Street food is a big deal in Istanbul. From busy areas like Eminönü to cool spots like Kadıköy, every neighborhood has its own special food. So, let’s go on a food tour to discover the best Istanbul street food spots around Istanbul’s streets and try the tasty local foods that make this city awesome for foodies.
Table of Contents
1. Karaköy Galata Simitçisi
The bagel, known as “simit” in Turkish, is a staple street food in Istanbul. You’ll find it in every neighborhood and on every street corner, crispy and freshly baked. It serves as a quick hunger fix during the bustling days in Istanbul, or as a delightful breakfast item when paired with strong tea and cheese. While the traditional sesame-coated version remains a favorite, you can now also find simits topped with sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or a mix of grains.
For those who live in or visit Istanbul, it’s almost a given that you’ll have a favorite simit stand in your neighborhood that you can’t walk past without grabbing one. However, if you find yourself in Galata, the must-visit is Galata Simitcisi, where the bagels are baked over a wood fire, adding an extra layer of flavor and crispiness.
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, Mumhane Cd. 47/A, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, https://www.instagram.com/karakoygalatasimitcisi/
While Istanbul has seen a rise in new-generation burger shops offering a variety of gourmet options, the “wet hamburger” holds a special place in the hearts of locals. The magic of this small yet flavor-packed burger lies in its soft bun, soaked in a garlic-tomato sauce, and its spiced meat patty. Taksim Square is home to many kiosks that offer delicious wet hamburgers, often best enjoyed with a cold glass of ayran, a traditional Turkish yogurt drink. Kızılkayalar offers its famous wet hamburgers at various locations across the city, making it easy for fans to get their fix.
Sıraselviler Cad. No:2/C Taksim, Beyoğlu, İstanbul | https://www.instagram.com/kizilkayalar/
3. Tarihi Eminönü Balık Ekmek
Grilled fish tucked into a half loaf of bread, garnished with heaps of onions and greens, is an iconic Istanbul delicacy known as “fish and bread.” This simple yet irresistible dish becomes even more appealing when enjoyed by the sea. Eminönü is a district where the aroma of grilling fish wafts through the air, drawing you towards the numerous stalls selling this local favorite.
As you bite into your fish and bread, perhaps seasoned with a splash of pickle juice, you’ll truly feel the essence of Istanbul, especially if you’re sitting near the Galata Bridge. The historic Eminönü Balık Ekmek operates from a boat near the bridge, offering an authentic experience.
Kalyatai Barbaros, Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, 34116, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, https://www.instagram.com/eminonubalikekmek
4. MEŞHUR UNKAPANI PİLAVCISI
When talking about Istanbul’s street food, chickpea and rice pilaf is a must-mention. Even though it’s a dish commonly made at home, there’s something special about the version you get from a street vendor. Perhaps it’s the expertise gained from making the same dish day in and day out for years, but the rice is always perfectly cooked, and the chickpeas are tender. You can also add chicken if you like, and the dish is often served with frothy buttermilk and pickles on the side.
While there are countless chickpea and rice carts scattered throughout Istanbul, one vendor stands out: Meshur Unkapanı Pilavcisi, whose reputation extends beyond the city. If you find yourself in Unkapanı and see a crowd near the İMÇ 1st Block sign, you’ve likely found this famous rice stall.
Molla Hüsrev Mahallesi, Vefa Caddesi No: 71/A Fatih, İstanbul | https://www.instagram.com/meshur_unkapani_pilavcisii/
5. ÖZCAN TURŞU
Pickle juice is a staple of Istanbul’s street food scene, and it’s more than just a tangy treat. This beverage has long been considered a health tonic, an appetite stimulant, and a source of sheer enjoyment. Before pickles were mass-produced and sold in jars on supermarket shelves, they were available from mobile stalls and small neighborhood shops. Some of these traditional pickle makers continue to offer high-quality products to this day.
You can enjoy some of the best pickle juice in Istanbul, whether you prefer it spicy, mild, plain, or with bits of pickles, at several longstanding establishments. Özcan Turşu in Kadıköy is among the top places to try this unique and beloved local beverage.
