With a long history as a centre of hospitality, it’s no surprise Istanbul has a thriving culinary scene. The largest city in Turkey is home to everything from white-clothed, Michelin starred restaurants that require booking a month in advance, to tiny stalls in residential neighbourhoods that will serve the best baklava you’ve ever tasted. If there was ever a city to eat and drink your way around, it’s this one.
Although there are also tonnes of great options for international cuisine, the peak of Istanbul food is Turkish restaurants, serving typical Istanbul food. So, unbuckle your belt and get ready for a gastronomic adventure: here’s our guide to breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Istanbul.
Minoa Bookstore and Cafe
More for the Istanbul coffee lovers and those who want a light breakfast before a big day of exploring, this unassuming bookstore café is a bit of a hidden gem as it’s a short walk from the more buzzing areas of the city. Although not quite a bastion of Turkish food in Istanbul, they do serve up great Turkish coffee and a selection of pastries (local and other), sandwiches, and salads.
The café has a terrace extension which is wonderful for people watching. Or, if you want to, you can buy a book and have a read in the sun alongside a hot beverage – they offer discounts at the café for book buyers. The bookstore itself is also cosy and well stocked, and the staff are delightful, so if you’re looking for a calm and delicious start to the day, there really is nowhere better.
Yiğit Sofram Gözleme ve Kahvaltı
Those looking for traditional Turkish food in Istanbul need to head to this great little spot just a short hop from the strait that divides the Asian and European halves of the city. Definitely one of the best restaurants near the Bosporus in Istanbul, their breakfast is to die for, serving up classics like Menemen and Gözleme for an incredibly reasonable price, all in a friendly and laidback atmosphere.
While there are some other, swankier spots, those looking for a real Turkish restaurant in Istanbul serving authentic Turkish breakfast like the locals enjoy won’t find anywhere better. Chuck in the central location, a great variety of dishes, and super friendly and knowledgeable staff, and you’ve got yourself one of the best places to get typical food from Istanbul in the entire city.
Translating roughly to ‘Mountain Table’, you’ll struggle to get a more elevated menu in Istanbul than you’ll find at this renowned restaurant. Using the long history of Turkish and Ottoman cuisine as an inspiration, the chefs here add a modern twist to their dishes, whether that be by new flavour combinations or futuristic techniques.
The owners started the restaurant as a kebab place in the 80s, and the restaurant proper opened just before the turn of the millennium, serving mostly Anatolian classics. If you’re looking for authentic Turkish food in Istanbul, your search can end here: you’ll get the best of this incredible cuisine and then some, all in a wonderful setting.
An excellent place to sample a wide array of traditional Turkish dishes and other favourites at a good price, and a great spot to hangout: Café Aperatif in Istanbul has the charm, the atmosphere, and the facilities needed to make you spend a whole day here. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the informal atmosphere and variety of foods on offer make this spot best for the midday meal. You can spend time on their terrace (heated in the winter), or, if it gets too hot, the café is fully air conditioned.
Besiktas Saturday Market
While the Istanbul Turkish restaurants we’ve mentioned so far produce all sorts of excellent, traditional dishes, if you’re really keen for Turkish food in Istanbul you have to head to this cornucopia of sights, tastes, and smells, where you can sample everything you’d want and then some.
Running from dawn to dusk, this market is on the European side of the city but is a very Turkish bazaar. There’s all sorts of typical Istanbul food here, spread across the first floor alongside fresh fruit and other produce. As stated in the name, it’s only open on Saturday, so plan accordingly.
The very definition of a hidden gem, this little spot is located on the 6th floor of a nondescript building. While it isn’t a restaurant with a 360-degree roof view of Istanbul, you do get a nice sight of the cityscape. There is very little signage for this little place but it’s always bustling, although once you’re in your seat it’s like being in a little bubble. The attentive staff are friendly and will explain the dishes to non-locals as best they can, as well as providing their own (great) recommendations.
Once served your food in this rustic Istanbul Turkish restaurant, you’ll be in awe at just how delicious the local cuisine can be. If you’re lucky, past a certain time (usually around nine) local musicians come in and play traditional tunes and the atmosphere livens up a bit, with servers darting between merry locals to deliver dishes to your table.
Anything meaty here is a must, although veggies are also well catered for. If you want a real taste of Istanbul food, there’s nowhere better to head.
If you’re looking for a great, traditional Turkish restaurant just a stone’s throw from the Bosphorus, then look no further than Meg Restaurant. This laidback eatery is open all day, but at night the cocktails and atmosphere make this an excellent spot to take in some local culture and some Istanbul favourites.
While there are the usual meaty and cheesy classics on board, Meg has a bit of a healthier menu than most places, although their fresh olive oil is added to a lot of dishes and really adds a new dimension to their flavour profiles. The staff are incredibly welcoming too, so even if you only drop by for a quick bite before a night on the town, you’ll have a great time.