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 Turkish 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 local food you definitely have to try. In this sense, I’ve listed the best street food places in Istanbul.
Best Street Food Places in Istanbul
In order to find the best street food places in Istanbul, you have to visit the historical districts like Sultanahmet and Beyoglu (aka Taksim). 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. In this article, you can find street food in Istiklal Street, the heart of Beyoglu, and in Sirkeci and Eminonu, which are eating places near Sultanahmet.
Turkish street food prices in Istanbul start from 5 Turkish Liras. Of course, the cheapest options are sweet corn, bagel and chestnut. Baked potatoes, rice and mussels have a medium price. Turkish street food made of meat is the most expensive. While Kokorec, Kofte, and Doner are more expensive options, they are also the tastiest.
It is generally safe to consume street food in Istanbul. But if you see products made from meat very cheap, think twice. Sandwiches containing fish, meat or chicken cost no less than 15 to 20 Turkish Liras (3 Us dollars).
1. Balik Ekmek
Balik Ekmek (fish sandwich) can be found in many parts of Istanbul. However, when the locals think of fish sandwich, Eminonu is the first place that comes to mind. It is a great pleasure to eat fish sandwiches by the fish boats that stand alongside the sea in Eminonu. You can sit on the stools on the street and watch the Galata Tower and eat your fish sandwich.
There are a lot of fish sandwich shops near 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.
Most of the tourists coming to Istanbul stay in Sultanahmet. Eminonu is a good place to experience Istanbul’s street food, only walking distance from Sultanahmet.
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 (further up the Bosphorus) or Muradoglu Balik Ekmek, opened in 1995, at Beykoz (Asian Side of Istanbul).
2. Midye Dolma
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 (another street food) 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.
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 neighborhood on the Asian Side of Istanbul. 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 Istiklal Street are some other options you can go for in Istanbul. Most of the tourists coming to Istanbul stay in Beyoglu (aka Taksim). Istiklal Street is a good place to experience Istanbul’s street food, just walking distance from Taksim Square.
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.
Gala Kokorec, whose photo you can see above, is located in Sirkeci neighborhood. Gala Kokorec, which is within walking distance from Sultanahmet, is the right address to taste the best street food in Sultanahmet.
Pilav (pilaf) is a cheap street food that can be found all over Istanbul day or night. And these places are usually the ones only locals 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 (Turkish yoghurt drink) 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 (Asian Side of Istanbul).
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 one of the most satisfying and healthy options among Turkish street food. If you are looking for a cheap street food in Istanbul, small rice restaurants are the right option for you.
Trabzon and Ankara style Simit (bagel) are the ones when it comes to the simit in Turkey. We should also note that all bagel styles are delicious in Turkey but Istanbul style simit 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.
6. Kofte Ekmek
It’s a common sight to see the famous Kofte Ekmek (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 (in Kadikoy), 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.
As an insider, I can say that Kofte Ekmek has a special place in the lives of Istanbulites. There is a terrific smell from the grills of meatball sandwich vendors. Therefore, Istanbulites can never resist this Turkish street food.
Misir (sweet 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.
8. Doner Kebab
Doner Kebab is by far the most popular street food in Istanbul. The most delicious doner shops are found in historical places. In districts such as Sultanahmet, Eminonu, Besiktas and Uskudar, I suggest you to choose the crowded local restaurants where you cannot even find a place to sit.
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.
Istanbulites know that the best street food places in Istanbul are near the ferry ports. For this reason, you can find local delicacies in Karakoy, Eminonu, Besiktas on the European Side of Istanbul, and in Kadikoy and Uskudar on the Asian Side.
Kumpir (baked potato) is one of the symbols of Ortakoy (A neighborhood next to the Bosphorus Bridge) 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.
10. Islak Hamburger
Another unique Istanbul delicacy is Islak Hamburger (wet burger). You can find many shops that sell islak hamburger at Siraselviler Street in Taksim. Islak Hamburger is an indispensable street food of Istanbul’s nightlife and is sold around Taksim Square.
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.
If you are staying in Taksim, one of the most popular accommodation places in Istanbul, you should definitely try the Wet Burger. Because Islak Hamburger is the best street food in Taksim Square.
Kestane (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 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