In October 2021, I visited Istanbul, Turkey to indulge in Turkish food. Below are some of the places I visited with my personal rating of how good each food tasted on a scale of 1 to 10. Some of the restaurants we visited were highly rated by others but we found them to be not as good as some unknown, hole-in-the-wall places. You can find the same type of food all over Istanbul as there are restaurants and street vendors everywhere. But, the pictures on display can be deceiving as the taste can vary greatly from one place to another.
Şehzade Cağ Kebap
Hoca Paşa, Hoca Paşa Sk. No:6 D:4, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
This place specializes in Cağ Kebap. The cost for 2 skewers and lavash bread is TL 34 (US$ 3.83). The meat was especially good. Unlike traditional doner kabab on a vertical spit, this one is on a horizontal spit.
This place specializes in Baklava. I found their to be just okay. Definitely not as good as Karaköy Güllüoğlu. The triangular baklava costs 17 TL ($1.85) and the square baklavas costs 14 TL ($1.53).
This place is well known as one of the best, if not the best, baklava restaurant in Istanbul. They only have one location in Istanbul, unlike Hafiz Mustafa, which is everywhere. Karaköy Güllüoğlu does have really good Baklava BUT their ordering process is chaotic.
For to-go orders, you can order first and they charge by weight. The problem is they are so busy that it’s hard to tell them which type of baklava you want because there’s so many people in your way. For to-go orders, they will shrink wrap the boxes or aluminum containers with plastic so nothing leaks.
For dine-in orders, you have to pay first. The problem is they will charge you for whatever items you ask for regardless of whether any of the items are still available. I ordered a few different types of baklava and paid for them but when I gave my receipt to the workers behind the counter, they said that they ran out of a few things I paid for and had to substitute them with other things.
For one of the best baklava shops in Istanbul, they really need to do a better job with their ordering process. Maybe have a numbering system where you take a number and just wait to be called rather than have people walking all over the place looking confused. The ordering process was so lame that I didn’t even want to eat there so we just ordered to go and ate at the hotel. The baklava is really good though so we had to buy a bunch to bring back home.
Kofte (Turkish Meatballs)
Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi Selim Usta
Alemdar, Divan Yolu Cd. No:12, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Open every day, 10:30AM–11PM
One food guide recommended this place which is located across the street from Sultanahmet Square. It’s supposed to specialize in Kofte (Turkish meatballs) as the name of the restaurant has the word “Kofte” in it. Ironically, the Kofte was just okay. Instead, the shish kabab was actually pretty good and tender.
Kofte Rating: 5
Shish Kabab Rating: 8
Shisha and Sahlab
There’s this cafe directly in front of the hotel we stayed at (The Mercure Istanbul Sirkeci). Among other things, they offer shisha (hookah) and sahlab / sahlep. Both were exceptional.
Shisha Rating: 10
Sahlab Rating: 10
Pide (Turkish Pizza)
Pide Rating: 7
One food guide recommended this place for its pide. Unfortunately, I found it to be just okay.
Mavi Halic Pidecisi
Sarıdemir, Kutucular Cd. No:28, 34134 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Open everyday: 8 AM to 6:30 PM
Pide Rating: 10
This place is located in a small alleyway full of shops in what looks like an ancient marketplace. This time I ordered the pide (Turkish pizza) with eggs on top. The eggs were cooked just how I like them – somewhat runny. The entire pide including the eggs was very good.
Menemen (Turkish Egg Scramble)
Menemen Rating: 10
This place is located just off of the famous Istiklal Cadessi (Independence St). They specialize in Menemen (Turkish eggs scramble) as the word Menemen is in its name. I ordered the kind with Turkish sausage. It was exceptionally good. I would have ordered it twice but was afraid I’d get too full to try other food on the schedule for the day. If you visit Istanbul, definitely visit this place as you will most likely visit Istiklal Cadessi. It cost 25 Turkish Lira (US$3).
We weren’t planning on eating grilled intestines but since the place we intended to eat at was closed, we gave this place a try. The grilled intestines looked good but I didn’t really care for the taste.
Kokorec Rating: 6
Turkish Coffee Rating: 10
This coffee shop is located in a small alleyway just off of the famous Istiklal Cadessi (Independence St). A visit to this place was totally worth it as the coffee was exceptional.
In Istanbul, you can find many street vendors selling Turkish Coffee in ancient looking stands.
Iskendar Kebab Rating: 8.5
This place doubles as a butcher shop as the name means Butcher Osman. I ordered the Iskendar Kebab which was pretty good.
Iskendar Kebab Rating: 10
We stopped by this place to try their meat. I’m glad we did because it was some of the best meat we’ve had in Istanbul! It cost 53 Turkish Lira (US$6).
Grilled Meat Plate: 8
This place is a little pricey for Istanbul standards – probably because it’s in the tourist area. The food there is okay.
Tantuni (Turkish Meat Sandwich)
Rüstem Paşa, Yeni Cami Cd. No:39, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul
Beef Tantuni Rating: 8.5
This place specializes in Tantuni (Turkish sandwich). They offer both chicken and beef sandwiches. I ordered the beef. It was pretty good.
Kunafe (Turkish Sweet)
We found a Kunafe shop near Misr Carsisi (Egyptian Spice Market). We ordered Kunafe with cream. It was pretty good.
Kunafe Rating: 9
Sahlep (Hot Turkish Milk Drink)
We found this waterfront cafe in the Karakoy area of Istanbul facing the Bosphorus Straight. Whenever you see these golden dispensers, you’ll normally find sahlab. Unfortunately, this one didn’t take very good at all.
Sahlep Rating: 5
Tomato & Beef Kabab
Domatesli kebap Rating: 10
This place has some of the best kababs in Istanbul. We tried their Domatesli kebap which means “Kebab with Tomato” and it was especially good! It cost 55 Turkish Lira (US$6).
Real Fruit Juice
We came across this fruit juice seller near one of the entrances of the Egyptian Spice Market. We ordered the mixed juice and it was really good.
Mixed Fruit Juice Rating: 10
If you’re going to visit Istanbul, I highly recommend you visit the places.
- Lades Menemen (order mixed Menemen)
- Sütiş Kebap Dünyası (order Iskendar kebab, Domatesli kebap, and pretty much any other meat item)
- Mavi Halic Pidecisi (order Pide)
- Karaköy Güllüoğlu (order Baklava)