Visiting historical masterpieces like Hagia Sophia and taking a boat tour on the Bosphorus are some of the must-do activities in Istanbul. While you explore historical places, you can also discover the best street food in Istanbul and turn your culture trip into a gourmet tour.
Istanbul boasts hundreds of dishes and rich food culture. Therefore, this amazing city offers delicious dishes you definitely have to try. In this sense, I’ve listed the best Turkish street food places and restaurants in Istanbul.
Best Turkish Street Food in Istanbul
In order to find the best street food in Istanbul, you have to visit the historical districts. The most prominent of these are of course Sultanahmet and Beyoglu.
Sultanahmet is Istanbul’s most touristic district and includes neighborhoods such as Sirkeci and Eminonu nearby. Beyoglu is the modern side of Istanbul and includes places like Taksim Square, Istiklal Street and Karakoy.
While visiting these neighborhoods, you can easily get off the tourist routes and find restaurants where locals eat.
1. Balik Ekmek (Fish Sandwich)
Undoubtedly, you can find balik ekmek in tons of places. However, the center of balik ekmek is Eminonu in Istanbul. You can enjoy your balik ekmek at Tarihi Eminonu Balik Ekmek restaurant while watching the great Galata Tower view.
There are a lot of balik ekmek shops from Eminonu side to bus stops at Galata Bridge, which connects Karakoy and Eminonu. If you don’t want to remain standing while eating, you can find a number of balik ekmek shops that offer tables under Galata Bridge and taste delicious mackerel.
Alternatively, you can have balik ekmek by the Bosphorus at shabby but delicious restaurants that are far from the busy and crowded Eminonu. Some of the places you may want to visit are Nimet Abla Balik Ekmek and Taka Balik Ekmek, famous for its grilled anchovy, at Yenikoy or Muradoglu Balik Ekmek, opened in 1995, at Beykoz (Asian Side of Istanbul).
Balik Ekmek Street Food in Istanbul Old City
2. Midye Dolma (Stuffed Mussel)
Midye dolma is mussels stuffed with herbed rice, currants, and pine nuts and it’s one of the most popular street food in Istanbul.
You can always find street stalls to try this delicious food, but you can alternatively find some established shops too. Especially, Mercan Kokorec and Cengelkoy Kokorec are the two places that I highly recommend. In these restaurants, stuffed mussel is as tasty as kokorec and both are totally worth trying.
Additionally, if you wish to dine at a nicer place, Kiyi Restaurant is one of the best options you have.
Lastly, Tarihi Karakoy Midyecisi is another place that can satisfy you. You will definitely enjoy the stuffed mussel at this established shop which dates back to 1921.
Best Street Food in Taksim, Istanbul
3. Kokorec (Lamb Intestines)
Kokorec is a favorite choice among giblet lovers and there are two types of kokorec you can try, which are Istanbul and Izmir style. The most famous place where you can find kokorec is Cengelkoy Kokoreccisi at Cengelkoy, a nostalgic Istanbul neighborhood. This shop has only one branch and its kokorec becomes more delicious thanks to a special thyme and pepper sauce.
Additionally, Mercan Kokorec and Sampiyon Kokorec in Beyoglu are some other options you can go for in Istanbul.
If you are on the Asia side of Istanbul, Gunes Kokorec in Uskudar or Adem Baba Kokorec at Kadikoy Dock is your best bets. Moreover, Gala Kokorec that boasts 14 branches is another place where you can eat some great kokorec.
Best Street Food in Istanbul Sultanahmet
Gala is located in Sirkeci Neighborhood which is the closest spot to Sultanahmet where you can find local street food.
4. Nohutlu Pilav and Tavuklu Pilav
Istanbul is a city where you can find pilaf day or night. And these places are usually the ones only regulars know. Meshur Tahtakale Pilavcisi is one of such hidden gems. It’s a small place where you can try pilaf or pilaf with chicken.
Another shop you might want to try is Meshur Unkapani Pilavcisi. It’s a place where ayran meets pilaf and we can guarantee you will like this combination. If you are looking for a different alternative, Tarihi Kalkanoglu Pilavicisi sounds like a good option. Here, you can try pilaf with fried meat or beans. You should also note that pilaf at this place is cooked with butter and broth. You can find branches of Tarihi Kalkanoglu Pilavcisi in Beyoglu and Kadikoy.
