Istanbul is not famous for its taverns (meyhane) only today. It was famous for meyhane culture in the Ottoman era too. Considering 1 of 3 people in the Istanbul was a non-Muslim and the Ottoman Empire was a multi-national state, we can call meyhane as a place where people from different nationalities meet and spend good time.
As the Jews, Greek and Turks live together in neighborhoods like Beyoglu, Balat and Kadikoy, these neighborhoods reflect the cosmopolite nature of Istanbul the best way possible and also famous for their meyhane restaurants.
The meyhane culture that began in the Ottoman Empire is still alive today and people are able to get rid of the difficulties and problems in their lives by drinking raki at meyhanes. So, let’s review the best taverns (meyhane restaurants) in Istanbul on the European and Asian Sides.
Best Taverns (Meyhane) in Istanbul
The best taverns in Istanbul are located in historical districts such as Beyoglu, Balat and Kadikoy. In order to experience the meyhane culture like the locals, you can easily reach the restaurants on the list from Istanbul’s touristic districts, Sultanahmet and Taksim.
1. Barba Vasilis
Barba Vasilis is located on the ground floor of Troya Boutique Hotel in Balat district. After visiting Fener and Balat, which are among the most popular walking routes of Istanbul in recent years, you can have a good time here.
Barba Vasilis has a blend of traditional cuisine and modern flavors. In addition to the special appetizers of the place, you can try octopus, grilled calamari and other fresh seafood. Barba Vasilis is also neighbor to Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
2. Safa Meyhanesi
Safa Meyhanesi is a place that has existed since the last period of the Ottoman Empire. Established in 1895, the tavern still keeps the nostalgia of those old days alive.
The tavern, which draws attention with its red brick walls, old-fashioned curtains and flamboyant door, immediately attracts the attention of those who are interested in history and architecture.
In this place, you can taste the centuries-old appetizers of Armenian cuisine and enjoy the atmosphere accompanied by Turkish music. Safa Meyhanesi is located in Yedikule Neighborhood in the Historic Peninsula.
3. Kor Agop Restaurant
Kor Agop Restaurant is located in Kumkapı, one of the historical districts of Istanbul. The tavern, which has a history dating back to 1938, hosted famous Turks such as Yasar Kemal in the past.
The story of the tavern begins with the establishment of a simple “meyhane” by a fisherman nicknamed Kor Agop. The appetizers made by Agop and his wife Marta were so popular that they decided to open a larger tavern in Kumkapi. (A neighborhood famous for its fish market near Sultanahmet.)
Kor Agop Restaurant moved to its current location 40 years ago. Kor Agop Tavern, which is currently run by the third generation members of the family, still maintains its popularity.
You can have a good time in the tavern, which is famous for its live music, and enjoy appetizers prepared with centuries-old recipes.
4. Musterek Meyhane
Musterek Meyhane is one of the new generation taverns opened recently in Istanbul. While we started the article with three historical taverns, it is useful to mention places with modern concepts.
Musterek Meyhane is located on “Mis Street” near Taksim Square. Established in 2014 by young entrepreneurs, the tavern seems to have become famous in the city in a short time.
I had a very positive impression of this tavern, which draws attention with its high customer satisfaction scores. (especially on local food forums) You can try this tavern, which has delicious appetizers and a nice friendly atmosphere.
5. Latife Hanim Meyhanesi
Latife Hanim Meyhanesi is located in Beyoglu and it stands out with its cool design. The walls of the place are decorated with the portraits of important Turkish women who lived in the early days of Turkish Republic and Classical Turkish Music is played for its customers.
In this local tavern, you can find special delicacies of traditional Turkish and Cyprus kitchen such as stuffed squash blossoms, grilled halloumi, fish salad and grilled fish intestines.
6. O Maestros Meyhanesi
O Maestros Meyhanesi is located in Arnavutkoy, one of the most beautiful districts of the Bosphorus shores. If you want to go to a Greek tavern in Istanbul, you can choose this place.You can taste a lot of amazing cold starters like smoked mackerel, Greek salad, and crab leg salad at O Maestros Meyhanesi.
Additionally, you can also try calamari plate served with special sauce, fried cabbage and fresh fish choices in this historical Greek tavern. You can dine and enjoy your drink while you listen to classical Greek music and enjoy the Bosphorus view.
7. Ege Rum Meyhanesi
Ege Rum Meyhanesi serves on the terrace floor of Galata Apart Hotel which used to be a 200 years old Levantine building. Ege Rum Meyhanesi is a Greek tavern which has a simple setting.
At times when fish is scarce, chicken or sujuk is also served at Ege Rum Meyhanesi in addition to seasonal cold starters. Some of the starters in the menu are Armenian pilaki (cold white beans garnished with lemon and parsley), topik (a dish made of chickpeas, onion currants, cumin, and tahini) and stuffed mussels.
If you are not fond of Turkish Raki, you can also try specially produced wine from Sirince that is labeled as “Ege Rum Meyhanesi”.
