Dining in Istanbul is really an experience. The rich heritage brought about by its being the capital of the world’s great empires contributes to the fact that this is the place to go if you want to feast on the many flavors of the world. There are a huge variety of restaurants and here, we’ll give you tips on where to find the best Turkish, French, Chinese and other cuisines. The rich flavors of Turkish cuisine are best savored with a cup of Turkish coffee.
What’s great about dining in Istanbul is that there is somewhere you can go to suit your budget. You can choose from street food and sidewalk eateries to chic restaurants. You can explore the local haunts and enjoy the sumptuous full meals they serve, or you can order mezes (very similar to the Spanish tapas), which you can munch while chatting with friends over bottles of cold beer. Or, you can splurge and go for the culinary palaces with exquisite dishes whipped up by the city’s best chefs. Generally, dining in Istanbul is great value for money.
Let’s have a bird’s eye view of the different restaurants classified according to the area, shall we?
Restaurants in Sultanahmet, including Beyazit and Eminonu
Most of the restaurants here are tourist traps – mainly catering to the tastes of their foreign friends. Thus, you will find that the dining is more on the style of the Europeans and are invariably more expensive. Thus, you will find the best French, Italian and international restaurants here. Aside from kofte and kebaps, you will find restaurants serving contemporary dishes. A favorite would be the Balikci Sabahattin, which serves excellent seafood dishes.
Restaurants in Hocapasa
For more local flavor, drop by the Hocapasa neighborhood. Here, you will find down-home goodness enjoyed by the Istanbulites. The food is very affordable, especially near the Hocapasa Mosque, near the Sirkeci Station. The set-up is usually meals eaten al fresco, so that you also enjoy the old-world atmosphere, along with your food. Here you will find grilled meats, Turkish pizzas, koftes and kebaps and other sumptuous Turkish food.
Restaurants in the Eminonu/Sirkeci Districts
Moderately-priced dishes and great meals are the order of the day at these districts. Only a few blocks away from Sultanahmet, you will find restaurants that cater mostly to the budget conscious. There are favorites when it comes to Ottoman ad Turkish Cuisine, as well as dishes in the Mediterranean tradition. You should also try the food at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, where you will also find one of the city’s oldest restaurants – the Pandeli restaurant.
For cheap eats, go down under. Under the bridge, that is. Beneath the Galata Bridge (on the Golden Horn’s western side), you will find stalls that serve yummy fish sandwiches – grilled fish wrapped in a roll.
Restaurants Along the Bosphorus
The Bosphorus is a great place to look for seafood restaurants. Here, you will be served the freshest of seafood, as well as raki. Near the Bosphorus, in the village of Kanlica, do try the yogurt, which is simply melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Dining at Ortakoy
Mmmm… good! The back of the mosque at Ortakoy is virtually a smorgasbord of fast food delights. Potatoes cooked every which way, stuffed mussels, sweets, and other bits of local cuisine. The bridge at Bosphorus is a great place to take a stroll as you munch on your fast-food delights.
Wipe generous amounts of jam, butter or cheese on to these small pieces of doughy delight – heaven! Yes, do try a simit, something you can buy from the street vendor, aside from the ubiquitous kebaps and koftes.