Local Turkish restaurants in Istanbul offer traditional Turkish cuisine at affordable prices. Located in the historical districts of Istanbul, these restaurants are especially preferred for lunch.
Of course, there are world-class restaurants in Istanbul, and we mentioned them in the article on the best restaurants in Istanbul with view. While those restaurants on the Bosphorus and modern districts are the right address for a romantic and elegant dinner, you should try traditional Turkish restaurants for a local experience.
Best Local Restaurants in Istanbul
The best local Turkish restaurants in Istanbul are located in historical districts such as Eminonu (near Sultanahmet), Fatih (Historical Peninsula), Beyoglu (aka Taksim), Uskudar, and Kadikoy (Asian Side).
In these restaurants, you can try Turkish dishes dating back centuries for very cheap prices. However, it should be noted that alcoholic beverages are not served in local Turkish restaurants. Instead, you can try traditional drinks such as Ayran (yoghurt drink) or sherbet (natural drink made with fruits and spices).
The first three restaurants at the beginning of the article are located on Hocapasha Street in Sirkeci, a historical district. The street, which is full of traditional Turkish restaurants, is easily accessible from popular tourist centers such as Sultanahmet and Taksim.
While the first 7 of the restaurants are local Turkish restaurants located on the European side of Istanbul, the last 3 are traditional Turkish restaurants on the Asian side. I hope you enjoy local Turkish food in Istanbul!
1. Kasap Osman
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 Turkish kebab at Kasap Osman.
Most of the restaurants on Hocapasha Street have been here since the 19th century, the last period of the Ottoman Empire. Sirkeci Train Station was the last stop of the Orient Express coming from Paris, so this place was very lively at that time.
Hocapasha Street is also famous for the Hodjapasha Cultural Center, which offers the best whirling dervish show in town. The restaurants on the street and the performance hall are very close to each other.
2. Filibe Koftecisi
Filibe Koftecisi was founded in the 19th century by a family that came to Istanbul from the Balkans. One of the best meatball restaurants in Istanbul, Filibe Koftecisi is a place preferred for lunch by Istanbulites who come to the Historical Peninsula for shopping.
The restaurant has a very simple menu and serves meatballs, a popular street food. You can order a haricot bean salad with the meatballs and enjoy a simple but delicious lunch. Filibe Koftecisi is mentioned often by gourmets during their interviews and it’s regarded as one of the best local Turkish restaurants in istanbul.
3. Namli Rumeli Koftecisi
Namli Rumeli Koftecisi was opened in 1982 and it’s one of the local restaurants located on Hocapasha Street. It is famous for its meatball, but you can find chicken shish kebab and other meat shish kebab choices here. Piyaz (bean salad) and seasonal salads are also delicious at this restaurant and you can have semolina halva as the last part of your meal.
So far, we have talked about three restaurants in the Sirkeci district on the seaside of Istanbul Old City. Within walking distance of iconic places such as Galata Bridge and Spice Bazaar, this district is also an indispensable stop for Istanbul street food tours.
The second most important feature of Sirkeci is that it is famous for its Turkish dessert shops. If you are interested in traditional Turkish sweets, then you can also check out the article on the best dessert shops in Istanbul. Now let’s continue with the traditional Turkish restaurants in other districts of Istanbul.
4. Erzincanli Ali Baba
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 famous 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.
Erzincanli Ali Baba is located next to the Suleymaniye Mosque, one of the most important historical monuments of Istanbul. You can reach here in 10 minutes on foot from the more well-known Grand Bazaar.
5. Nato Lokantasi
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 and modern cafes, bars and restaurants in Karakoy, Nato Lokantasi is still a popular choice for lunch.
Nato Lokantasi in Karakoy 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.
Eminonu in Istanbul Old City and Karakoy in Beyoglu are the places where you can find the best local Turkish restaurants in the city. Located at the two ends of the Galata Bridge, these districts are easily accessible from popular accommodation places such as Sultanahmet and Taksim.
Places that serve traditional food in Istanbul are generally called “lokanta”. In addition to Nato Lokantasi, there are two other delicious local restaurants in Karakoy, namely Mahkeme Lokantasi and Karakoy Lokantasi.
