Sometimes, you don’t need a big meal and/or you simply don’t have the time. Then, this Top 5 Quick Eats in Istanbul articles we prepared for you might just help.
When you’re not in the mood for an extended sit-down, but you still desire some awesome flavor and fulfilling eats…
Besalti Kirvem Tantuni
“Yo quiero Taco Bell”… this place is nothing like Taco Bell (fortunately), but it is one of the few Mexican options in the city
If it wasn’t for the alluring smells that leap out at you, captivate your sensory glands and force you inside with little regard for your previous engagements, you would walk right by this unassuming eatery. Tantuni – thin strips of beef – are grilled like carne asada and then put on tortilla-like bread; tomatoes, spices, parsley and onions complete the combination. Though its origins can be traced back to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, Tantuni is very much similar to your traditional Mexican dishes in terms of flavor, spice and presentation. It’s also probably worth mentioning that the tables here are really, really small. I can’t figure out if they just ran out of wood for the legs or if they wanted to make people feel like giants in the hope that they would then proceed to eat more. When you sit down you can think back to this article and say wow, “he was right, these tables are incredibly minuscule”. Anyways, table size can’t take away from this being among the top street food spots in Istanbul. Filling, mouthwatering, mexican (esque). Yum.
First thing first: for all of our American readers out there let’s get beyond our rather limiting definition of what a kebab is – meat on a stick. In Turkey and the rest of the Middle East, a kebab is meat (traditionally lamb, but can also be chicken, beef or goat) that has been cooked over an open flame and that is then served in bread, on plates or in bowls. Kebab restaurants are everywhere in Istanbul; and, obviously, each one claims to have “the best” kebab in the country. (We’ve found that it can be an entertaining activity to keep a running tally of the number of times you’re offered a rug while you’re in Istanbul versus the number of times you’re offered a kebab. Just before leaving you compare the lists and then run away before you accidentally buy anything else you don’t need.) Durumzade is easily one of the top kebab venues in Istanbul. Whereas lots of kebab bread can be disappointingly hard and dry, this bread is soft, moist, bubbly and chewy. In other words, the perfect home for all of the delectable meat on the inside. Speaking of the meat, it is cooked to perfection on an open grill, marinated with a variety of spices and told (by way of cooking) that it’s job is to be the best kebab meat in Istanbul (as far as we are concerned, it is).
Open 24 hours – Kamer hatun Caddesi 26/A Beyoglu
Fresh fish sandwiches
This isn’t any particular restaurant, but it is a quick eat that deserves recognition on our top 5 list. Walking across Galata Bridge, day or night, is a bit like jumping from check point to check point – the aim being not to get hooked by a fishing rod as is the line is cast out to sea. Anyways, if you wonder what they do with all those fish that they catch (I’m sure that you’ve already guessed the answer), they sell them. And sometimes those buyers happen to be the people cooking fish right in front of you. The result is the ultimate fish sandwich. Fresh, frisky, flavorful, fabulous. For just a couple of lira you can satisfy your stomach, your taste buds and your curiosity all at once. Not a bad deal.
Big baked potato with lots of other shit
Let me begin by telling you about Kumpir (we do this on The Other Tour all the time, so it should be easy). Kumpir is a big baked potato that is cut open and then vigorously mixed with cheese and butter. Once the mix-master is satisfied with his work, he allows you to chose from an array of additional ingredients to compliment that sexy potato of yours. Options include hot dog slices, corn, yogurt, pickles, black olives and vegetable salad to name a few. The catch? Each additional ingredient is completely free of charge so you end up asking for all of them and then eating a lot more than you were planning on. The resulting food item is a good 10 pounds, and 10 lira. 1 lira a pound isn’t a bad deal. Maya Kumpir, located in Ortakoy, is one amongst many other kumpir shops in the same alley. So what sets this one a part? Well, it is the local’s favorite (trust us, we live here). And the locals always know best. On top of that, the staff is friendly and engaging – why not support people you like?
Ortakoy – the principal pedestrian street (all of the Kumpir shops will be on your right hand side if you’re walking towards the mosque)
Rooftop chillout, great ambience, better food
May not be that quick, but definitely one of our absolute favorites, Tavanarasi is actually the reason we decided to create this list in the first place. It is located in a loft in Beyoglu and the environment is relaxed, inviting and, dare we go this far, a bit intimate? Very, very few tourists (for all practical purposes probably none) ever make it here. I guess that this blog post might change that… The service is fast, the meals are served hot and the staff is incredibly friendly. Finding this place will be a bit of a treasure hunt (special emphasis on the ‘treasure’ portion) so bring your map and your hunger with you. The gustatory (yes, I looked this word up using the google search “how to describe food” so that I could sound more professional) casserole – Guvec, in Turkish – is a must.
Beyoğlu, Asmalı Mescit Sok. No:10, Istanbul – Avrupa, Turkey
How about some great fish prepared super fast? Can Balık in Karaköy is a great choice. We just ate there (April 23rd, 2023) and loved the taste and the low prices. A wonderful fish dürüm (wrap) is only 50 TL (a little over 2 Euros) and in this economy, that really is a bargain, especially considering how delicious and fulfilling it was.
The place also has a huge variety of fresh fish which is fitting because it’s located right by the water (Golden Horn). The area surrounding it has recently been renovated and opened to public and it’s actually a pretty cool area just to wander around and check out the views of the historic Fatih district and Suleymaniye Mosque across the Golden Horn.
Do you know any good places? Leave a comment below.