If you feel like all the cool people you know are passing through Istanbul, it’s because they are. But here’s a news flash: Istanbul is always a good idea. From history to architecture to luxe hotels — and, yes, food — Istanbul has it going on. These are the restaurants you need to know.
The Restaurant: Etiler Kebapçi
The Category: Our Favorite Kebabs
It’s the infamous Nusret Gökçe who runs Etiler Kebapçi. He’s otherwise known to the world as “salt bae.” But before his viral videos, social media stardom, and franchise of restaurants around the globe, he was a chef. His restaurant, Etiler Kebapçi, is located at one of the busiest points on Nispetiye Street. Because of Nurset’s reputation and culinary skills, it’s often packed with celebrities and fans alike. The menu focuses on serving high-quality kebabs and meats by using fresh ingredients. In addition, the open kitchen allows some of the fragrance and action out into the main dining area. Besides kebabs and meats, Etiler Kebapçi has a range of traditional appetizers and dishes.
The Restaurant: Elbet Steakhouse
The Category: Our Favorite Steakhouse
Elbet Steakhouse has been around for more than 15 years. The cofounders, İbrahim Çolak and Elvan Şahin, run every aspect of the business. Their meats come from private farms in Thrace, a region in western Turkey that is a natural feeding ground for animals. Elbet serves over a hundred kinds of meats cooked in a variety of styles and homemade sauces. The restaurant has both traditional Turkish dishes as well as steakhouse classics. The steakhouse has two locations, one in Besiktas and the other in Akasya Mall.
The Restaurant: Pandeli Restaurant
The Category: Great Spot in Old Town
Pandeli is a culinary institution in Istanbul that goes back more than a century. The restaurant started out as a street vendor, then became a small eatery, and is now a full-fledged establishment above the Spice Bazaar. Its food has long attracted journalists, writers, and politicians. Consequently, they cemented its name as a must-visit for tourists and celebrities traveling through Istanbul. The interior has lovely blue mosaic tiles on the walls and a traditional decor. Try the döner kebab, which is still cooked with charcoal fire, the eggplant pie, and the lamb stew. But the list goes on. Pandeli serves an array of traditional Turkish dishes that are not to be missed.
The Restaurant: Mangerie
The Category: Stunning Views
Mangerie is situated on the Bosporus, the dominant strait on whose banks the old Istanbul (Constantinople) was built. It has a terrace with great views of Bebek Bay. As a result, this bistro-cafe has become the go-to choice of Istanbul’s social scene. It is a perfect spot to have brunch or an open-air dinner. Mangerie serves Turkish and continental cuisine. Two gems from the menu are menemen —Anatolian-styled eggs — and Balık ekmek, a fish sandwich favored by the locals. In addition, Mangerie has a selection of fresh-juice cocktails that are great any time of day. The laid-back atmosphere and A-list views make this a restaurant worth visiting.
The Restaurant: Petra Roasting Co.
The Category: Best Coffee
Many coffee shops have opened in Istanbul recently. Petra Roasting Co. is at the forefront of this trend. It’s located inside the Muse Collective, a stylish art gallery and boutique. Petra Roasting places emphasis on sourcing and roasting coffee rather than simply turning out drinks. Therefore, the space is primarily a roasting facility, with only a few tables for seating. The aim here is quality over quantity. So this is the place to go if you want to slow down and get nerdy about coffee. Additionally, you can buy various pastries, bread, and, of course, tons of coffee equipment and beans.
The Restaurant: Cafe Hide
The Category: Great Atmosphere
Café Hide opened its doors in 2020 in Arnavutköy. Set along the river, Café Hide is surrounded by colorful homes, picture-perfect coffee houses, and winding streets. This charming neighborhood is filled with art-nouveau dwellings and Ottoman-era mansions. Additionally, the restaurant has its own “secret garden,” where you can sit and eat on a sun-drenched lawn. Café Hide has a well-stocked bakery and a great selection of coffees, teas, and juices.
The Restaurant: Backyard
The Category: Most Happening
Backyard lies between the Arnavutköy and Etiler neighborhoods, in the gardens of a historic orphanage. The site gives it a lot of indoor and outdoor space. The enchanting lawn has a lovely ambiance and tons of seating, while the interior has big windows that bring in tons of light and merge the two spaces. Head chef Beril Şanal Talun serves a menu with a focus on seasonal and organic ingredients. Overall, the food is primarily continental with a mix of modern Turkish dishes. On summer nights, Backyard turns into Backbar — a chic setting featuring DJs, cocktails, and quick bites.
Sightseeing in Istanbul
Besides the food, people primarily visit Istanbul to get a glimpse of its rich culture and history. Turkey is a melting pot of many kinds of people and traditions; both Western and Eastern influences play out here. As a result, there is so much to see that it can be overwhelming. But don’t fret, we’ve got you covered with a list — whether you’re in Sultanahmet, Taksim, or Karakoy.
The Sights in Sultanahmet
- The Basilica Cistern
- Hagia Sophia
- Topkapi Palace
- Spice Market
- Grand Bazaar
- Archeological Musuem
- Greek Patriarch Center / Hagia Yorgi Church
- Bulgarian Church
The Sights in Taksim/Karakoy
- Istiklal Street / Beyouglu
- Galata Tower
- Istanbul Modern Museum
- Tepebasi Pera Museum
List Courtesy of Chantelle Streete.