A great choice on the Asian side is surely Pilavcioglu where you can find soup, sautéed meat, and sautéed chicken in addition to pilaf.
Pilav is Delicious and Cheap Street Food!
5. Istanbul Simidi (Bagel)
Trabzon and Ankara style bagel are the ones when it comes to the bagel in Turkey. We should also note that all bagel styles are delicious in Turkey but Istanbul style bagel is still special especially as part of Turkish breakfast. It’s possible to come across a famous bagel shop at any neighborhood in Istanbul.
Some of the important bagel shops in Istanbul are Tarihi Karakoy Galata Simitcisi in Karakoy, Tarihi Harbiye Firini, Tarihi Bogazkesen Firini, and Yeldegirmeni Firini in Kurtulus. Only in Yeldegirmeni district, you can find 3 bagel shop. Therefore, you can imagine bagel is a big deal in Istanbul.
Cheap Street Food in Istanbul
6. Kofte Ekmek (Meatball Sandwich)
It’s a common sight to see the famous meatball sandwich seller on Besiktas football team’s match days at Macka in Besiktas, street stalls selling all sorts of meat, or meatball sellers at Haydarpasa, where you can both enjoy your meatball and the amazing view Haydarpasa offers. In short, you can realize what a big place meatball has in Istanbul’s food culture.
At Fulya in Besiktas, Orjin Kofte, where you can also find fried meat and rib steak, is a great choice too. If you don’t want raw onions in your sandwich, the place offers caramelized onions.
Istanbul Street Food Blog
7. Misir (Corn)
Corn is another important item of street food culture in Istanbul. It’s consumed as boiled, grilled or in a glass, which has become popular recently, but no matter how it’s consumed, people love eating corn on streets in Istanbul. If you feel hungry while visiting shops in Spice Bazaar or if you want to snack at Sultanahmet, corn sounds like a good option to choose.
Moreover, many corn stalls in Kadikoy, Uskudar, Eminonu, and Besiktas are waiting for you to try corn in Istanbul.
Sut Misir (Sweet Corn)
8. Doner Sandwich
I suggest you choose small stalls where you will probably have a hard time finding an available seat, but that tells you why these places are the ones to go for. You can find plenty of such doner shops in Kadikoy, Uskudar, Besiktas, and Eminonu.
Donerci Sahin Usta at the entrance of Grand Bazaar and Asim Usta in Besiktas are some of the places where you can have a quick and amazing meal in Istanbul. Another spot to visit is Zumrut Doner nearby Spice Bazaar.
The common point of these neighborhoods is that all of them are nearby ferry piers. Therefore, you can enjoy doner sandwich before you depart from Uskudar or Kadikoy for Eminonu or Besiktas or vice versa.
Best Turkish Street Food in Istanbul
9. Kumpir (Baked Potato)
Kumpir is one of the symbols of Ortakoy and, naturally, there are tons of shops you can try this delicious snack here. Kumpir is cooked in a special oven, filled with butter and goat cheese, as well as any toppings you prefer. Some of the items you can include in your kumpir are Russian salad, bulghur salad, mushroom, red cabbage with yogurt, and sliced olives.
You can just order your kumpir at one of the various shops in Ortakoy, sit on a bench and enjoy the Bosphorus and Ortakoy view.
You Can Find the Best Kumpir in Ortakoy
10. Islak Hamburger (Wet Burger)
Another unique Istanbul delicacy is Islak Hamburger. You can find many shops that sell islak hamburger at Siraselviler Street in Taksim. A steamed burger is topped with a special sauce, which makes the burger wet. A lot of butter is used to make this burger and the burger meat is spicy. Therefore, it’s a unique type of burger that is worth trying.
Best Street Food Places in Istanbul
Chestnut used to be the symbol of winter but it’s common to see a street vendor selling this delicious snack any day of the year these days. You can come across one of such street sellers at touristic spots like Taksim, Eminonu, and Sultanahmet. And I highly recommend you to try this classical street food when you visit Istanbul.
Istanbul Street Food Guide
Istanbul Street Food Tour
If you want to go on a food tour where you can taste the street delicacies of Istanbul, you can review the Istanbul street food tour site and take part in the organized walking tours.
Traditional street food in Istanbul is mostly found in historical neighborhoods. therefore not only taste the local delicacies in food tour, you learn a lot about Turkey’s history and culture.
Best Street Food Places in Istanbul by Serhat Engul