Let me be real with you here from the get-go, for the majority of the time during our trip, we have been rather unimpressed with the Istanbul food scene. We have visited places like Antalya and Alanya before – despite a much smaller city and town, we definitely don’t recall feeling that underwhelmed with some of the food. But that’s not to say we didn’t have anything nice. We have managed to discover a few great food spots in the beautiful city of Istanbul and you’ve also sent in some fantastic recommendations! So read on as we put together a little foodie list to show you Istanbul’s best food & restaurants.
Where to Eat in Istanbul: Best Food & Restaurants to Try
Looking for a hearty breakfast spot? Definitely go check out Yigit Sofram in Beyoglu as it’s without a doubt the best breakfast I had through our entire 10-day trip in Istanbul. Go hungry as they offer you quite a nice spread of food. Whatever you order, it comes with small dishes of olives, fresh tomatoes, cheese, Bazlama bread, jam, and Turkish tea. The homemade Bazlama bread, in particular, was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed my eggs with sujuk as well. My personal experience there was so good that it definitely sits at the top spot for me when it comes to the best food in Istanbul.
Van Kahvalti Evi
Not too far away from the above, Van Kahvalti Evi is another lovely breakfast spot to check out in Istanbul. Van Kahvalti Evi actually originates from the eastern Kurdish province of Turkey, Van, and made its way westward to Istanbul. You can get a traditional Turkish breakfast spread which would include fresh cheese, tomato, cucumber, and their homemade sweet bread. I’ve opted for their sujuk menemen and they’ve kindly offered me to try their sweet bread as well – both I’ve enjoyed thoroughly. The pastrami gozleme I’ve got as a takeaway wasn’t quite as good but, overall, it’s been a positive experience.
Making it to the top 50 of the World’s Best Restaurants, you are going in for an absolute treat for amazing food, service, and atmosphere at Mikla Restaurant. Perched at the top of the Marmara Pera Hotel, Mikla offers an exquisite rooftop fine dining experience. Each table faces the panoramic views of the city, with impeccable service and perfectly executed food. We had the 3-course menu, which also came with a range of small tasting dishes that stole the show. Interestingly, the actual 3-course wasn’t as outstanding as those small tasting dishes but, overall, it’s good food. It’s very affordable for fine dining (850 Turkish liras per person for the 3-course menu) and well worth a visit.
A visit to Turkey has to, of course, include at least a cup of Turkish coffee! For the best place for Turkish coffee, a visit to Mandabatmaz is a must. The name Mandabatmaz roughly translates as “so thick even a water buffalo wouldn’t sink in” – yes, it’s super thick but also impressively smooth to taste. At first glance, we could’ve been fooled if someone said to us it’s hot chocolate. They claim that the secret lies in the gentle flick and swirl of the wrist to create that unrivalled coffee texture. Without a doubt, it’s rich in flavour but doesn’t leave any harsh or bitter aftertaste. It’s just tucked away from the famous Istiklal Street so it’s super convenient for a quick coffee break!
Hafiz Mustafa 1864
Ahead of our trip, we have heard raving reviews for Hafiz Mustafa 1864 where some may even say it’s the best dessert place ever. With shops dotted all across the city, there’s always at least a shop nearby. The menu is extensive and we’re most impressed with the Baklava Ice Cream Sandwich. We’ve heard plenty of praises for the Caramel Milk Cake, which we thought was okay but certainly not the best milk cake we’ve ever had (maybe I just got a bad slice). The Kunefe was decent – a standard good kunefe I’d say but not extraordinarily good. All in all, it’s still a fantastic dessert spot to check out and definitely a convenient one to pop by any time.
Location: Various all across the city
I’ve definitely eaten my weight in baklava on this trip. Hafiz Mustafa aside, we’ve tried a few more other places and Karaköy Güllüoğlu is one that we also enjoyed a lot. The baklava emporium has been feeding Istanbul’s sweet tooth since 1949 and is still keeping its original production operation. It’s a bit of a canteen-style in there, with different stations of different treats (various baklavas, ice cream, drinks, etc.). You simply go get what you want from each station, gather them all on a tray and pay at the till before sitting down. The baklava was so unbelievably crispy and oozed syrupy sweetness at every bite. For the baklava ice cream sandwich, I find it a little bit too sweet and think Hafiz Mustafa’s was better as a whole. But for the baklava alone, Karaköy Güllüoğlu has definitely nailed it.
Location: Karakoy (open in Google Maps)
Midyeci Ahmet Stuffed Mussels
Another popular street food in Istanbul is stuffed mussels. You will find plenty of shops all across the city, with massive pans of mussels of different flavours. Typically, you can get either regular or spicy flavour, while some shops may offer more flavour options. We’ve tried a few around town as snacks and they’re more or less quite similar but Midyeci Ahmet is quite a well-known one. With a big squeeze of fresh lemon, the flavours really popped and were refreshing to taste. We visited the branch at the Karakoy pier and they also have shops in Besiktas and Çengelköy.
