Known for its wide variety of dishes, Turkish cuisine offers delicious dishes to its visitors. Influenced by the many cultures that have inhabited its lands over time, it combines herbs and spices with its most prized meat, lamb. Although in the capital of Turkey it is possible to find almost everything, even Spanish tapas bars, here we leave you with 6 places to eat in Istanbul without hurting your pocket, as well as many of the specialties that you will find on their menus.
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What to eat in Istanbul?
Ask for: flat bread which is usually eaten together with doner or kebabs. It is usually served decorated with sesame seeds and painted with egg yolk to colour its surface.
Soups: the typical way to start any Turkish lunch. The most common ones to eat in Istanbul are yogurt (buğday aşı), tomato (domates), lentils (mercimek) or chicken (tavuk).
Meze, variety of cold snacks, usually around 20 options.
Dolma, vine leaves or stuffed vegetables, such as peppers, zucchini and eggplant.
Döner kebab, the most exported dish, is made with lamb, beef or chicken that has been roasted on a rotating axle (döner means ‘something that spins’ and kebab means roast meat). It can be eaten with rice (pilav üstü döner).
Shish kebab, made from marinated pieces of lamb or beef, accompanied by tomatoes and peppers.
Adana kebab, spicy and with grilled vegetables.
Urfa kebab, without spice.
Dürüm, the ‘Turkish burrito’ to eat in Istanbul, perfect to go. The meat, whether chicken, lamb or beef, is cooked slowly.
Lahmacun, a bread base on which you put minced meat, onion and spices, as well as lemon and parsley.
Börek, similar to an empanada filled with meat, cheese or spinach
Köfte, grilled, baked or stewed minced meat, similar to meatballs.
Baklava, sweets covered with pistachios and ground nuts.
Künefe, a dessert found in many restaurants in Istanbul, based on baked cheese with a grated pastry dough and pistachios on top.
Kahve (Turkish coffee): sugar is added when making it, so don’t forget to say how you want it: sade (no sugar), orta (standard) or sekerli (sweet).
Where to eat all these delicacies in Istanbul?
Antiochland Cafe & Restaurant
Alemdar Mah. Kazim Ismail Gurkan Cad. No: 24/A
Muhammara, dried pepper paste with sesame oil, garlic and walnuts; abugannus, smoked aubergines with tomato, pepper, olive oil and vinegar; hummus, spicy tomato salad, homemade lentil soup, squid à la Romana, shrimps sautéed in butter… There are so many varieties on Antiochland’s menu that you’ll have trouble deciding. If you are more traditional, opt for classics such as grilled salmon, sea bream or sea bass, lamb chops or fillet in mushroom sauce. What we are sure of is that you will suck your fingers at the top of this list of restaurants in Istanbul, with a neat interior and flirty terrace.
Saltanat Barbecue House
Alemdar Mh. Catalcesme Sk. No: 19
Are you a carnivore and looking for a place to eat in Istanbul? Saltanat Barbecue House is definitely your place. Order any of their grilled meat dishes: beef, lamb or chicken, with a side of sauces, rice and chips, and accompany it with some tasty starters: soup of the day, aubergine salad, hummus, vine leaves stuffed with rice, onion, mint and pine nuts; fried squid, sardines, garlic prawns with peppers and mushrooms… If, on the other hand, meat is not your thing, have a grilled fish and seafood or vegetable platter, healthy and light. And to water it down, it came from the house, with a well-deserved reputation among the tourists who visit it.
Buhara Ocakbası Restaurant
Alemdar Mh. Nuruosmaniye Cad. No 7
Located in one of the most popular districts of the capital, it has been standing out among Istanbul’s restaurants for more than two decades. With three floors and capacity for 350 people, its terrace offers views of the Sultanahmet Mosque and the Sea of Marmara. On its menu, chicken kebabs, lamb chops, order with meat, cheese or mixed; salads and different varieties of kebabs: with yogurt, tomato or eggplant sauce; adana (spicy), urfa (not spicy) or shish (house specialty with marinated beef or lamb). And if you are a ‘teapot’ without remedy, enjoy its range: rosehip, lemon, apple, orange, organic or the classic Turkish tea.
Old Istanbul Cuisine
Alemdar Mh. Prof Dr Kazim Ismail Gurkan Caddesi | No 2 kat 2
Very friendly service and a comfortable terrace await you in one of Istanbul’s restaurants where you can taste authentic Turkish cuisine. If you want to try traditional Ottoman stews, we recommend dana güveç, strips of veal marinated and cooked slowly with tomatoes, aubergines and peppers; kuzu güveç, lamb back casserole cooked at low temperature with garlic and cured cheese; hünkar beğendi, veal tacos in tomato sauce with mashed eggplant and cheese au gratin, or çoban kavurma, sautéed lamb with onions, mushrooms and thyme Sweets, teas and coffees are on the house!
Roof Mezze 360
Hoca Paşa Mahallesi, Hüdavendigar Cd. No:25
Friendly service and a comfortable terrace await you in one of Istanbul’s restaurants where you can taste authentic Turkish cuisine. If you want to try traditional Ottoman stews, we recommend dana güveç, strips of veal marinated and cooked slowly with tomatoes, aubergines and peppers; kuzu güveç, lamb back casserole cooked at low temperature with garlic and cured cheese; hünkar beğendi, veal tacos in tomato sauce with mashed eggplant and cheese au gratin, or çoban kavurma, sautéed lamb with onions, mushrooms and thyme Sweets, teas and coffees are on the house!
Where to eat in Istanbul with spectacular views? The 360 degree panorama from the tables of Roof Mezze will make you fall in love with it. On its menu, Turkish and Ottoman specialties, and many creations based on fresh fish and seafood: sea bass in salt, grilled salmon, octopus with garlic butter, lobster, swordfish kebab… It also offers pasta and some international dishes, such as chicken in curry or soy sauce, filet mignon, beef ribs with asparagus and grilled vegetables or medallions of lamb with eggplant puree. Don’t miss their variety of kebabs, particularly the pottery, cooked in an earthenware bowl for several hours.
Street food stalls in Istanbul
If you are wondering what to eat in Istanbul if you have little time between visits, you should know that you will find travelling stands that will assault you at every step with succulent temptations. Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, corn on the cob (misir), mussels stuffed with rice and lemon (midye dolma), simit – a kind of bread roll decorated with sesame seeds and filled with cheese – and one of the most classic snacks: grilled mackerel. Accompanied by tomato, lettuce, onion, lemon juice and spices, there is nothing better than eating in Istanbul to say goodbye with a good taste in your mouth!
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