8. Despina Meyhanesi
Despina Meyhanesi is located at Kurtulus (known formerly as Tatavla) and it was opened by a lady named Madame Despina, who lived in the neighborhood, in 1946.
You can try Madame Despina’s specialties like liver and roasted meat in Despina Meyhanesi’s garden under the grape leaves in the summer time. You can also enjoy special starters in this historical place which is considered as one of the best taverns in Istanbul by many locals.
9. Mukellef Karakoy
Mukellef Karakoy is a restaurant opened by the famous chef Arda Turkmen in 2015. Blending the flavors of Istanbul’s cosmopolitan culture, the restaurant has a rich menu.
The reason why Mukellef Karakoy is on our list is that it has a tavern concept. It is a place where you can watch a magnificent view of Istanbul while enjoying your raki accompanied by delicious appetizers.
10. Tarihi Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi
Tarihi Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi is a famous Istanbul tavern where you can feel “the meyhane culture” deeply thanks to the live music, numerous starters, and fresh fish it offers.
The best choice as starters at Tarihi Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi are rolled grape leaves, mussel pilaki, deep fried phyllo pastry with pastrami and tomato filling, roasted meat garnished with mushroom and sheep cheese.
You can watch live fasil (classical Turkish music played with traditional instruments) at Tarihi Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi and enjoy the meyhane culture thoroughly. The historical Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi is located within walking distance of Taksim Square, one of the most popular tourist centers of Istanbul.
11. Asmali Cavit
Asmali Cavit is decorated with many posters and pictures reminiscent of the tavern culture of Old Istanbul on its walls. Asmali Cavit welcomes its customers with this nostalgic decoration and allows you to enjoy the atmosphere with wonderful appetizers.
Sautéed haddock, roasted garden orach, spicy starters, and intestines on bricks are the most favorite starters and warm starters of its customers. If you don’t like fish, you can try meatballs as your main course. Asmali Cavit is one of the best taverns in Beyoglu (aka Taksim), Istanbul.
12. Ney’le Mey’le
Ney’le Mey’le is named after a famous Turkish poet, Neyzen Tevfik. This Turkish Meze restaurant is located in Nevizade, one of the famous streets of Beyoglu with its bars.
While sitting in Ney’le Mey’le restaurant, you can feel the vibe of Beyoglu, the most lively district of Istanbul, and watch the people passing by. You can also try different types of special starters such as sakriye, asparagus, topik or basil haddock at Ney’le Mey’le.
13. Eleos Restaurant
Eleos Restaurant has two branches (Yesilkoy and Beyoglu) and it makes you feel like in the Aegean region with its blue covers on its tables and every other detail.
Eleos Restaurant has been numerously awarded as the best meyhane in Istanbul, the best fish restaurant in Istanbul and the best Greek tavern in Istanbul with its elegant presentation of the starters and many other delicious choices.
If you love eating fish, you should definitely try Eleos Restaurant. Artichoke heart, hummus, reddish shell bean pilaki, calamari salad are classical choices and they are prepared specially at Eleos Restaurant. While enjoying your delicious appetizers at the colorful tables of the restaurant, you can watch the view of Istanbul.
14. Yakup 2
Yakup 2 serves with the motto “Cheers to Life” in Asmalimescit Street, which is famous for its nightlife in Taksim. The most important feature of Yakup 2 is that it blends the old Turkish, Greek and Armenian tavern cultures of Istanbul.
Yakup 2 has worked with the same chef for the last 33 years in order to keep the standards in the taste of their food. You can enjoy your food and drinks in Yakup 2’s garden under olive and cherry trees.
Cold starters such as dry pea, tabbouleh, and taramasalata, warm herbs served with yogurt and eggplant with warm sauce are definitely worth trying. In addition to fish, you can also try roasted lamb and rib.
15. Karisma Sen
Karisma Sen is one of the historical Istanbul taverns established in 1938. It is located in the seaside Ahırkapi district, which is very close to Sultanahmet.
Karisma Sen fish restaurant has hosted many famous names from Turkish literature, cinema and politics throughout its 80-year history. Karisma Sen, which was restored in 2016 and introduced to a new concept, offers delicious appetizers accompanied by an exquisite sea view.
16. Agora Meyhanesi 1890
Agora Meyhanesi 1890 is so famous that there are Turkish songs that mention this place. Agora Meyhanesi still serves in the heart of Balat. This neighborhood is gaining its old fame and glory thanks to its historical features, colorful houses, and many TV series that are set in Balat.
You can reach Agora Meyhanesi from Halic (Golden Horn) coast road. Agora Meyhanesi is one of the pioneers of raki and meyhane culture in Istanbul and it’s definitely one of the best meyhanes to be added to the list.
But be advised that there are two Agora Meyhanesi if you go to Balat! One of them is called “Balat Agora Meyhanesi” while the other one is called “Agora Meyhanesi 1890”. As you can tell from its name, Agora Meyhanesi 1890 is famous for its history.
17. Gunesin Sofrasi
Gunesin Sofrasi is neighbor to Nazim Hikmet Culture Center’s garden and it serves both in its garden and the second floor of its historical building. Specialties at Gunesin Sofrasi are Gunes pastry, stuffed calamari, grilled bass in grape leaves.
