Eating and drinking in Istanbul
Discover Istanbul's culinary variety
Here are some of the types of restaurants you are likely to come across in Istanbul and a brief description of what is on offer:
Kebapcıs traditionally specialise in kebabs with basic side dishes of salad, yoghurt and a few desserts. Today, many typically offer a free flatbread with dips to tear and share, and a vast menu to choose from including soups, all kinds of kebabs, köfte (meatballs) and pide (a flatbread similar to pizza).
A lokanta focuses on hazır yemek; pre-cooked dishes kept warm in a steam tray. They also offer sulu yemek, ("watery food") which are hearty meat or vegetable stews. Similarly, a çorbacı is a soup kitchen. The best lokantas - despite their sometimes clinical appearance - are likely to deliver the most memorable taste of Turkish cuisine. A main course in an abode serving hazir yemek usually costs around 5TL for a vegetable dish, 8TL and up for meat.
İskembe salonus are directed at partygoers emerging from clubs or taverns in the early hours and open until 5 or 6 am. Their staple is tripe soup, generously laced with garlic oil, vinegar and red pepper flakes - an effective hangover cure.
|Ev Yemekleri Cafes|
Ev Yemekleri (home-cooked food) cafés have become increasingly popular. Typically these are run by women and serve good value meals more like those you'd find in a Turkish home. Usual offerings are hazır and sulu yemek, börek (pastry dish), dolma (stuffed vegetables) and mantı (dumplings). Many also provide three course lunches for as little as 6TL.
The grill takes centre-stage at an ocakbaşı, as diners' meat is prepared before their eyes. Even more interactive are the kendin pişir kendin ye (cook and eat it yourself) establishments, where a mangal (barbecue with coals), a specified quantity of raw meat, plus kekik (oregano) and kimyon (cumin) are brought to your outdoor/indoor table.
Meyhanes are Turkish taverns where eating is barely equal to tippling. Once almost solely the preserve of men, meyhanes are frequented by "respectable" Turkish (and foreign) women. With a large intent to draw patrons in with the sights and sounds of people having a good time, they can be great fun as well as dishing up excellent food. However, there are a large number of meyhanes which are not really suitable for foreign couples or female travellers, so it's advisable to scope out the tavern before making your choice. A meal in a meyhane is likely to set you back around 25-30TL for the food alone, in addition to drinks.
Balık Restoran (fish restaurants) are widespread across Western Turkey, sustainable by the fish farming industry, which produces a seemingly endless supply of sea bass and sea bream. A meal in a glitzy fish restaurant serving wild caught rather than farmed fish may well set you back over 100TL, without drinks.
Many restaurants have set meals, typically containing an array of hot and cold meze, a grilled fish main and a fruit dessert for around 80TL - which includes as many local drinks as you desire.