10 Great Istanbul Restaurants to Discover

Istanbul is one big cosmopolitan city that lies both in Asia and Europe with 2 bridges connecting the land on both continents. You have endless restaurants from which to choose,; I tried to pick great restaurants from both sides that won’t hurt your budget. And don’t be intimidated about the size of the city. Without traffic, crossing sides won’t take more than 15 minutes. However I recommend that you take the ferry during rush hour. I’ve given the prices in Turkish Lira (TL; in March 2012 1TL = £0.35/$0.56/0.42Euro.

Goze, Sariyer, European Side

Located by the sea, on the European side, Sariyer is full of restaurants with great views. However only Goze offers a gorgeous view, a rich brunch menu at only 25 TL, creatively decorated tables, glass walls, elevated entrance and 2 patios.

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via sariyerilcesi.com

Turks are big on brunches at the weekends, and you can rarely beat Goze’s price and location. The open-buffet brunch menu is varied with unlimited tea, though you might have to pay extra for coffee or orange juice. Across from the restaurant there is a patisserie of the same name which specializes in desserts, so it might be a good place to finish your brunch on a sweet note.

Ciya, Kadikoy, Asian Side

Ciya, a favorite of both the tourists and locals, is a unique restaurant as its 3 branches are all located in the same fish market district of Kadikoy, and all of these branches specialize in different things. One offers traditional & authentic Turkish dishes from all around Turkey, the second one has kebab and “lahmacun” as well as a selection of traditional dishes and the last one offers dishes cooked with olive oil only.The traditional dishes are healthy and delicious, and many of them can be feasted on even if you are on a diet. I should know, my uncle is allowed to eat there by his dietician. The fact that “olive oil” dishes don’t include meat means Ciya is also a heaven for vegetarians.

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via ciya.com.tr

Another thing I love about Ciya is that once you go in, you see all the dishes presented in front of you. Talk about a lively menu. Ciya manages to be posh and fancy without the food prices skyrocketing. You can buy a delicious meal per person at 30-50 TL. This would cover tasty soup, main dish and dessert. And they do a wide variety of soups, salads, rice meals, desserts and other dishes. Ciya is for food-lovers who are after good and new tastes and not necessarily a good view. You can check out more about the history of the restaurants and what you can have there, on the English version of its website. My personal recommendation is the walnut dessert.

Hayvore, Taksim, European Side

Hayvore is a casual, Black Sea food restaurant in Taksim. I especially recommend the kale soup, rice with anchovy and haricot beans. You should especially try the rice with anchovy as it is one of the most popular dishes of the Black Sea Region of Turkey.

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via timeoutistanbul.com

The only downside is that there is no alcohol, but this is not a problem as Taksim is the ultimate drinking center of Istanbul. What you couldn’t have in Hayvore can be compensated for in the bar zones Nevizade and Asmali Mescit or in the numerous other bars that are not in the zones. Hayvore offers tasty and cheapish food and it should not be missed if you are into trying alternative cuisines in Istanbul restaurants.

Cukur Meyhane, Taksim, European Side

If you insist on drinking with your food, you can give Cukur “Meyhane” (meyhane is a Turkish word to describe a bar that is more about getting drunk with Raki with friends than anything else) a shot. Cukur Meyhane is just a few doors from Hayvore. This is a popular choice among the locals and tourists alike so make sure you book your place if you are planning to have dinner (and/or drinks) there after 8.

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via cukurcumatimes.com

It looks rundown, but don’t worry it is just for the image. You will like its 6 types of mezes* (Turkish savory foods especially eaten while drinking) and you might want to taste all of them at one sitting. If you still have space in your stomach, opt for the tasty anchovy or liver.

Wagamama in Kanyon, European Side

Wagamama is a Japanese restaurant with branches all over the world. You can have yummy food and a soft drink at about 25 TL, and use the wireless network if you want to get some business done too. My favorite dish is the duck gyoza (grilled duck with Japanese pasty). There are also many alternatives to choose from if you are allergic. What makes this Wagamama extra special is the place, as it is located in Kanyon shopping center in Turkey.

