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.

The average day in Turkey is punctuated by round after round of tea and coffee, and shopping is no different. Since accepting a cup from a seller in the Grand Bazaar is regarded as interest in doing business, it may be better to stop in the few cafes inside the Grand Bazaar.

In the waterside Arnavutköy area, Dilara Erbay dishes up grilled fish at Abracadabra, housed in a wooden mansion.

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.

Grab a seat in the garden of this Sultanahmet seafood restaurant. The mezes, small appetizer plates of roasted red peppers and marinated octopus, make for perfect snacks and are best enjoyed ith a glass of raki, Turkey's signature liquor.

Set right on the Bosporus, this relaxed Mediterranean eatery recalls the waterfront cafés of Mill Valley and Sausalito.

Squeezed between two ramshackle buildings on the western shore of the Golden Horn, Cipalikapi Balikçisi serves traditional Turkish fare with a focus on meze and fish.

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?

Architects and designers hold lunch meetings over bowls of just-like-mom’s bulgur.

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.

It may be one of the hottest restaurants in town, on the old embassy row, but 360’s modern-fusion cooking isn’t the only reason to come. The other lure is the view of Istanbul, spreading out beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

Since 1920, this workingman’s dive has remained hugely popular despite serving only two main dishes: meatballs and lamb skewers.

Thirtysomething owner Batur Durmay speaks fluent English and guides diners through his extensive list of dishes. Durmay’s family funded painstaking research in Ottoman archives to reproduce former sultans’ fare.

If the name of this rooftop bistro in the city's Beverly-Hills-type neighborhood of Bebek betrays a certain European flavor, it’s not by accident.

Sunset, when the mosques and minarets glow like fire and the city lights twinkle, is the time to hit this spot on the top floor of the Goethe Institute.