Kebab has an important place in Turkish cuisine. There is great competition as there are hundreds of kebab shops in big cities in Turkey. In order to stand out, the best kebab restaurants in Istanbul surprise their customers with new recipes such as “pistachio kebab”.
When you think of kebab in Turkey, the first cities that come to mind are Adana, Urfa and Gaziantep. Of course, it is necessary to experience the food culture of these cities in their original places. However, there are many famous chefs who came from these cities and established their own businesses in Istanbul. In this way, all the best examples of Turkish kebab are represented in Istanbul.
When you go to a kebab shop, the two types of kebab you will definitely see on the menu are Adana and Urfa. Adana kebab is spicy and Urfa kebab is plain. Apart from these two, you can see many different types of kebab. Among them, eggplant kebab, yoghurt kebab, iskender kebab and beyti kebab are the most popular ones.
Best Turkish Kebab Restaurants in Istanbul
The best Turkish kebab restaurants in Istanbul are mostly found in historical districts. Most of the famous kebab restaurants are located in Fatih, which covers Sultanahmet and its surroundings. On the other hand, there are good restaurants in Beyoglu (aka Taksim) and on the shores of the Bosphorus.
The top 10 kebab restaurants in this article are located on the European side of Istanbul. On the other hand, the three restaurants at the end of the list are the best Turkish Kebab restaurants on the Asian Side of Istanbul.
1. Develi Kebap
Develi Kebab is one of the most famous restaurants in Turkey and has a history dating back to 1912. The founder of the restaurant, Arif Develi, is the creator of the pistachio kebab that I mentioned at the beginning of the article.
Develi Kebap represents Gaziantep, one of the most important cities of Turkish kebab. The restaurant, which moved from Gaziantep to Istanbul in 1966, became so successful that branches were opened all over Istanbul.
However, the Develi Kebab that I would recommend to you is located in the Samatya district of Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula. Located very close to Sultanahmet, Samatya Develi is one of the best Turkish kebab restaurants in Istanbul.
Apart from the classical dishes of Gaziantep kitchen, you can also find local cuisines from the Aegean, Mediterranean and Central Anatolia at Develi Restaurant. Develi Kebap is so good that it was chosen as one of the “Best 100 Restaurants in the World” by the Observer in 2006.
2. Gaziantep Burc Ocakbasi
Gaziantep Burc Ocakbasi was opened in 1988 and it’s located in Grand Bazaar. You can find delicious Gaziantep food at Gaziantep Burc Ocakbasi, where Eggplant Kebab and Adana Kebab are the two best sellers.
Gaziantep Burch Ocakbasi not only brought the most special Gaziantep dishes to Grand Bazaar, the heart of the Old City, but also has managed to be included in the “recommended kebab restaurants” lists in tourist guidebooks.
In addition to the delicacies from Gaziantep kitchen, you should definitely try stuffed dry eggplant and stuffed dry pepper as well as kunefah at Gaziantep Burc Ocakbasi.
3. Umut Ocakbasi
Umut Ocakbasi has been in service on the backstreets of Beyoglu since 1976. It’s where fruits and vegetables are supplied daily and the meat is processed in semi-auto machines prior to cooking. Therefore, some appetizers like gavurdagi salad (tomato salad with cumin and walnut) are always fresh at Umut Ocakbasi.
Some other appetizers you can find at Umut Ocakbasi are eggplant ezme (ezme is a tomato dip with pepper, onions, olive oil and some other ingredients), eggplant salad, pepper with tomato. And these appetizers go very well with your kebab.
Moreover, turnip juice, an indispensable drink that goes perfectly with kebab is brought from Adana in special barrels. Umut Ocakbasi is among the best Turkish kebab restaurants around Taksim, one of the most touristic places in Istanbul.
4. Oz Kilis Kebap ve Lahmacun
Oz Kilis Kebab and Lahmacun, as the name suggests, represent two of the most delicious dishes of Turkish cuisine. The restaurant, which serves special kebab varieties that are not available everywhere, is also famous for its lahmacun.
It’s located in Fatih, a historical district of Istanbul, and you are recommended to try oruk kebab (a different version of kibbeh), shiveydiz (stewed lamb with fresh green onions and garlic in a yogurt sauce), lebeniye (Turkish soup with meatballs), and stuffed dried eggplant.
Don’t forget to order “Gavurdagi Salad” alongside your main course. Because this restaurant is also famous for this Turkish salad that goes very well with kebab. You should also try amazingly delicious ayran (yoghurt drink) with foam served in a copper glass alongside your kebab.
5. Adana Ocakbasi
Adana Ocakbasi is located at Kurtulus neighborhood in Sisli and its motto is “The right address for kebab”. Here, you can have your kebab and appetizers, cacik (Turkish yogurt with cucumbers and herbs), and eggplant salad with yogurt.
The tail fat and spices used in Adana kebab is totally well-balanced at this restaurant and some other best options at Adana Ocakbasi are rib shish kebab and beef shish kebab. Lastly, appetizers menu is quite rich and delicious at Adana Ocakbasi too.
Sisli district, where the restaurant is located, has come to the fore among the best places to stay in Istanbul in recent years. If you are staying in neighborhoods with 5-star hotels such as Taksim Square, Besiktas and Levent, this Turkish kebab restaurant is very close to you.
Kasibeyaz stands out among the luxury kebab restaurants of Istanbul. There are a lot of kebab options at Kasibeyaz, such as Ali Nazik, pistachio kebab, garlic kebab, onion kebab, and Abugannus (grilled eggplant with yogurt, olive oil, and chili pepper).
Kasibeyaz stands out with its Gaziantep food and kebab. Moreover, butter, tulum cheese (Turkish goat cheese), and pita bread are served free of charge.
