Tip #1: Kaymak. Eat it. It’s wonderful and delicious and similar to clotted cream. I think the best kaymak we had was at Karakoy Ozsut, which is right near the Karakoy tram stop. The owner is super friendly and talked to us about the herd of buffalos that he keeps and good farming practices.
Tip #2: Balik ekmek is ubiquitous around Galata bridge. You might be attempted to eat the fish sandwiches from the busy gaudy boats on the Eminomu side of the bridge, but you should really go to the Karakoy side and find the men with the portable grills making balik ekmek. They’re ten times as delicious as the sandwiches from the seemingly more impressive boats.
Tip #3: The best baklava that we had was at Karakoy Gulluoglu (okay, it sounds like we spent all of our time in Karakoy, which isn’t true, but there was a lot of good food in this area). The baklava wasn’t cloyingly sweet or heavy, you can get a dollop of kaymak on the side, and they even have options for diabetics or people with gluten sensitivities. It’s also a great place to sit for a while to escape the heat as they have air conditioning, self-serve water, and bathrooms.
Tip #4: As much as I love the Spice Bazaar, you probably shouldn’t do any serious food shopping there unless you really know your stuff. You can often find the exact same goods just outside the market for a fraction of the price, and many things are not what they seem (e.g. Turkish “saffron”).
Tip #5: Istanbul Eats was a very reliable source of good food recommendations. Many of the places that we ate at were written up on their site. We particularly enjoyed Nar Lokantasi, Karakoy Lokantasi, and Gram (all for lunch).
Do you have any favorite Istanbul food or dining tips that you’d like to share?