Güneşli Bahçe Sk. No:7 Kadıköy ,İstanbul | https://www.instagram.com/ozcantursu/
6. Ortaköy Kumpir
Baked potatoes, or “kumpir” as they’re known in Turkey, are a beloved street food that many consider the ultimate way to enjoy potatoes. These large, oven-baked potatoes are cut in half and mixed with butter and cheddar cheese, then customized with a variety of toppings of your choice. While you can find kumpir in many cafes and food stalls around Istanbul, there’s something special about the ones served at the entrance of Ortaköy.
Perhaps the ambiance, the fresh sea air, or the stunning view of the Bosphorus make these kumpir particularly delightful. Another factor could be the high turnover, ensuring that the ingredients are always fresh. Whatever the reason, grabbing a kumpir from one of these stalls, then sitting on a bench by the sea to savor it, is an experience not to be missed.
If you’re looking for a specific recommendation, 1980 Ortaköy Kumpir Cafe in Balat is highly regarded. Located just behind Kadir Has University, this cafe offers a unique twist on the classic kumpir: a baked eggplant version that’s definitely worth a try.
Ortaköy, sahil, Mecidiye mahallesi. NO:14, 34347 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, https://www.instagram.com/1980ortakoykumpirkafe/
7. Selahattin Usta Kokorec
Kokoreç is a unique street food delicacy in Turkey that often wins over even those who are initially hesitant to try it. Made from seasoned and skewered lamb intestines, kokoreç is a dish that requires skill and cleanliness in its preparation. Therefore, it’s crucial to find a reputable place that serves it well.
One such place is the famous Selahattin Usta Kokoreç in Çengelköy, which is known for its high-quality kokoreç. So if you’re looking to try this unique Turkish delicacy, this is the place to go.
Çengelköy, Çengelköy Cd. 17/A, 34672 Üsküdar/İstanbul, https://www.instagram.com/selahattinustakokorec/
8. Midyeci Ahmet
Stuffed mussels, known as “midye dolma” in Turkish, have a rich history that dates back to the times of the Ottoman Empire, when they were served as appetizers in Greek taverns. Today, they have evolved into a popular street food in Istanbul that many find irresistible. Typically filled with a spiced rice mixture and often enjoyed with a squeeze of lemon, these morsels can be addictive.
However, as with any street food, it’s crucial to choose a reputable vendor to ensure the mussels are fresh and safely prepared. One such trusted spot for stuffed mussels in Istanbul is Midyeci Ahmet in Beşiktaş.
Yıldız mahallesi Çırağan caddesi. No:22 Beşiktaş/İstanbul https://www.instagram.com/midyeciahmetbesiktas/
9. VEFA BOZACISI
Boza is a unique, fermented drink made from millet that has a distinctive, slightly sweet and sour taste. It’s a traditional Turkish beverage often enjoyed in the winter months, and it’s typically garnished with a sprinkle of cinnamon and some roasted chickpeas for added flavor and texture. For an authentic boza experience, Vefa Bozacisi is the place to go. Established in 1876, this historic establishment in the Vefa neighborhood of Istanbul has been serving its signature boza for generations. It’s a must-visit spot for anyone looking to savor this traditional Turkish delight.
Mollahüsrev, Vefa Cd. No:66, 34134 Fatih | https://www.instagram.com/vefabozacisi1876/
10. Tatlıcı Safa
The donut dessert is a street food delight that you’ll find hard to resist. Available from street vendors in various districts of Istanbul like Karaköy, Beşiktaş, Eminönü, and Kadıköy, this sweet treat is a hit when it has just the right sugary consistency. It’s the perfect pick-me-up when you’re feeling low on energy and need a quick boost.
And what better way to round off this indulgent experience than with a cup of strong black coffee? The bitterness of the coffee complements the sweetness of the donut dessert, making for a satisfying and well-balanced treat. So the next time you’re in Istanbul and in need of a sweet lift, don’t miss out on this delectable duo.
Rustem Pasa Mah. Hasircilar Cad. No10, Istanbul | https://www.instagram.com/tatlicisafa/?hl=en