Restaurants in Istanbul
The meyhane (drinking house) is the Turkish version of a tapas bar, where small mezes and fish are washed down with glasses of raki, a bracing anise-flavored liquor. The city is full of them, but Bonçuk, where strolling fasil musicians entertain diners, is one of the best.
At the picturesque Cebeci Han caravansary, this spot serves the city's tastiest kebabs.
West of the central tourist area of Sultanahmet, the neighborhood of Samatya is home to this long-time area restaurant. Develi has been serving southeast Anatolian cuisine to locals and expats since 1966.
In a neighborhood filled with snootily fashionable terrace cafés—where the waitstaff seem to make a special point of ignoring you—Atika stands out for its genial atmosphere of bonhomie.
Goldsmiths, rug lords, and copperware kings pack into the homey Subaşi for fortifying white beans in tomato sauce and chicken stuffed with rice.
Turkish ice cream is stickier and chewier than its Western counterpart—it stretches. You can’t get it anywhere but Turkey. The secret ingredient is salep, the ground tubers of wild orchids.
The Tugra was the calligraphic seal of the Ottoman Sultans. No doubt the restaurant of the same name now located in the sumptuous 19th-century Ciragan Palace on the western shore of the Bosphorus would get one of approval.
On the city’s Asian side, you’ll find Çiya Sofrasi, past the splendorous Kadiköy fish-and-produce market. As you pick your dishes from the no-nonsense counter, keep in mind that Çiya’s owner, Musa Dağdeviren, may be Turkey’s first globally recognized foodie brain.
You might call Zarifi the first postmodern meyhane with a mission to revive lost elements of Beyoğlu’s past as a drinking, fun-loving ghetto from Byzantine days. Not to mention the food that went along with the mayhem.
In Turkey, the Özkanca family is synonymous with premier restaurants and cuisine. One of their best-loved ventures is located in the Istanbul Convention and Exhibition Centre just north of Taksim Square.
Set right on the Bosporus, this relaxed Mediterranean eatery recalls the waterfront cafés of Mill Valley and Sausalito.
Full of bright-green Eastern Barak pistachios, fragrant with syrup, brushed with sheep’s butter—yet somehow light—the baklava at Karaköy Güllüoglu Baklavalari sets the gold standard. Eat it at the nearby Karaköy docks while gazing at the magnificent mosques across the water.
Beyoglu is known for its raucous drinking houses, or meyhane, where meze are an excuse for rivers of raki. This is the insiders' favorite: a brick-walled dining room illuminated by chandeliers that sets the scene for house specials like ficin, a spiced meat pie. The best part?
If you’re not quite ready to plunge into Turkish culture the moment you arrive, pop in for one last half-caf Venti skinny latte before you leave the airport. The comfy chairs make it a good place to read a newspaper, and it’s normally quiet.
One of the most well-known meyhane restaurants in the city, Yakup 2 serves customers the classic line up of appetizers like artichokes, yogurt, and calamari, followed by innumerable courses of meat and rice dishes and a fruit-platter dessert.