Expert recommendations for the best places to eat in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)
Kurucu Ali Baba Kanaat Lokantası
Opposite Süleymaniye Mosque. Four generations serving kuru fasülye, a traditional dish of white beans stewed with lamb and served with rice. This type of comfort cuisine is often called ana yemekleri, or home cooking. Prof. Sıddık Sami Onar Caddesi 1/3, Süleymaniye; tel. 90 212 520 7655.
Established in 1888, purports to be oldest restaurant in Istanbul. Specialty is slow-stewed dishes of the Ottoman court. “Menu changes according to seasons, like rice-stuffed pumpkin blossoms in summer.”—Kerem Görsev, internationally renowned Turkish jazz pianist. Delicious Turkish sherbets and desserts include kazandibi (cauldron corner), a caramelized milk pudding.Tip: Lunch early when strolling on İstiklal, a refined respite from the masses. Ağa Camii Yanı, Sakızağacı Caddesi 17, Beyoğlu; tel. 90 212 293 8561. www.haciabdullah.com.tr
Well established restaurant owned by Ottoman cuisine specialist and author Feridun Ügümü. “Serves delightful and lesser known Ottoman dishes like ayvalı yahni, lamb stew with quince.”—Görgün Taner, general manager, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. Signature dish: Hünkar Beğendi, a buttery aubergine puree. Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi 21/1, Nişantaşı; tel. 90 212 225 4665.
In the bustling back alley of Nevizade; gypsy street musicians might be inspired to sing about the food. “Perfectly grilled calamari, fresh fried red mullet.”—Eveline Zoutendijk, Cordon Bleu-trained owner and instructor, Cooking Alaturka. Tip: Sample traditional Armenian topik, chickpea paste mixed with currants, cinnamon, and pomegranate molasses. Nevizade Sokak 19, Beyoğlu; tel. 90 212 243 1219.
A traditional rakı-serving meyhane (tavern) known for its extensive appetizer selection and savory fish. Named a best restaurant by TimeOut Istanbul in 2006. “Smoky congregating place for left-wing intellectuals. Black-and-white portraits of noted patrons look down from walls.”—Hugh Pope, author, Sons of the Conquerors: The Rise of the Turkic World and Turkey Unveiled. Asmalımescit Sokak 35/37, Tünel; tel. 90 212 249 2925.
Five-story landmark meat restaurant on the Golden Horn. “Pre-order the testi kebab, fire-cooked clay-pot beef stew.”—Kathy Hamilton, culture reviewer, TimeOut Istanbul. Tip: Request the glass-enclosed rooftop for best view. Tahmis Caddesi, Kalçın Sokak 17, Eminönü; tel. 90 212 528 0390. www.hamdirestorant.com.tr
Colossal 1878 mansion in former hunting grounds of Governor General to Egypt. “Greenest view of Bosporus from the balcony of an Ottoman gingerbread house.”—Guy Lamontagne, director, Istanbul’s LaSalle International Academy fashion school. Buffet of classic Turkish dishes perfect for weekend brunch. Superb baklava. Tip: Make time to explore wooded gardens and nearby Pembe Köşk and Beyaz Köşk. Emirgan Korusu, Sarıyer; tel. 90 212 229 5038. www.beltur.com.tr
Intimate seafood restaurant in a 1927 wooden town house. Al fresco dining in warm weather. “Known for rice-stuffed steamed mussels.”—Şerif Yenen, author, Turkish Odyssey: A Cultural Guide to Turkey. Seyit Hasan Kuyu Sokak 1, Cankurtaran, Sultanahmet; tel. 90 212 458 1824.
Hip twist on traditional Ottoman cuisine with mesmerizing view of the spotlit monuments in Sultanahmet and Seraglio Point. Kumbaracı Yokuşu 115/7 Tünel; tel. 90 212 293 4989. www.lebiderya.com
Adaptations of Ottoman palace cuisine served in atmospheric 16th-century courtyard of the Süleymaniye Mosque's kitchen complex. Fifty seasonal dishes prepared daily, including sherbets flavored with rosehips, pomegranate, and tamarind. Şifahane Caddesi 6, Süleymaniye; tel. 90 212 511 8414. www.daruzziyafe.com.tr
Palatially styled meat restaurant, seats 450 diners at a time. Taste the beyti kebab, grilled lamb wrapped in flatbread, topped with yogurt and tomato sauce. “For classic kebab cuisine, it’s an institution.”—Giancarlo Baltazzi, vice president, Turkish tour agency Karavan Travel. Near Atatürk International Airport. Orman Sokak 8, Florya; tel. 90 212 663 2990. www.beyti.com
Four generations of a central-Anatolian Konya family have operated this 110-year-old establishment, serving specialities of Türk mutfağı (the Turkish kitchen) to world leaders at the Topkapı location. Dishes include Tandır and Hunkar Begendi (oven-roasted lamb served over smoky pureed eggplant). Old meets ultra modern at Konyalı’s 2006 branch in cutting-edge shopping mall. Kanyon, Büyükdere Caddesi 185, Levent; tel. 90 212 353 0450. www.konyalilokantasi.com
Brass-accented dining room on the picturesque Bay of Bebek. Tip: Try the fener kavurması (roasted angler fish) or grilled octopus. Cevdetpaşa Sokak 58, Küçük Bebek; tel. 90 212 263 3823.
Ornate 19th-century waterfront edifice, once the security station for nearby Çırağan Palace. Summertime al fresco dining on Bosporus. Creative menu from Ottoman cuisine specialist Vedat Başaran. “Innovative yet traditional dishes like saffron-infused grilled turbot.”—Defne Ertan Tüysüzoğlu, partner, Gruppo Restaurant Group. Çırağan Caddesi 40, Ortaköy; tel. 90 212 227 2216.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
See Captivating Photos of Our Days' End—Submitted by Members of the Your Shot Community
Shop National Geographic
Special Ad Section
Watch as Nat Geo photographers reveal what drives them to create iconic images.