Recently Atdaa got suggestions from Tuba Şantana of Istanbul Food about some of her top picks for summer in Istanbul. Aside from offering incredible food tours, Istanbul Foods is also hands down the most visually pleasing guide to Istanbul’s incredible culinary scene. Her photographs on the site are unmatched. It’s also a great resource for where to eat but sometimes more importantly, where to avoid. But here are some of her winners.
For culinary minded folks Ciya is a must for any visit to Istanbul. Located near the fish market in the pedestrian walkway of Kadikoy resides a veritable encyclopedia of Anatolian cuisine. On any given day this no frills restaurant’s dishes can range from Mesopotamia to Ottoman, Balkans to Asia serving up once nearly forgotten recipes. Their cuisine is seasonal and is friendly to both meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
Karadeniz Pide ve Döner
You will know this non-descript restaurant by the trail of people waiting in line, and, also for its massive, and I mean massive rotating doner kebab. Karadeniz Pide and Doner serves up classic doner until it runs out. So, you will want to try and get there early if you don’t want to miss out on some of the best doner in Istanbul. After all, that many people waiting in line can’t all be wrong, now can they? It is located in the Besiktas market, also not to be missed.
Enjoy a Tea on the Ferry
A really popular thing for tourists is to take a boat tour on the Bosphorus, either to the Black Sea region or to Princes Island. These are really fun tours, but the Bosphorus can also be enjoyed for just a few lira by simply taking the ferry boat either to or from the Asian (Anatolian) side of Istanbul. You can choose to sit on the terrace or the side benches and feel the fresh air whip around you as you take in the views. On a lucky day you may even have playful school of dolphins race beside you. Or, you can sit comfortably inside and enjoy the Turkish culture of sipping a tea from the cayci (tea service man) and watch from your window as the sea-gulls dive into the waterway trying to catch a meal.
Chef Şemsa Denizsel has managed to do something really special with her restaurant Kantin, the flagship of which is located in the upmarket Nisantasi. Semsa has managed to bring back the idea of fresh, local, sustainable and organic produce to the Istanbul culinary scene. And, she has managed to do so with some deliciously simplistic gourmet plates which are inspired by traditional Turkish fare. Everything is house made, from the mayonnaise and pickled red onions to the soul warming sourdough bread. The menu changes daily and is written in Turkish on the chalkboard. However I think it would not be an issue to get an English translation. Below the restaurant is also a chic carryout shop where many of the day’s offerings can be packed to go. The loafs of olive sourdough go fast!
No-Name Alex’s Cocktail Bar
For Istanbul residents it is a sad truth that the cocktail scene here is kind of weak. Some may even use the word very. So when Alex Waldman opened up his little No-Name mixology bar in the Pera neighborhood more than a few people were thrilled. Truly a bar with no name, Alex mixes each concoction with house made bitters and syrups. The bar can get pretty crowded on the weekend, so if you want to take some time to truly enjoy this craft cocktail experience, a weeknight would be better. Don’t let the egg whites scare you, Alex knows how to make real drink.
No visit to Istanbul would be complete without eating at a lokantasi or a tradesman restaurant. But don’t let the name fool you, at Sahin Lokantasi the crowd will be mixed from businessmen in suits and ties, tradesmen, students and tourists alike. The reason for Sahin’s success is he has never messed with perfection. For the last 30 years the same chef, butcher and grocer have collaborated to provide some of the best ‘just like mom used to make’ Turkish food that Istanbul has to offer. If you are feeling brave stop in early for a morning bowl of soup, tripe and trotters are among the local favorites.