The more Native Than The Natives team like their restaurants full of locals and good food! Thanks to Nazlican from Naz Lives for this fantastic guide to Istanbul’s best local eateries.
I’ve moved to Istanbul three years ago. I was born and grew up in Izmir, but I moved to a different city for university which was definitely a challenging experience. But the way I see it, moving to a different city means, living in a city with lots of different restaurants and cafes, and quite frankly, that’s what I live for!
Luckily for me though, the friends I made at uni were either from Istanbul or had been a local for longer than I had so they knew where the good stuff was. That’s how my journey of discovering the best food in Istanbul began. And I’m going to tell you all about it now!
In this post, you will find places that serve really great food, some typical to Turkish cuisine and some not. So, if you ever wind up in Istanbul, drop the touristy route and eat where the locals do. I promise you won’t be disappointed with your food!
To start with something everybody loves, I can’t recommend Hopdaddy enough! It is in fact, possible to find good burgers all around Istanbul, but Hopdaddy is definitely one of the best! There is of course many #saltbae restaurants scattered all over the city, but they’re no secret. You should definitely try those, too, if you get the chance, but with Hopdaddy you have tons of options and the burgers are to die for! Located in Yeniköy on the northern side of the European side of the city, it should definitely one of your food stops if you’re anywhere near.
Döner kebab is usually one of the first things that come to mind about Turkish cuisine. Needless to say, it’s a huge part of our culture and cuisine and there are billions of places that serve döner all over Istanbul. But if you’re looking for the absolute best, Bayramoğlu is certainly the best one I’ve tried in Istanbul. It’s not necessarily in a convenient location, but it’s worth every minute of the commute. It might even be worth going out of your way for, if you’re passionate about your food like I am!
Emirgan Sütiş has many different locations in Istanbul, but I’m referring to a specific one: The original one, in Emirgan with an unbelievably magical view of the Bosporus. They serve all kinds of food, and I bet whatever they’re serving is pretty great but I’m going to be honest with you, I haven’t tried anything except their breakfast and a few desserts. But their breakfast, though… I mean, I could break hearts for their “kolböreği”, a typical Turkish pastry with minced meat! If you’re into discovering a typical Turkish breakfast, and better yet, a really good one, Emirgan Sütiş is where you need to be. In all honesty, I could go there for breakfast every weekend if I could. (I do at every chance I get though!) The best part about this place’s breakfast is that you get to choose what you order. Most places bring a fixed menu for breakfast, and it could be pretty disappointing if you’re a picky eater like me. But here, you will get to choose what you get, and what you don’t!
I couldn’t not include a “mantı” place on this list! Mantı, or Turkish dumplings as you might have heard of them, are my ultimate comfort food; and I really love a good mantı. The best ones I’ve tasted were usually homemade, but I’ve had some seriously good mantı in restaurants, too. I wish I could include a tiny, undiscovered mantıplace instead, but I have yet to find such a place here in Istanbul. However, needless to say since it’s included in my list, Bodrum Mantı is my favourite mantı place in Istanbul. The best part about the place is the selection of mantı! It’s crazy how many types they serve, if you ever visit one you’ll know what I mean. And they also offer mixed plates; you can get two different kinds in one plate! How amazing is that?! They have many locations all over Istanbul and you’re very likely to be close to one wherever you are in the city. They also serve typical Turkish tea and their special desert for free afterwards! Great, great place!
Last but not least, I wanted to include a café where me and my friends hang out at sometimes. It’s on the pricier side, but it’s definitely worth a visit. With no signboard visible, it’s definitely a hidden gem, located in Bebek at the very heart of Istanbul. It’s right upstairs from Nus-et,#saltbae, restaurant in Bebek and you have to climb a few flights of stairs to reach there. But once you’re upstairs, you know it’s worth it. There’s a magical view of the Bosporus and the atmosphere will dazzle you the second you walk in. They offer a selection of delicious deserts as well as proper food, if you feel like dining or having lunch there. It’s also one of my favourite places for breakfast. They make great pancakes and eggs benedict. Definitely worth a visit if you need a peaceful break from the crowds and the city!