Istanbul

Restaurants in Istanbul

In spite of rich Central Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean influences, restaurants in Istanbul aren't known for excellence. But what many Istanbul restaurants lack in culinary innovation they tend to make up for extensive menus and excellent views of the city and beyond.

Some of the best restaurants in Istanbul with such panoramas include the chic 360 Istanbul, in Beyoglu, and Ulus 29, set back in a beautiful hillside neighborhood. In general, it's best to avoid dining out in the Old City, or Sultanahmet, where the restaurants cater to tourists. For a more traditional meal, consider Asitane, which offers a selection of lamb dishes (bonus: the large menu is written in English).

Another option in a similar vein is Ciya Sofrasi, which serves more exotic combinations such as mumbar, or sheep intestine filled with rice and lamb. If you're a less adventurous eater and in the mood for standout seafood, try the modestly decorated Balıkçı Kahraman. Also consider checking out the district of Ortakoy, near the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, which has some peaceful spots.

When Semsa Denizsel opened Kantin in 2000, she wanted to both remind Istanbullus of their culinary heritage and introduce them to the idea of slow food.

Forget the burger-joint visions the name connotes: this elegant rooftop spot is one of the city’s most sophisticated dining destinations.

In Istanbul, big business takes place in the skyscrapers in the Levent neighborhood, and those working in that area often dine at Kösebasi.

It would be a crime to miss the Süleymaniye Camii mosque, an Ottoman masterpiece; it would be sadder still not to visit this nearby sweet shop. Decked out in weathered marble, this vintage cubbyhole specializes in boza—a cross between pudding and a beverage, which is made from fermented bulgur.

Babylon concertgoers gather at the music venue's sister site for smoked-salmon pizzete and pan-Mediterranean salads.

The rooftop lounge at this bar-and-restaurant complex is Beyoglu’s party central.

The height of glamour, atop the hotel Marmara Pera, Mikla has some of the best vistas in town. Swedish-born star chef Mehmet Gürs’s Mediterranean-inspired dishes don’t come cheap, but for the patrons here, money really doesn’t matter.

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.

To sample the ultimate meat wrap, grab a succulent döner, near the Nuruosmaniye Gate.

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.

It’s neither as famous nor as trendy as other rooftop restaurants in the area (say, 360 or Mikla), but Konak’s views are just as exhilarating, and the food is hearty and cheap.

Goldsmiths, rug lords, and copperware kings pack into the homey Subaşi for fortifying white beans in tomato sauce and chicken stuffed with rice.

Concealed amid the business-class lounges, this spacious, sunlit restaurant looks as if it would be forbidden to steerage passengers, but it’s not.

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.