Over the centuries, the grounds where Turkey stands right now have been inhabited by countless civilizations with various ethnic and cultural backgrounds; this collective heritage has a very distinctive signature on today’s richness of Turkish delicacies.
Istanbul is the greatest melting pot of Turkey’s colourful mosaic of cultures; this is most prominent and delicious when it comes to the art of cuisine. You can find 81 unique dishes from each of the 81 cities that makes Turkey a whole.
Since Istanbul is also one of the most touristic cities in Turkey, regional and cultural cuisine restaurants are a big business, making the city an ideal choice to try out most, if not all, the delicious tastes that sprouted out of these grounds throughout the time.
Here’s a selection of places that are famous with their delicacies and deserve a visit when you’re in Istanbul.
Van Breakfast House
A true example of the rich Turkish breakfast culture, Van Kahvalti Evi takes its name from the eastern city of Van. Signature mixed breakfast has 5 different and distinctly characteristic cheese kinds, eggs, local jams and marmalades, honey, olives, veggies and local tea, as well as various number of local delicacies such as mutluga, cemen and jaji which you have to experience for a full-blown Turkish breakfast.
One of the key factors that created the unique Van breakfast culture is that the city grounds are located on the route where the famous Silk Road once passed through, which meant many travellers and traders brought different tastes to Van while passing by.
Van Kahvalti Evi is located in Cihangir, one of the most popular districts in Istanbul with a walking distance to Taksim Square and Istiklal Avenue.
A mixed breakfast in Van Kahvalti Evi is a great way to start your day when you’re in Istanbul.
Aheste Meze House
Aheste is a boutique appetizer house located in Beyoglu. With cold and hot meze selections as well as various main courses, delicious and one-of-a-kind dishes of Aheste is an ideal alternative to enjoy before an afternoon walk in Beyoglu and Istiklal Avenue.
The restaurant is a prime example of how cultural potpourri can create a wonderful experience with recipes from Turkish, Persian, Ottoman, Greek and Armenian origin, enjoyed with slow jazz music. Coincidentally, “Aheste” means “slowly” in Turkish and the reason that the restaurant is named in this way is because these appetizers should be enjoyed slowly, as the owner suggests.
Aheste’s authentic and inventive dishes combine the local cuisine with global tastes to bring out a joyful union.
Rated as the best doner kebab of Istanbul in many magazines and food blogs, Karadeniz Doner is a must-have experience if you wish to enjoy one of the most famous street delicacies in Turkey. The unbelievably large kebab starts being cooked in the morning and there is such high demand that it runs out at noon, when the shop also closes. So, you better get there relatively early if you want to try the amazing doner!
Karadeniz Doner is perfect for lunch with a short walking distance to Besiktas coast, where you can take a walk by the Bosporus and enjoy the view.
As one of the most famous street foods of Istanbul, Karadeniz Doner is among the top choices for an authentic and delicious lunch.
Sensus Wine House
Istiklal Avenue starts at Taksim Square and ends at Galata; and in Galata, right under the historically famous Galata Tower: Sensus Wine House.
Sensus is a wonderful choice for an elegant dinner with live piano music, sophisticated dishes of vegetables, chicken, meat and duck as well as various side dishes. The restaurant offers a wide range of locally made wines that cater to all pallets and budgets.
The unique taste of Sensus wines stem from the special grapes grown in the dark soils located by the volcanic mountain of Divrit in Manisa city.
Sensus Wine House is a very fine choice to spend a pleasant evening with delicious food and some of the best local wines in Turkey.
Located right on the shoreline of Besiktas district, Feriye offers an excellent dining experience accompanied by the beautiful Bosporus view. The place is also home to concert and theatre venues as well as workshops, offering various fun choices for a well spent evening.
Feriye also hosts periodical charity sales with boutique and local crafts people of Istanbul, where you can find a unique souvenir for yourself or a friend while helping a good cause.
Feriye is one of the best choices for spending a night by the mesmerizing view of Bosporus and have a delicious dinner.
Aret’in Yeri is one of the most acclaimed restaurants when it comes to appetizers, fish and the traditional Turkish drink raki. With recipes both originating from Armenian and Turkish cuisine, the restaurant is full almost every night. Even though it’s now one of the most famous taverns in Istanbul, Aret’in Yeri is a cosy and warm place with friendly staff and regular customers.
Aret’in Yeri means Aret’s Place in Turkish and you can see the owner Aret almost anytime you visit the restaurant, working alongside his employees. There’s even a good chance he will drop by your table for a quick chat!
If you want to experience the famous raki, fish and appetizer culture of Turkey, Aret’in Yeri is a spot-on choice.
Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi is a living and breathing piece of history. With more than 100 years of experience, the tavern served as the favourite gathering spot for many musicians, writers, politicians and other well-known personas in Turkish history. All appetizers and courses are prepared with exactly the same recipe as the founding owners served, which takes this dining experience to a whole new dimension.
Tavern’s name means Republic, which, as the story goes, was coined by the founder of Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It is said in many sources that Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi was one of Ataturk’s favourite dining places in his time.
Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi brings history and a delicious dining experience together, with age old recipes and a unique ambiance.
Yücetepe Kır Gazinosu
Located in Buyukada, the largest one of the 9 islands near Istanbul, Yucetepe Kir Gazinosu is almost a place out of fairy tales. Surrounded with trees and wild flowers, the restaurant is situated right next to Aya Yorgi Kilisesi (Church of St. George). You can visit Yucetepe Kir Gazinosu at any time of the day to enjoy grilled delicacies, appetizers and drinks.
The restaurant is located at the highest point of Buyukada, giving you the best view of the island as well as the surrounding areas.
Visiting the islands is a great way to spend the day in Istanbul and Yucetepe Kir Gazinosu is one of the best choices to stop by for lunch or dinner while enjoying the wonderful view.
Kokorec is a regional street food made from skewed and grilled small intestines of lamb, and Reks Kokorec is one of the most famous and popular places to taste it. The meat is carefully cleaned and marinated in a mixture of spices to give it a distinctive taste. Kokorec is the favourite go-to food of Turkish people after a night of drinking at pubs, and it is believed to be a cure for the oncoming hangover of the next morning!
Reks Kokorec is located at Karanfil Street in Kadikoy, a very popular street adorned with pubs, clubs and bars. You can drop by Reks Kokorec after a couple of beers with your friends or family to taste the famous kokorec.
Reks Kokorec is open until the early lights of the morning and it’s a great last stop to your bar hopping adventure in Kadikoy’s colourful nightlife.
Sekerci Cafer Erol
Sekerci Cafer Erol is a historical dessert and candy shop that was handed down from one generation to the next since 1807. With over 200 years of experience, the family business is still going on with the enthusiasm and joy of the first day. All candies, desserts and cakes are handmade with family recipes and there are a lot of them, so you may want to drop by Sekerci Cafer Erol more than once to experience all tastes!
The candy shop is located in Kadikoy, where you can take a stroll on Moda shore and sit by the sea to enjoy your candies and desserts.
Sekerci Cafer Erol is a delicious and historical wonderland where you’ll be tempted to try all the candies and desserts!