Emily Von Kohorn

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American Expat living in Istanbul - working, exploring, and eating all the mezes she can get her hands on.

A Guide to My Istanbul

Where to Eat:




Karaköy Lokantası


A take on a traditional Turkish restaurant in a simultaneously grungy and elegant neighborhood (Karaköy) near the Istanbul Modern Museum. Reportedly Orhan Pamuk's favorite restaurant.

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Maya Lokantası

Directly next door to Karaköy Lokantası and some of the most sophisticated modern Turkish cooking I've tried in the city. That said, for a New Yorker, this almost might feel too familiar for a short trip...

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Namli Gurme Karakoy

Deli-style Turkish classics and one of the best brunches in the city. The line usually moves pretty fast, but get there early if possible.

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Everything you want in a coffee shop – laid-back vibe, great espresso, no rush –  in the middle of Karakoy.

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A high-end version of the Turkish meyhane in Galatasaray where you can get interesting mezes and main dishes. The design of the restaurant is swanky, and it becomes quite a scene on the weekend.

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A traditional meyhane in Tunel, where the standard meal is mezes, then fish, all washed down with raki (like Greek ouzo, but don't tell them that).

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A "home cooking" restaurant, the size of a shoebox in Tunel. You point at the things you want from a case (and as many as you want), they heat up the plate and bring it to your seat. No alcohol served there and typically a quick meal, but we hear from Turks the food is just like Mom's (incidentally, "Mom" is "Anne" in Turkish).



Meze by Lemon Tree

In Pera, across from the Pera Palace hotel. Interesting mezes in a small, boisterous room. They are known for their banana / chili / nut / cream / honey dessert. I am simultaneously hungry and disgusted with myself just thinking about it.

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Istanbul Culinary Institute

The café of a cooking school in Istanbul, this restaurant features Turkish and international food in a casual but modern room. In Pera, near the Pera Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie reportedly wrote Murder on the Orient Express.

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Roof-Top Locations

Few of my favorite restaurants have a view, so I often recommend to visitors that they go for a drink before (or after) dinner at a rooftop bar nearby, where the views are sensational, but the food is expensive, and typically not as good as those recommended. Here are a few options for rooftop swilling:

Leb-i-Derya (Istiklal)

Note there are two of these restaurant / bars - I think the one on Kumbaraci has a better space.

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5. Kat  (Cihangir)

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Rooftop bar / restaurant at the Georges Hotel (Galata)

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360 (Istiklal)

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Nuteras (Pera)

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Delicatessen has continental cuisine and a laid-back atmosphere for breakfast, lunch, drinks or dinner.

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House Café

There are lots of these around the city, including 2 in Nişantaşı alone, but I like the one on Atiye Sokak, a pedestrian-only street, because of the atmosphere and spacious back garden.

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Up the Bosphorus and on the water


Sur Balik

Sur is probably our favorite fish restaurant in Istanbul, even though it can attract some tourists (they are sent by the Four Seasons, which is nearby). It's a traditional spot, in a lovely renovated townhouse in Arnavutkoy, a charming restaurant on the Bosphorus, north of the first bridge. There is another location in Sultanahmet (near the major sites), though if you're in that neighborhood the fish restaurant locals will tell you to go to is Balik Sabahattin. If you go up to Sur in Arnavutkoy for dinner, it's worth stopping in Bebek nearby and having a drink at Lucca. It's technically an international restaurant, but it's really the epicenter of Turkish business / yuppie networking, fueled by satsuma cocktails.

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Aşşk Café

In Kuruçesme, a perfect brunch or drinks spot on the water, and behind a grocery store, oddly enough. The dinner food is not worth it.

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In Bebek, a 4th-floor restaurant with a white-painted floors, shabby chic-meets Scandinavian decor, and casual café food. Nice view and much more local than tourist.

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This sushi restaurant has other locations, including in London and Miami. The branch in Istanbul is in an ideal location on the water in Ortaköy, on the way up the Bosphorus. It’s very pricy but probably the best sushi in Istanbul. Afterward you could stop at the Istanbul Jazz Center next door:

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Emily's Bookmarks