Searching for the best Istanbul restaurant? Here's some information that will help you.
Most restaurants in the city draw on cuisines from across Turkey and beyond. As the former center of two major empires, the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, the city has been a genuine crossroads allowing exchange of foodstuffs and tastes.
Turkish food has much in common with dishes found across the Mediterranean, from the Balkans to North Africa, with similarities between Arab, Persian, and other cuisines. Different versions of kebabs and baklava are among these regional specialties.
What's unique to Istanbul are the freshness of the ingredients and the range of preparation methods, from the utmost in simplicity to immensely sophisticated.
Turkish cuisine is famous for flavorful grilled and stewed dishes. Most fare in a typical Istanbul restaurant is mildly spiced, though meat can be salty, and spicy dishes are easy to find; they're more typical of the southeast, but many residents of Istanbul have origins in these regions.
Other distinctive items include the wide variety of hot and cold meze, or appetizers, including stuffed vegetables, served as a first course, or with beer or raki in bars.
In addition to the wide selection of kebabs, often named after their city of origin, check out lahmacun and pide, relatives of pizza, gozleme, similar to a Mexican quesadilla, and borek, which can resemble pastries, pasties or pasta.
Don't overlook the delicious food available from street vendors, from fish sandwiches to roasted chestnuts, or the fresh fruit from produce markets, which is what locals typically choose for dessert.
Types Of Restaurants
Fast food chains have been making inroads throughout Istanbul; restaurants serving Chinese and Indian food are also gaining in popularity. But visitors in a hurry for satisfying food will be better off sampling the variety of equally fast and healthier "ready-made food" (hazir yemek) enjoyed by locals.
These restaurants serve hot dishes often visible from a display window and easy to point to; the related doner shops shave meat or chicken off a spit and serve it with bread, buttered rice, or potatoes for a superfast meal.
For a refined feast, seek out an elegant restaurant in Beyoglu, Pera or along the Bosphorus. It will combine exceptional service with a view and often entertainment. (Ask the price for items not on the menu.)
In between are a variety of affordable restaurants serving very tasty food with attentive service.
A Small Sampling
Here's a cross-section of Istanbul restaurants with far-reaching reputations:
The Pudding Shop (cafeteria-style restaurant in Sultanahmet famous as a meeting place for travelers to Asia)
Meşhur Sultanhamet Köftecisi (famous for grilled meatballs only menu, right near the Pudding Shop in Sultanahmet)
Amedros Cafe (famous for kebab and steak in Sultanahmet)
Gelik (meat specialties in Atakoy, near Ataturk Airport; fish specialties in Zeytinburnu and Levent)
Leb-i Derya (upscale but comfy restaurant in Beyoglu)
360 degree (panaromic view of Galata, very upscale restaurant in Beyoglu)
Lacivert (fish, great view, in Anadoluhisari on the Bosphorus)
Kosebasi (kebab, kebab and more kebap in 4.Levent and Nisantasi)
Konyali (Topkapi Palace and Levent)
Hunkar (Etiler and Nisantasi)
Otantik (Beyoglu and Kadikoy)
and the most famous of them all, Haci Abdullah in Beyoglu, specializing in Ottoman cuisine.
For sweet treats, check out:
Mado ice cream (multiple locations, including Ataturk Airport and Istiklal Caddesi in Taksim);
Saray (since 1935) and Sütis (since 1922) both offer traditional authentic desserts in Taksim and many other locations;
Confectioners Haci Bekir, Gulluoglu, and Koska (Turkish Delight or lokum, helva, baklava, and other sweets; multiple locations).
Read more about this topic on the following pages:
Turkish Delight Turkish delight is a very popular traditional Turkish sweet served in small cubes that look like ice cubes.
The Best Istanbul Restaurants - Fish The various kind of great fish that can only be found in the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Black Sea make up the best of Istanbul restaurants on fish, a delicious meal and a perfect night out.