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via fesmekan.mynet.com

Kanyon (yep, it means canyon) is one of my favorite shopping malls in Turkey as it is in the shape of a canyon, and they are all outdoors, so it gives you the outdoor shopping experience combined with a mall. It has a pretty wide range of shops-from the extremely expensive Harvey Nichols to much more reasonable clothes stores such as Mango. There is also a diversity of shops from eccentric home decorations stores to luggage and beyond. You might also want to catch a movie at the movie theater whose entrance resembles a spacecraft and bathroom stalls have trailer-showing screens installed. If you get off the subway at the Levent station, one of the exits go directly to inside of Kanyon.

Go Mongo, Suadiye, Asian Side

Go Mongo, a Mongolian restaurant located in Suadiye (with two other Istanbul branches), offers the ultimate customized experience by showcasing the raw ingredients (meat, vegetables, spices, sauces) and letting the customers decide what combination they want. Then the cooks prepare the desired combination and the customers can watch if they want to. Of course the staff offers assistance if you need any. However you don’t need to stick to just Mongolian food in this Istanbul restaurant. The menu also includes specials from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.You are served chopsticks, but forks are available upon request.

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via restaurantsepeti.com

While the food is extremely authentic, the decoration and music are quite similar to most modern restaurants in Turkey. The only negative is the cost, which is around 100 TL per person. But it is worth it.

Savoy Balik, Cihangir, European Side

This Cihangir fish restaurant offers a rich menu at a reasonable price, although it doesn’t exactly possess a wonderful view. It is neighbors with the Savoy Patisserie and it might be hard to locate due to the car parks around. However once you are there, you can lose yourself in a rich selection of tasty food at affordable prices even if you decide to down a one large Raki (the famous Turkish drink, reminds some of the Japanese saki.)

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via 4cakmagurme.blogspot.com

Savoy is open for 12 hours – from 12 in the morning to midnight. But because of Cihangir’s promixity to Taksim, you can always go bar-hopping afterwards. But do pay attention to how much Raki you drink, as the alcohol ratio is pretty high. One last tip: You’d better book in advance as Savoy tends to get busy quickly.

Happy Moon’s, Fenerbahce, Asian Side

My friend chose to take her marriage vows at the city hall and have her wedding at the rotary club her husband’s family was a member of. This left our group of high school friends with time to kill in between so we settled for the café/restaurant Happy Moon’s in Fenerbahce. It has a good view of the marina and the sea, has cool retro design, fun modern music that won’t bother you no matter what type of music you listen to, a diverse menu and inexpensive prices.

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via lezzetfarki.com

One of my friends also recently tried out the brunch menu at the weekend (which cost 25 TL), and she was definitely happy with the service, the variety and the taste of food, and unlimited juice though not freshly squeezed. Try Happy Moon’s for good food, good times and good views. It has tables both indoors and outdoors, and I recommend the second floor balcony for the best view.  It also has branches in Kadikoy and Saskinbakkal.

Bibucuk, Caddebostan, Asian Side

Conveniently located on Bagdat Street, Caddebostan, Bibucuk is well known for its chicken wings. It is open every day for 12 hours (12pm-12am), with the exception of Friday and Saturdays – when it is open until 2am.Its menu doesn’t favor any particular cuisine so you can pretty much have whatever you like from all around the world at about 30TL per person.

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via istanbulkoz.com.tr

Bagdat Street is the poshest and most popular shopping haven of the Asian side, and it might make you feel like you are walking down Paris’ Avenue des Champs Élysées.Getting there is easy as you can get off right in front of it if you get on one of the yellow Kadikoy-Bostancı “dolmus” es.

Paper Moon, Akmerkez, European Side

Paper Moon is a prestigious Italian restaurant with restaurants in Milan and New York. The Istanbul branch is in Etiler’s huge shopping center Akmerkez. It is open from 12 pm to 12 am, entertaining its guests with choices from Turkish and Italian cuisines, a lavish wine list, and award-winning, elegant interior design

Istanbul restaurants

Photo via akmerkez.com.tr

I recommend the Toska salad (with chicken and mayo), and the tiramisu. You should definitely book for dinners as it tends to get full.  You can call 0212 282 16 16 for reservations.  The website, is available in 3 languages- Turkish, English and Italian. However brace yourself to pay a little bit more than the other Istanbul restaurants I’ve selected for you.

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