Few cities rival the immense character of Istanbul. Over centuries, it has been the epicenter of nations and home to many ethnicities and cultures. It’s also a melting pot of people from around Turkey — from the Aegean coast to Eastern Turkey — as well as immigrants from abroad who bring their own cuisines and cultures to pockets across the city. Over the course of a day, visitors may find themselves wandering around kebab shops in an Anatolian-influenced area, perusing stores in a posh shopping district, relaxing with a cup of coffee at a laid back European-style cafe, or picking from the area’s freshest produce at a food market.
The dining options are nearly infinite, from fish restaurants among the villas along the Bosphorus to classic street carts to mind-blowing fine dining. Visitors can enjoy a strong cup of Turkish coffee or surprising Turkish wines, a humble simit or perfect meatballs. On weekdays, busy workers grab breakfast on the go and spend little time at lunch, but the pace slows on the weekends and in the evenings. Locals flock to leisurely weekend breakfasts and spend evenings eating, drinking rakı, and talking at favorite meyhanes (taverns) and restaurants.
French antiquarian Petrus Gyllius wrote of Constantinople in 1561, “It seems to me that while other cities may be mortal, this one will remain as long as there are men on earth.” Here are immortal Istanbul’s essential restaurants.
Tuba Şatana is a food writer focusing on its creators, artisans, the city’s food scene and the food culture of Turkey’s geography, living in Istanbul. She is also creator and founder of Istanbul Food and Sapor İstanbul Food Symposium.)
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.