As for the cold starters, there are many options to choose from such as starters made of herbs, eggplant on coal fire, muhammara, and squid salad. You can drink wine in addition to raki at Gunes’in Sofrasi and enjoy the historical atmosphere of this meyhane.
18. Piraye Tas Plak
Piraye Tas Plak is located in a quiet and peaceful point among Kadikoy’s busy streets and music from its gramophone can be heard as its name suggests.
You can try delicious Aegean and Greek starters in its wide garden under the grape leaves, cold starters made of fish or other choices such as brain and boiled tongue served cold. Piraye Tas Plak also offers beef, fish and chicken options as the main course.
Additionally, you can try specialties like roasted meat in Crete style and intestines in a stewpan. Undoubtedly, Piraye Tas Plak is one of the best taverns in Istanbul Asian Side.
19. Samatyali Moda Meyhanesi
Samatyali Moda Meyhanesi is located on Moda Caddesi, one of the most popular spots in Kadikoy. Close to Kadikoy Fish Market, the popular stop of food tours, the restaurant draws attention with its delicious appetizers.
You can try liver and roasted lamb alongside raki. You can’t find fish and seafood at Samatyali Moda Meyhanesi, but you have Kulup Raki (A delicious variety of Turkish raki) option that you can’t find everywhere.
The walls of the meyhane are covered with images from the old Turkish cinema and the interior of Samatyali Moda Meyhanesi is decorated with old chests and raki bottles. You can also listen to live Classical Turkish Music on weekends.
20. Inciralti Meyhanesi
Inciralti Meyhanesi is successful at keeping the old meyhane culture thanks to its delicious mezze and it’s located in Istanbul’s one of the most beautiful neighborhoods, Beylerbeyi. You can enjoy your food and drink under a 70-year-old fig tree in the winter garden decorated with old Istanbul photos.
In addition to cold starters like stuffed cabbage leaves with mussel, tzatziki made of sea beans, lamb neck and brain, and mackerel that you can find only at Inciralti Meyhanesi, you can also try specialties like lamb kebab, Inciralti meatballs, artichoke heart with meat too. Also, don’t forget to try Turkish coffee served with halva alongside melted bitter chocolate.
Inciralti Meyhanesi is located in Beylerbeyi, which is famous for its Beylerbeyi Palace. In order to come here, you can first go to Uskudar by ferry from Karakoy or Eminonu. After visiting Uskudar, one of the most popular tourist destinations of the Asian Side, you can reach Beylerbeyi in a short time by minibus.
21. Agapia Meyhanesi
Agapia Meyhanesi was opened in 2003 in the famous bars street of Kadikoy. Agapia, the first and only tavern of “Kadife Street”, which is full of modern bars, became so famous with its appetizers that it opened a second restaurant called Agapia Mezze.
“Agapia Meyhanesi” on Kadife Street and “Agapia Mezze” on Bahariye Street continue to be important representatives of the new generation taverns in Istanbul. Trying to keep the cosmopolitan Istanbul culture alive, this place offers a selection of Greek, Armenian, Antakya and Middle Eastern cuisines.
22. Todori Meyhanesi
Todori Meyhanesi is a place established in the mid-1900s in Fenerbahce, one of the most beautiful districts of Kadikoy. Established by Todori, one of the locals of the district, the tavern has a very nostalgic atmosphere.
When you take a look at Todori’s menu, you will see that there are quite a lot of options. In the tavern, which has centuries-old Greek dishes, “Todori style lamb liver” is among the most outstanding dishes.
23. Hane Kadikoy
Hane Kadikoy is among the new generation taverns in Istanbul. The restaurant, which was opened about three years ago, has gained a very good reputation thanks to the importance it gives to customer satisfaction.
When you look at Hane Kadikoy’s instagram account, you will see a warm atmosphere with red brick walls, stylish and comfortable furniture. The appetizers served in the place are very delicious and there are many Turkish raki varieties.
24. Musaade Meyhane
Musaade Meyhane is one of the new generation taverns of Kadikoy. This place, which has become popular in a short time with its delicious appetizers, is located near Bahariye Street.
Musaade Meyhane, unlike many taverns in Istanbul, features acoustic performances rather than nostalgic Turkish music. If you don’t like loud music, the ambiance here is for you.
Mythos is located inside Haydarpasa Railway Station and it’s famous for its historical atmosphere as well as starters and it’s been in service since 2011.
The owner of Mythos took over the restaurant inside 110 years old Haydarpasa Railway Station where he brings warm and cold Greek and Aegean starters together in its own way.
Mas Haricot bean salad with pomegranate, Urla squid salad, Urla mashed feaves, basil pickled sardines, intestines with seafood, squid in oven with garnished with wine are some of the special delicacies you can find at Mythos.
In addition to fish options, the ingredients of other special dishes like Bodrum sliced steak served with fried potatoes, Aegean style farfara meatball are brought from Aegean Region.
Best Taverns (Meyhane) in Istanbul By Serhat Engul