You are highly recommended to have yuvalama soup (a Turkish soup that includes meatballs, chickpeas, tomato, and bulgur) and Gaziantep style lahmacun before your main course. And after your meal, you should try a famous Gaziantep dessert named katmer (qatlama).
Kasibeyaz is a chain restaurant with many branches like Develi at the top of the list. The Florya branch of Kasibeyaz restaurant (near the old airport) is located very close to those staying in big hotels in Atakoy and Bakirkoy districts.
7. Yuzevler Kebap
Yuzevler Kebap has branches in popular districts of Istanbul such as Etiler, Maslak and Goztepe. Yuzevler Kebap represents the city of Adana, which is famous for its meat dishes in Turkey. It’s one of the first places that comes to mind when you want to eat Adana kebab that is made of knife-cut ground beef. Also, you can taste food that is cooked in the oven such as Arap tava or wing tava.
Yuzevler Kebap offers a rich variety of salad options like tablaci (tabbouleh salad without bulgur) salad, harman (salad made of broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrot, chickpeas, beans, olive oil, and spices) or the specialty of Yuzevler Kebap, “Yuzevler salad”. Moreover, chef’s special sushi kebab is an interesting choice if you want to go for an alternative. As starters, you are recommended to try Adana style small lahmacun or boiled stuffed meatballs.
8. Emin Baba Durum Evi
Emin Baba Durumevi became popular in a short time after it was opened as a small shop in 1999. Located in Sisli, one of the most popular business and accommodation districts of Istanbul today, Emin Baba is among the best Turkish kebab restaurants in Istanbul.
You can have really delicious Adana and Urfa kebab at Emin Baba Durum Evi. Kebap is cooked in coal and oak coal and the taste of kebab is always great here. Kebabs are served wrapped in lavash bread (soft and flat bread). And the good news is if you order your food on a plate, salad, spicy ezme, eggplant ezme, and mixed pickles are served free of charge.
9. Hamdi Restoran
Hamdi Restaurant is located right next to the Spice Bazaar and is very close to both Sultanahmet and Taksim. Hamdi Arpaci, who moved to Istanbul from Sanliurfa in the end of 1960s, started the business as a street vendor in Eminonu now owns the five floors of the building where he serves his customers.
There are 17 different kebab types in Hamdi Restoran’s menu such as Birecik kebab and opium poppy kebab. As for appetizers, you can find haydari (thick yogurt with garlic and dill), hummus, ezme salad, and eggplant in tomato sauce.
Walnut baklava, pistachio kanafeh, carrot-like sliced baklava, square baklava, sobiyet (dessert filled with cream, which is made from milk and semolina, and nuts), Hamdi’s special, and katmer are among the rich dessert menu at Hamdi Restoran. You can watch the Golden Horn and Bosphorus view while you finish your meal and drink Turkish tea accompanied by baklava.
In order to get to the Hamdi Restaurant from Sultanahmet, you have two choices. You can either walk down the hill from Hagia Sophia (by following the tram line) or you can take the tram from Sultanahmet to Eminonu. If you leave from Sultanahmet Tram Station, there will be Gulhane, Sirkeci and Eminonu tram stops on your way. Hamdi Restaurant is located just a few minutes walk from Eminonu Tram Station. You may find the restaurant next to Spice Bazaar.
10. Emin Ustanin Yeri
Emin Ustanin Yeri has been serving his customers at its shop in Karagumruk. The meat that is used to make kebab is brought from Afyon and Balikesir and it’s chopped manually with a big knife. Emin Usta’s shop is a shabby but a famous one. Ayran (yoghut drink) made from ‘’Eris Yogurtlari’’, the natural yogurt maker of Fatih neighborhood, is also a popular choice to drink alongside kebab.
The eastern side of Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula has popular districts such as Sultanahmet and Eminonu. However, to go to Emin Ustanin Yeri, you have to go to the west side of the Historic Peninsula. The area where this restaurant is located is close to historical monuments such as Yavuz Selim Mosque, Fethiye Museum and Kariye Mosque.
11. Ciya Kebap
Ciya Kebab is located in Kadikoy, on the Asian side of Istanbul. You can find examples of Turkey’s most delicious dishes at this restaurant, which I visit very often and highly recommend.
Ciya Restaurant is so popular that it has three branches on the same street. Among these restaurants, the restaurant named “Ciya Sofrasi” offers examples of local Anatolian home cooking. You can eat delicious Turkish kebabs at two other restaurants called “Ciya Kebap”.
The most important feature of Ciya Kebap is that it represents Adana, Antep and Urfa, which are famous for their kebabs. But not only that, it also gives you the chance to taste Anatolia’s best salads and appetizers alongside kebab.
You can find dozens of varieties of kebab in the restaurant, which has a very wide menu. Ciya Restaurant is listed as the best kebab restaurant on the Asian side of Istanbul in many international travel guides.
12. Canak Kebap
Canak Kebap is a restaurant where you can taste the local dishes of Gaziantep and it was opened at Acibadem in 2014. Adana style kebab is named as “Canak Acili Kebap” in this restaurant. And it’s a special kind of kebab you can only find here. It’s a type of kebab that’s rolled in a pita bread. You should also note that tulum cheese, butter, green olives, radish, and rocket are served free of charge at Canak Kebap ve Katmer.
It will be a tough challenge to make a choice among many great kebab options such as oruk kebab (kebab made of lamb and veal) or Halep Ishi (Adana kebab served with thin skewers). And famous Gaziantep pistachios are served at the end of your meal in this restaurant.
Canak Kebap is located in Kadikoy, the most popular district of the Asian side. However, its location is not as central as the previous Ciya Kebap. If you want to go here, you have to visit Acibadem district, which is famous for its shopping malls.
Best Turkish Kebab in Istanbul by Serhat Engul