket rooftop restaurant located on the way up to Süleymaniye Mosque on the hill. This terrace has amazing views of Galata Tower, Galata and Atatürk Bridges and Süleymaniye Mosque itself. Night or day, you’ll get spectacular city views of Istanbul from the rooftop at Giriftar Süleymaniye Cafe.
The rooftop has ample seating with swish tables and lounge space distributed across the wide deck. Uniformed waiters come around to closely attend to you and take your order. There’s no alcohol served at the restaurant due to its close proximity to the mosque. But you can smoke hookah and order modern Turkish and international bites. The crispy Turkish dumplings are especially yummy and so is the grilled meat plate with rice and pita.
Istanbul may be a city full of rooftops, but it’s hard to beat the view at Giriftar Süleymaniye Café with the sparkling views of Galata stretched out across the Bosphorus and the majestic domes of Süleymaniye Mosque ever present from above.
Tuğra at Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul Hotel
Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel, Ciragan Caddesi 32, Çiragan Cd, 34349 Besiktas/İstanbul, Turkey
Want to dine like a sultan at an Ottoman Palace overlooking the Bosphorus? At Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul Hotel you certainly can at their stunning gem of a restaurant, Tuğra.
Tuğra literally looks like a setting straight out of a storybook. Tables are set next to majestic marble columns on the terrace which floats on the blue waters of the Bosphorus. The interior dining room is lavish and elegant with plush turquoise carpets, grand fresco paintings on the walls and gorgeous views of the Bosphorus from the floor-to-ceiling windows as well.
Fitting with the sumptuous setting, Tuğra’s menu offers guests a chance to experience royal Ottoman cuisine. While incorporating some modern touches, Tuğra’s menu keeps it regal and traditional with upmarket items like lamb shank, grilled seabass and smoked seafood stew. You can also order high-end preparations of mezes like crispy squash blossoms with bottarga eggs and beef pastrami with almond goat cheese and pomegranate molasses.
There’s really no grander setting to enjoy an equally royal meal in Istanbul than at Tuğra. For that one night when you feel like royalty, put on your best look and head to Tuğra at Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul Hotel for a meal worthy of an Ottoman sultan.