Best Local Food in Istanbul
Best Local Restaurants in Istanbul to Eat Turkish Food
Local restaurants where you can find classical dishes from the Turkish and Ottoman kitchen at a reasonable price are indispensable places for lunch.
In my former post, I shared the list of Best Restaurants in Istanbul. Now, I’ve made a list of the Best Local Restaurants in Istanbul that have been in service for years.
Where to Eat the Best Local Turkish Food?
Below, you can find the restaurants in Istanbul’s old neighborhoods such as Eminonu (Sirkeci), Uskudar, Kadikoy, Fatih, and Beyoglu that are definitely recommended to visit. These restaurants are not only places where you can eat delicious local food, but also places that offer a nostalgic atmosphere.
In the first part of this post, you can find the restaurants on the European side and the restaurants on the Asian side in the second part. And, at the end of the post, I will mention the local restaurants in the Hocapasha Street which is close to Istanbul’s most touristic spot, Sultanahmet.
Best Local Restaurants in Istanbul European Side
Erzincanli Ali Baba – Suleymaniye
Erzincanli Ali Baba is a restaurant where you can find the most delicious haricot beans among many others that are lined up one after another at Suleymaniye. It’s a habit of many people to take a lunch break at this restaurant after visiting Istanbul’s biggest mosque Suleymaniye Mosque.
Erzincanli Ali Baba uses famous dermason beans and you can find other classical Turkish dishes like green beans, ground beef kebab served in a tray, fried meatball, and lamb stew at this restaurant.
Best Lokanta Restaurants in Istanbul
Nato Lokantasi – Karakoy
Karakoy Nato Lokantasi was opened in honor of Turkey’s joining NATO in 1952 and the food starts to be served at noon and all dishes are finished by 15:30 at this restaurant. In spite of high number of elegant, modern and luxurious cafes, bars and restaurants in Karakoy, Karakoy Nato Lokantasi is still a popular choice for lunch.
Karakoy Nato Lokantasi’s has white walls and the front side of the restaurant is decorated with wood. You can expect generous portions, moderate pricing and a menu that changes every day.
In addition to the colorful presentation of soup, kebab, grilled meat, and olive oil dishes, you can also try salads, pilaf, and choices of Turkish desserts.
Best Local Restaurants in Taksim, Istanbul
Taksim is a touristic area with large hotels. If you want a local food experience, you can go to historical districts such as Karakoy and Eminonu, which are within walking distance of Taksim Square. Nato Lokantasi, Mahkeme Lokantasi and Karakoy Lokantasi are the best local restaurants close to Taksim.
Hunkar Lokantasi – Fatih
Ugumu Family from Erzurum, the owner of Hunkar Lokantasi that was opened in 1950, are a family that has continued to be chefs for the last four generations. Their grandfather was the chef of a famous Turkish general Kazim Karabekir Pasha who fought during Turkey’s independence war.
He moved to Istanbul from the east part of Turkey and opened Hunkar Lokantasi after his assistant period was over.
Talip Ugumu added dishes to the menu from Black Sea region thanks to his experience he gained in the region and he made a difference by starting to serve pilaf with anchovies, haricot with pastrami, and manti in his restaurant for the first time.
Hunkar Lokantasi has two other branches, Nisantasi and Etiler, in Istanbul and all the dishes in these restaurants are cooked by the members of Ugumu Family.
Where to Eat the Best Local Turkish Food
Lades – Taksim
The journey that started with the opening of Lades Muhallebicisi in 1969 at Tarlabasi Street by Ahmet Celikkol continued after he became partners with his brother Mehmet Celikkol and opened Lades Restaurant in 1986.
Lades Muhallebicisi and Lades Restaurant has been in service for long years at Sadri Alisik Street. In the restaurant section of Lades you can find classical dishes like oven made lamb shank.
The desserts offered at Lades are really delicious and prepared specially. This is due to the fact that Lades Muhallebicisi is a place that offers a variety of desserts. You can find sekerpare (baked soft pastry dipped in thick syrup), ekmek kadayifi (crumpets in thick syrup), kabak tatlisi (pumpkin with syrup and walnuts) at Lades.
Best Local Restaurants in Istanbul Asian Side
Kanaat Lokantasi – Uskudar
Kanaat Lokantasi has been in the center of Uskudar for around 100 years and you can taste specially prepared cuisines of Turkish and Ottoman kitchens here.