CZN Burak / Medeniyetler Sofrası
Salt Bae‘s not the only chef & restaurant from Turkey to become viral (click here to read about our dinner at Salt Bae’s Nusr-et Istanbul). You must’ve at least at some point come across a video of CZN Burak on either Instagram or Tiktok prepping gigantic Turkish grills and dishes with that huge smile on his face. Viral internet sensation aside, CZN Burak is a name that has popped up multiple times from your recommendations so we decided to give it a visit. We visited the branch nearby Taksim Square, which goes by the name Medeniyetler Sofrası. The food’s not stellar but I suppose it’s a slightly better option compared to many other Turkish restaurants we’ve tried on this trip. If you need a reason to visit, they do give you quite a little spectacle for certain dishes. For instance, we ordered the Lamb Benen Style and it came with flames upon serving. A little later on in the evening, there’s even a little drum and dance entertainment.
We thought we might not find any good burgers around Istanbul (many of you suggested Virginia Angus, which we didn’t have a chance to visit but have included below). So we’ve been pleasantly surprised when we discovered Chuck Burger, which was located just opposite our Airbnb and serves some pretty decent burgers. It was generally well-seasoned, got a nice crust over the patty, and was saucy to taste. We also had some chicken strips to start – whilst the seasoning was quite nice, the chicken was, unfortunately, a tad bit overcooked and a little bit dry. But overall, we were happy with our meal.
If you look up Turkish breakfast spots – whether online or from travel books – you’d see plenty of mentions that Lades is the place for Turkish menemen. Unfortunately, I’m going to burst the bubble and say no – at least from my personal experience there. It’s not bad, but it’s not fabulous either and I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a must-visit legendary restaurant. My main issue is that it really lacked seasoning. If it’s nearby where you are staying, I suppose there’s no harm in a little visit. But I’d like to give it a benefit of the doubt as I’m sure it’s been featured so much for a reason and I may just be unlucky during my visit.
Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi
Unfortunately, the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul presents terrible food options. We were told the only restaurant worth visiting is Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi, which is a long-standing kofte restaurant in the area since 1920. For main dishes, there are only kofte and lamb shish on the menu to choose from and a couple of simple side dishes. We tried one of each and the verdict is that it’s certainly a better option in the area where the meat tasted a lot fresher, but spices and seasonings are still missing a notch. What I do really like about the place though is that it’s not charging you touristy European prices. So if you’re looking for a place to eat after some sightseeing in Sultanahmet, save this one down.
Galleria Vita Vien
We’ve been introduced to Salep during this trip and were immediately in love! It was especially good under the cold weather and we’ll try to get one every day whenever it starts to get a bit freezing. Generally, you can’t go wrong with salep but we’ve come to notice that some do it a little bit better than others. One place we felt has been consistently good is Vita Vien. There are multiple shops across the city and is a good place to pop by for a little break. Salep and other drinks aside, they also do ice creams and desserts. For desserts, I’ve tried the baklava ice cream sandwich and thought it was more on the mediocre end. But we no doubt loved the salep and it’s our go-to over our 10-day trip!
Meshur Balikci Eyyup
Here’s the interesting thing we discovered about the food scene in Istanbul – the traditional Turkish meat grills are rather mediocre all around but, somehow, fish options are better! Balik Ekmek, i.e. mackerel sandwich, is a very popular street food item in Istanbul. We haven’t tried many stalls but we’ve enjoyed our Mackerel Wrap from this little stall by the Karakoy pier, Meshur Balikci Eyyup. Instead of the traditional sandwich bread, it comes in a form of a wrap and we particularly enjoyed the sprinkle of seasoning on the wrap itself to add another layer of flavour.
Other Istanbul Food Recommendations from You
- Sehzade Cag Kebap – horizontal kebab that’s deemed as a must in Istanbul
- Virginia Angus (various locations) – burger & steakhouse
- Seven Hills Restaurant – iconic rooftop Instagram shot location in Sultanahmet
Although if you’re looking for the perfect Instagram rooftop shot, we also recommend the Henna Hotel which we stayed at for the first two days and loved it.
- Hamdi Restaurant Eminonu – known for its Turkish kebabs (especially the Pistachio kebab) plus views across the Golden Horn
- MeatMoot – smoked bbq lamb restaurant at Taksim Square. We planned to visit but it was unfortunately closed when we reached there
- Ciya Sofrasi – homestyle Turkish restaurant in Kadikoy. The restaurant was full so we didn’t get to dine in there
- Kadikoy Tatuni – known as the best place in Istanbul to enjoy a Tatuni wrap
- Huqqabaz (various locations) – trendy international restaurant
- Arada Cafe – a mix of Turkish & Lebanese breakfast spread
- Moliendo Cafe – cute aesthetic dessert cafe in the Şişli area
- Mendel (various locations) – one for chocolate lovers
- Calipso Fish Restaurant – seafront seafood restaurant
- Beyaz Izgara – kofte & sujuk sandwich place next to the Grand Bazaar
- Bayramoğlu Döner – doner kebab restaurant
- Zuma – contemporary Japanese dining