/Istanbul’s Best Bites

Istanbul’s Best Bites

balat sahil restoran 3

How do you make a person fall in love with a city you adore? When it comes to Istanbul, some might head directly to Hagia Sofia, while others would book a Bosphorus tour. And they wouldn’t be wrong. The city’s monuments and waterways are beyond beguiling. But on a recent trip to Istanbul with my boyfriend Chris (his first time in Turkey!), I organized one glorious week of savoring and sipping our way from Balat on the Golden Horn to Tarabya up the Bosphorus. I was dead set on making him love Istanbul and I knew the city would seduce him dish by dish. These were our highlights:

Pando kaymak

UPDATE: PANDO HAS CLOSED. Set in the busy Beşiktaş shopping district, Kaymakçı Pando is a popular breakfast spot. We skipped the full spread and went straight for the bal kaymak (clotted buffalo’s cream with honey) served with sliced bread. We ate our weight in kaymak daily and, though we never had room or felt remotely hungry, would head directly across the street for döner at Asım Usta anyway.

Asim Usta

For breakfast #2 we would Order Asım Usta’s döner on pide. You should do this, too. You might be full of Pando’s rich offerings, but it’s impossible to resist Asım Usta’s imposing roasting meat pile. Trust us.

ozcan tursulari

While most food tourists make the pilgrimage across the Bosphorus to eat at profoundly overrated Çiya in Kadıköy, it was a cup of bright pickles in spicy brine at Özcan Turşuları that left the ‘hood’s biggest impression.

petra coffee istanbul

Newcomer Petra Coffee, which is set in a bizarre speedboat showroom/antique shop/art gallery made quite a good coffee. It received high marks, particularly given that the place is brand new and the space is so strange.

cag kebabi

Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı near Sirkeci Station served delectable wood roasted lamb sliced off a horizontal spit, a perfect snack between meals.

dil sis

Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı, a hole-in-the-wall fish joint in an unsightly part of the Karaköy port, is a must for fish lovers–or those just looking for a light, exquisitely simple meal. The place owes its reputation to Muharrem Usta, a master on the grill whose charcoal-grilled fish is second to none. The dil şiş (skewered sole) was perfect.

kiyi midye

After a subpar version of fried mussels at a famous fry stall in Beyoğlu, I was determined to share Istanbul’s best version with Chris. So we made the long but worthwhile trip up the Bosphorus to Kıyı for the city’s best midye tava.


Kantin‘s seasonal menu was gorgeous and, devoted pizza lovers that we are, we adored the crispy flatbread topped with thinly sliced pears.

liver balat sahil restoran

But by far the best meal we had was with our friend Şemsa at Balat Sahil Restoran, a meyhane next to Balat Parkı where superb mezes and triple-distilled rakı were followed by gorgeous pan fried liver. That thinly sliced, perfectly seasoned dish is worth a flight on its own and the memory of its flavor and texture will linger until our next trip.

2017-02-17T15:16:16+00:00 May 19th, 2014|Categories: Food & Wine, Istanbul, Travel, Turkish Cuisine|15 Comments


  1. […] Read more here: Istanbul's Best Bites | Parla Food […]

  2. Bob Blesse May 19, 2014 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Wow, what a culinary adventure! We are moving to Florence in September and Istanbul is on our list to visit soon. Many thanks!

    • Katie May 20, 2014 at 3:35 pm - Reply

      @bob istanbul is amazing! be sure to download my app before your departure:)

  3. Andrea May 19, 2014 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    What is the thin bread with the lamb? It looks so delicate!

  4. Laura May 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    I’m tentatively planning a trip to Istanbul for next year, so I just bookmarked this – all the food looks amazing!

  5. Caitlin May 21, 2014 at 11:04 am - Reply

    I need breakfast number 1 … Looks so good.

  6. Vanessa May 28, 2014 at 12:24 am - Reply

    I disagree with you about Ciya, I lived in Üsküdar and Ciya was one of my favourite spots besides many others.

  7. Code Cables June 2, 2014 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Just having returned from a trip to Istanbul, your app was much appreciated! Excellent info, as expected… Brava!

  8. S June 4, 2014 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    WHAT is triple-distilled rakı and HOW do I get it? XO

    • Katie June 4, 2014 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      i wish i knew how you could get it! some must make it to your hood. reminds me i should stock up next time. i only have rough ass yeni raki at home

  9. Gene June 10, 2014 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Heading there in September, this will come in handy. Great pics, the food looks amazing.

  10. […] adore Katie Parla’s advice on where to eat in Rome. Now I’m devouring her advice for eating in […]

  11. vijay March 2, 2015 at 4:49 am - Reply

    we had a lovely meat stew of some kind in an earthenware pot which was broken (if I recall correctly). Do you know what that dish is? thx

    • Katie March 3, 2015 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      what was the pot shaped like, Vijay?

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