Istanbul - Kebabs and Beyond

Istanbul - Kebabs and Beyond
Photo by Carlos Torres / Unsplash

The Rich History of Turkish Food

Turkish cuisine is a tapestry of flavours and culinary traditions, reflecting the diverse cultures that have influenced the region over centuries. The roots of Turkish food can be traced back to the nomadic Turkic tribes of Central Asia, who brought their cooking techniques to Anatolia. The cuisine further evolved under the influence of the Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman Empires, incorporating elements from the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Balkans. This rich history has resulted in a diverse and vibrant culinary scene in Istanbul, where traditional dishes are celebrated alongside innovative creations.

Must-Visit Places to Eat in Istanbul

Traditional Turkish Breakfast (Kahvaltı)

  1. Van Kahvaltı Evi
    • What to Try: An array of cheeses, olives, eggs, fresh bread, honey, and clotted cream (kaymak).
    • Description: Known for its authentic Turkish breakfast, this cozy spot in Cihangir offers a variety of traditional breakfast items in a warm and inviting atmosphere.
  2. Sütiş
    • What to Try: Menemen (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and peppers), simit (Turkish bagel), and Turkish tea.
    • Description: Overlooking the Bosphorus, Sütiş is a popular spot for a leisurely breakfast with a view.
a bowl of food with bread on the side
Photo by Christian Dala / Unsplash
a table topped with lots of plates of food
Photo by Lala Azizli / Unsplash

Kebabs and Grills

  1. Zübeyir Ocakbaşı
    • What to Try: Adana kebab, lamb chops, and grilled vegetables.
    • Description: A favorite among locals, this grill house offers a variety of succulent kebabs cooked over an open flame.
  2. Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebab
    • What to Try: Cağ kebab (rotisserie-style lamb).
    • Description: Specializing in the regional dish from Erzurum, this eatery serves deliciously spiced lamb kebabs on skewers.
roasted meat dish
Photo by Suad Kamardeen / Unsplash


  1. Balıkçı Sabahattin
    • What to Try: Grilled sea bass, mezes, and calamari.
    • Description: This historic seafood restaurant, set in a charming old house, is known for its fresh fish and traditional mezes.
  2. Karaköy Lokantası
    • What to Try: Octopus salad, fish soup, and shrimp stew.
    • Description: Combining modern and traditional elements, this stylish restaurant offers a great selection of seafood dishes.
grilled fish with vegetable salad on white ceramic plate
Photo by Alex Teixeira / Unsplash
fried chicken on black plate
Photo by Sam Loyd / Unsplash

Street Food

  1. Kızılkayalar
    • What to Try: Wet burger (Islak hamburger).
    • Description: Famous for its juicy, garlic-infused wet burgers, this street food joint is a must-visit for a late-night snack.
  2. Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi
    • What to Try: Köfte (meatballs) and piyaz (bean salad).
    • Description: Established in 1920, this historic eatery is known for its delicious grilled meatballs.
burger and fries on plate
Photo by Jonas Allert / Unsplash


  1. Hafiz Mustafa 1864
    • What to Try: Baklava, Turkish delight, and kanafeh.
    • Description: One of Istanbul’s oldest sweet shops, Hafiz Mustafa offers a wide range of traditional Turkish desserts.
  2. Karaköy Güllüoğlu
    • What to Try: Pistachio baklava and şöbiyet.
    • Description: Renowned for its high-quality baklava, this family-run business has been delighting customers since 1949.
a close up of a pastry on a plate
Photo by kourosh mirzaei / Unsplash
pastries display selective focus photography
Photo by Maria Teneva / Unsplash

Hidden Gems and Local Hangouts

  1. Çiya Sofrası
    • What to Try: A variety of regional Turkish dishes and mezes.
    • Description: This restaurant offers an extensive menu of lesser-known dishes from all over Turkey, providing a true culinary journey.
  2. Dürümzade
    • What to Try: Dürüm (wraps) with various fillings such as lamb, chicken, or beef.
    • Description: A favorite of late chef Anthony Bourdain, this spot is renowned for its delicious and affordable dürüms.
  3. Namlı Gurme
    • What to Try: Charcuterie, cheeses, and gourmet sandwiches.
    • Description: This deli and restaurant offers a wide selection of high-quality meats, cheeses, and other gourmet items, perfect for a quick bite or a picnic.
  4. Mikla
    • What to Try: The tasting menu with contemporary Turkish dishes.
    • Description: For a fine dining experience, Mikla offers modern Turkish cuisine with stunning views of the city.

Istanbul’s culinary scene is as rich and diverse as its history. From traditional breakfast spots to bustling street food joints and hidden gourmet gems, the city offers a feast for every palate.

Enjoy your culinary journey!

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