6. Hunkar Lokantasi
Hunkar Lokantasi is a family business that has been serving since 1950. The restaurant belongs to the Ugumu family, who has been cooking for 4 generations, and is located in Nisantasi, which is famous for its shopping places.
The great grandfather of the Ugumu family was the cook of Kazim Karabekir, one of the most important generals in Turkey’s post-WWI war of independence. Originally from Erzurum (a city in Eastern Anatolia), the family later settled in Istanbul.
The restaurant already has a very rich menu of traditional Turkish dishes. In addition, the chefs are constantly adding local dishes from various regions of Turkey to the menu.
Chef 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 (tiny lamb-stuffed dumplings topped with tomato and yogurt sauce) in his restaurant for the first time.
The branches of Hunkar Lokantasi are located in Nisantasi and Etiler, the most luxurious districts of Istanbul. Nisantasi is famous for its fashion boutiques and shopping streets and is very close to Taksim Square.
7. Lades Restaurant
Lades Restaurant was opened as “Lades Muhallebicisi” in 1969, very close to Taksim Square. The restaurant, which used to serve light Turkish desserts, has turned into a restaurant with a traditional menu since 1986.
Thanks to the partnership of brothers Ahmet Celikkol and Mehmet Celikkol, both chefs, the restaurant became famous in Istanbul. It has been serving for many years on Sadri Alisik Street on Istiklal Avenue (near Taksim Square).
In the restaurant, you can find traditional dishes of Turkish cuisine, such as karniyarik (eggplant stuffed with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and ground meat) and hunkar begendi (a lamb stew served on a bed of eggplant purée).
Since Lades Restaurant was opened as a dessert shop in the 60s, it still continues this tradition. In the dessert section of Lades you can find sekerpare (baked soft pastry dipped in thick syrup), ekmek kadayifi (crumpets in thick syrup) and kabak tatlisi (pumpkin with syrup and walnuts).
Lades Restaurant is the closest place to Taksim Square on our list of local Turkish restaurants in Istanbul. You can walk to this restaurant from popular accommodation places in and around Taksim.
8. Kanaat Lokantasi
Kanaat Lokantasi has been in the center of Uskudar for around 100 years and you can taste specially prepared dishes 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 among the best local Turkish restaurants on the Asian Side of Istanbul. Uskudar, where the restaurant is located, is quite central and can be reached in a short time by public ferry from Eminonu (Old City), Karakoy (Beyoglu) and Besiktas.
9. Yanyali Fehmi Lokantasi
Yanyali Fehmi Lokantasi is located at the entrance of Kadikoy Fish Market, which is the indispensable stop of food tours in Istanbul. The restaurant was founded at the beginning of the 20th century by a chef named Fehmi Sonmezler, who migrated to Istanbul from Greece. The restaurant, which added a chef from the Ottoman palace to its staff, created the traditional Turkish food menu that has survived to the present day.
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. But of course the menu is not limited to this. You can find 100 different dishes from Ottoman and Turkish kitchen at Yanyali Fehmi Lokantasi and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
Yanyali Fehmi Lokantasi is located in Kadikoy, the most popular tourist area on the Asian side of Istanbul. You can get here by public ferry from Eminonu or Karakoy in 20 minutes.
Kadikoy is home to traditional restaurants such as Yanyali Fehmi and Ciya Kebap, as well as historical dessert shops such as Balyan. The district is also among the best shopping places in Istanbul.
Pidesun is located in Moda, one of the most popular spots in 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 pide (a Turkish flat bread commonly referred to as Turkish Pizza) and manti (tiny lamb-stuffed dumplings topped with tomato and yogurt sauce) in Istanbul, you won’t feel the absence of such dishes.
Pidesun represents the dishes of Turkish cuisine made from dough and is one of the most visited places in Istanbul by street food tours. In addition, the Moda neighborhood in which Pidesun is located hosts the best boutique coffee shops in Istanbul.
Best Local Restaurants in Istanbul by Serhat Engul