Filling one's belly in Istanbul is not challenging as long as you are a carnivore, but finding an impressive place to eat is not so simple. If one comes to Istanbul from any Western country with a sizable Turkish population and sticks to only the restaurants into which they are reeled by the first man who doesn't shake a menu at them and block their path down whatever clogged alleyway they happen to be roaming hungrily, one will quickly come to the conclusion that Turkish food is best served outside of Turkey. But that is really not the case, really.
Most restaurants with favorable real estate in regards to tourists tend to be generic and aim at luring in customers by means of tacky décor and large women in village costumes kneading wads of dough through observational windows. Their purpose is to bring in one-time customers rather than have people coming back for quality cuisine.
The Turkish aesthetic is often to take that which is most beautiful and to hide it somewhere and then to rarely speak about it. This is also the case with almost all of Istanbul's finest eateries. You will find them unadvertised down dark alleys four floors up in buildings that appear abandoned, and there will be no signs to guide you. The only way to go about discovering these places is to befriend local foodies, or to troll blogs or check out websites such as IstanbulEats.
Now, with that said, here are a few not-to-be-missed Turkish dishes to guide you as you consume your way through this enchanting metropolis.
Plan your trip or learn more about food around the world:
- Book a flight to Turkey or plan a Turkey adventure trip
- Find a hotel in Istanbul
- 10 Experiences Not to Miss in Turkey
- Delicious Street Foods from Around the World