Since the day it was opened, the restaurant has been managed by a Rumelian family. You can choose the dish you like behind the showcase and eat it at your table. Dishes such as roasted lamb, eggplant kebab, and Uzbek pilaf are still prepared in a traditional way at Kanaat Lokantasi.
Kanaat Lokantasi is the Best Turkish Restaurant in Istanbul for many people.
Best Local Restaurants in Istanbul Asian Side
Sen Lokanta – Bostanci
In addition to tripe, tripe soup with a sauce, and offal soup, you can also find dishes like sautéed chicken with mushrooms at Sen Lokanta. You can often come across office workers nearby the restaurant having lunch at Sen Lokanta in Bostanci.
Additionally, you are recommended to try their amazing pita cooked in the wood oven and Russian manti. Also, you can try komposto (stewed fruits) and serbet (sweetened fruit juice) that are classical items of Ottoman kitchen.
Pidesun – Kadikoy
Stewed dishes that you can find at traditional local restaurants can’t be found at Pidesun. However, as Pidesun is the best restaurant to eat pita and manti in Istanbul, you won’t feel the absence of such dishes. Pidesun is located on a central point at Kadikoy Moda Street.
The dough that meets plenty and high-quality ingredients turns into a closed and opened pita. In addition to the pita that is cooked in wood oven, manti at Pidesun is also worth trying.
Yanyali Fehmi Lokantasi – Kadikoy
Yanyali Fehmi Lokantasi is located right at the entrance of Kadikoy’s Tarihi Balikcilar Carsisi (Historical Fish Market) and it was founded by Fehmi Sonmezler, an immigrant from Greece.
At first, the restaurant served its customers in Beyoglu and Sirkeci. Later, it began to serve only in Kadikoy. The most famous dish you can eat at this restaurant is Yanyali meatball.
This meatball is served with barbecued eggplants and it is definitely recommended. You can find 100 different dishes from Ottoman and Turkish kitchen at Yanyali Fehmi Lokantasi and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
Where to Eat Traditional Turkish Food
Best Local Turkish Food in the Istanbul Old City
Eminonu and Sirkeci neighborhoods that are located in the center of the Istanbul Old City are popular spots for the locals on weekends. Spice Bazaar and the nearby area at Eminonu or Buyuk Postane Street (Grand Post Office st.) in Sirkeci are flooded with people every weekend.
Restaurants in Hocapasa (Hodjapasha) Street
After shopping at Istanbul’s historical bazaars such as Grand Bazaar or Spice Bazaar, it’s such a joy to take a lunch break at one of the restaurants on Hocapasha Street.
Hocapasa District is also famous for the best Whirling Derwish show in Istanbul. After a fine Turkish dinner at Hocapasa Restaurants, you can watch the dervishes at the adjacent Hodjapasha Cultural Center.
Below, you can find the 3 recommended local restaurants on Hocapasha Street.
Kasap Osman – Sirkeci
Kasap Osman is the restaurant where you can try the most delicious doner kebab in Istanbul and it’s located on the right wing of Hocapasha Street in the corner. The most delicious dish served at Kasap Osman is a portion of doner kebab. Additionally, you can try traditional meat dishes and choices of kebab at Kasap Osman.
Best Local Restaurants in Sultanahmet, Istanbul
Sultanahmet is a touristic area and there are only a few local Turkish restaurants visited by Istanbulites. You will not find them unless you know exactly where they are. So if you want to have a real local food experience, Sirkeci is the closest place to Sultanahmet.
Filibe Koftecisi – Sirkeci
Filibe Koftecisi is one of the few options that come to mind when you consider “the places to eat meatball in Istanbul”.
Personally, I can say their meatball is more delicious than the ones at Sultanahmet Koftecisi. Filibe Koftecisi has been managed by the same family for the last few generations and it’s a very old establishment.
Filibe Koftecisi is mentioned often by gourmets during their interviews and it’s regarded as one of the Best Local Turkish Restaurants in istanbul.
Traditional Turkish Food in Istanbul Old City
Namli Rumeli Koftecisi – Sirkeci
Namli Rumeli Koftecisi was opened in 1982 and it’s one of the Sirkeci Restaurants located on Hocapasa Street. It is famous for its meatball, but you can find chicken shish kebab and other meat shish kebab choices here. Piyaz and salads are also delicious at this restaurant and you can have semolina halva as the last part of your meal.