Top Five Places to Eat Like a Local in Istanbul

posted in: Europe, Travel, Turkey | 1

Since we didn’t get to spend much time in Istanbul, we reached out to our friend, Alana, to write a guest post on her culinary experience there. Continue reading for her favorite places where to eat Istanbul like a local near the most popular sights in the city. 
Spice Market in Istanbul

Istanbul is a city that boasts an eclectic mix of cultures, and its cuisine reflects just that. The vibrant streets are filled with food vendors selling everything from traditional Turkish kebabs to mouth-watering baklava. The city’s culinary scene has exploded in recent years, making it difficult to decide where to eat.

Whether you’re looking for a fancy dining experience or crave street food, Istanbul has something for everyone. In this article, we’ve put together some of our top picks on where to eat in Istanbul so that you can indulge in the city’s delicious offerings and make the most out of your trip.

Another Middle Eastern city known for its rich history and epicurean delights is Dubai, one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Every Dubai itinerary should include local dining experiences just like Istanbul. 

1. Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi – Divanyolu Caddesi 12, Sultanahmet

Near: Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque

Sometimes I think kofte might be the best-kept secret of Turkish cuisine. Not as well-known as their cousin the doner kepab (but at least as delicious), kofte are fantastically spiced turkish “meatballs” made from either ground beef or lamb.

At Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi, the menu is simple with all beef kofte patties, hunks of bread and a spicy red pepper sauce served by request. The plate, decor and service are decidedly no frills, but once you bite into the juicy, perfectly seasoned kofte, you’ll understand why the locals keep coming back.


Topkapi Palace

2. Seyhmus Kebap Salonu – Molla Fenari Mahalessi, Medrese Sokok 2, Cemberlitas

Near: The Grand Bazaar

This small kebap shop just outside the crowds of the Grand Bazaar might not look like much, but wait until you see the number of choices you have for your kebap. After the frenzy of the bazaar, I wanted to keep it simple and went for my old standby, tavuk sis.

I basically lived on chicken shis when I was teaching in Turkey because I’m really not into lamb and it’s easier to just order chicken than get a straight answer on whether the “meat” is lamb or beef in most places, so I like to think I’m a pretty good judge. The tavuk sis here is some of the best I’ve ever had. Moist cubes, marinated and then grilled to perfection served simply with peppers, onions, pita and pilaf was the perfect light meal on a hot Istanbul summer day.

City of Istanbul

3. Furreyya Galata Balikcisi – Serdar-i Ekrem Sokak2, Beyoglu

Near: Galata Tower

If you want to partake in Istanbul’s fantastic seafood, but keep it low-key, Furreyya is definitely the place for you. The menu is mostly fresh whole fish either grilled or fried (changes seasonally).

They were out of the fish my husband initially wanted to be grilled so he went with the waiter’s suggestion and was quite happy. I went for the balik (fish) durum which is a simple and tasty wrap filled with grilled fish and caramelized onions.

Pro Tip: If you’re in a hurry or just want to eat while you walk, you can ask for the wrap to go.


4. Canim Cigerim – Minare Sokak 1, Beyoglu

Near: Lower Beyoglu, Tunel, Shopping on Istiklal Caddesi

Canim Cigerim is the place to go when you’re ready to take your kebaps to the next level. The specialty here is liver served on long skinny metal skewers, but you can also get beef, chicken or a mix of all three. We did a mix, though the liver ended up being a little much for me and Dan happily ate my portion.

The real fun here though is that before your skewers come out, the table is filled with thin wraps, onions, fresh herbs, grilled peppers, and a tomato, onion, and parsley mix flavored with pomegranate syrup. When the skewers come, build your own wrap and get munching. You can throw the skewers right onto the newspaper-covered table as you finish them.

Canim Cigerim

5. Ficcin – Kallavi Sokak 7/1-13/1 Beyoglu

What it’s near: Upper Beyoglu, Taksim Square, Shopping on Istiklal Caddesi

Ficcin mixes things up a little from your typical Istanbul fare and serves Cerkez cuisine (food from the Caucus Mountains). The ficcin themselves are delicious potato dumplings similar to pierogi/varenyky but served in a pile of yogurt and red pepper oil instead of the Eastern European sour cream and caramelized onions. They’re quite filling and we split a plate along with a selection of mezze.

Old City Istanbul
Old City

Bonus: Van Kahvalti Evi Defterdar Yokusu 52/A, Cihangir

What it’s near: Exploring Cihangir, The Best Darn Turkish Breakfast of Your Life

Ok, it’s not near the best darn Turkish breakfast of your life, it IS the best Turkish breakfast of your life and Turkish breakfast is a worthy tourism destination all on its own. Here they have the usual spread of tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and bread for your basic order but I recommend getting the FULL spread and having my favorite thing ever, kaymak (Turkish clotted cream) with rich honeycomb along with dishes of jams, nut spreads, even more cheeses and olives.

We went here four or five times in our week in Istanbul, I just really REALLY love Turkish breakfast and Van Kahvelti Evi does it like no other. Bonus Bonus: It’s very close to Kronotrop if you’re coffee snobs like us.

About the author: Alana Gidycz is a pastry chef taking a sabbatical while her husband works for The Man in Seoul, South Korea. She believes in obsessive cultural exploration through food, reading cookbooks cover to cover and that it’s never too cold for soft serve ice cream. Her blog, Runaway Bunny, is where she likes to turn her baking and teaching experience into #CakeLectures, has some real talk about extended traveling and living abroad, and write stories about the FEELINGS and food that keep her creating. You can also find her on twitter, facebook, instagram and pinterest.

So if you are researching, “where to eat Istanbul,” we have you covered! What do you think are the best local restaurants Istanbul has going on? 

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