A Mini Food Guide For The City of Istanbul

Istanbul… The constant beating of the wave of the east against the rocks of the west

Susan Moody

Ahh Istanbul one of my favourite cities around the world. I fell in love with this city when I visited 10 years ago and I somehow managed to fall in love with it all over again every revisit.

Look at that overly excited young Raneem

I mean there is plenty to love about the city from its spectacular architecture to its people from multi cultured backgrounds. This city is one that is rich with history and breath-taking views. The only downside though is the fact it is very very very crowded all year round. This was my 7th revisit and while this trip was mainly focused on helping my sister settle there and start her university years, I felt like I owed to this city to write this guide.

A food guide that entails all the best restaurant around Istanbul as well as the best Turkish dishes to try.  I mean food has the power to introduce you to a new culture and allow you to create new memories, which is the main reason I love travelling so much! What better way to discover a city other than to let your senses take a culinary journey!

Let the Istanbul culinary journey begin:

I wanted to start with street food as I consider it the best way to get a taste of the city you are in, an authentic taste! Istanbul is full of must try street food items here are my top 7 picks –

  1. Stuffed Mussels – They are cut open and drizzled with lemon in front of your eyes. It contains a spicy rice and vegetable stuffing. This is my favourite in Istanbul because it is quite unique and palatable! You can find stands all over the city selling those be brave and have one! Don’t let the fear of getting poisoned or the fear of how well the mussels have been stored/cleaned get in the way. I can safely say I’ve had a 100 of those on this trip alone, form various locations, and I’m more than fine.

2. Fish sandwiches – While we are on the topic of fish if you ever visit an area called karakoy make sure to go down to the pier and stop at one of the stands that grills fish! Those fish sandwiches are exquisite I can truly say I never had better.

3.Roasted chestnuts – This is such a winter food but whether you go to Istanbul when the sun is beaming or when the clouds are rumbling make sure to try those! A healthy snack that can boost your energy levels for the long walks around the city.

4. Ice-cream – If you don’t have trust issues you will after buying Turkish ice-cream from one of those magicians that love to do tricks on you before handing you the ice-cream you have been dreaming about! In all honesty the show is appealing especially if you are an Instagram and a show never hurt your story!

5. Doner- I shall not say more about this if you don’t know why… you better get yourself a ticket to Istanbul to know why. On a side note, a lot of the locals might advise you to go to an area called Taksim for the best doner I on the other hand wouldn’t. Taksim is overly crowded compared to the rest of the city and the doner there wasn’t any different than the one I had in Sultanahmet area.

6. Simit – The Turkish version of a bagel. You can have it any time of the day accompanied with a cup of Turkish tea and boy will your heart be satisfied.

7. Baked potato – Basically a huge baked potato is cut in half and filled with butter and cheese for the base. The seller then asks for your preferred filling – from a mind-bending range of ingredients, including corn, pickled red cabbage, pickles, Olivier salad, yogurt, jalapenos, olives, etc. I thought I can’t love potato any more, but I was so wrong this made me love it quadruple times more.

There is plenty more food on the streets of Istanbul those are just my top picks! My advice, go for a walk around the city avoid taxis and public forms of transportation and simply walk you would be amazed on the amount of tasty and exceptional food that you will find.

Now on to splurging money! During my stay I did try a couple of local restaurants that are considerably very cheap nonetheless I did have space in my budget to spend some extra cash on sort of fancier restaurant or rather more touristy based restaurants which are in the list below.

  1. Oba café – A café/ restaurant located on the Bosporus it has spectacular views that should not be missed. The waiters are very sweet and offer excellent service! Food wise you get a selection of western dishes as well as Turkish dishes that are delightful to the taste buds.

2. Al Medina- This restaurant belongs to one of the Instagram famous chefs CZN. It has various locations so make sure to find the nearest to where you are. Like any Instagram famously owned restaurants this is an attraction to many celebrities and famous politicians around the world, they do have a wall full of pictures to prove that, hence you should book in advance and expect to be wowed! Moreover, I went there expecting the food to be average because this restaurant is built on how famous the owner is, but I was wrong! The food was delicious.

3.Sunset bar and grill – I went to this place for my birthday dinner mainly because they have sushi. When visiting this restaurant expect to go bankrupt not only is the food expensive but they make you pay 200 TL for sitting on one of their tables. That being said you need to book around 3 months in advance to get a proper table with a superb view. Whilst it is crazy expensive it is honestly crazy good! Their dishes are all infusions of different cuisines, honestly it is hard to leave that restaurant unsatisfied even when you pocket hurts.

4. Nusr-et steak house – If you didn’t hear of Nusr-et then I advise you to go discover him cause to know nur-et is to know good meat. I already wrote a blog post beforehand about his restaurant in Doha so I won’t go into details about his restaurant in turkey nonetheless, his restaurant is much cheaper in Istanbul than Doha I just thought I would mention that.

5. Ulus – Spectacular, mesmerizing and incredible views from this place. I went here twice both times I had Turkish tea only nonetheless, they do have a full menu that I unfortunately couldn’t try all I can say is that my breath was taken by those views.

6. Bazlama kahvaltı – A breakfast spot! So, I know if you are on a holiday in Istanbul and your staying in a hotel chances are breakfast is included in your stay and so you won’t get much of a chance to try breakfast spots. However, escape your hotel breakfasts and go to this restaurant! They have a nice breakfast concept which is similar to a buffet where they cook up and lay this beautiful spread that includes jams, cheeses, bread and egg. You can then refill on your favorite items.

Not really a restaurant rather a must visit place – The fish market overlooking Marmara Sea – You can go handpick your freshly caught fish and ask for it to be cooked in your preferred way!

And that is all for this Istanbul food guide… please let me know in the comments below if you have been to Istanbul and what is your favorite go to Turkish dish!


Until next time, crave the dish…

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