That sweet sizzling sound as the meat hits the grill. If your inner carnivore is craving lusciously tender meat, then köfte is the dish for you. The köfte is a type of meatball/meat patty that’s been served so long in this country that it has its spot in the hall of fame of Turkish cuisine, and it’s considered indigenous to the table of communal gatherings. While the İnegöl version is incredibly popular, the Islama (i.e., the steamed) kind is making a splash.
From “Izmir köfte” to “Akçaabat köftesi” and “Dalyan köfte,” there are dozens of köfte varieties in Turkey; it wouldn’t be wrong if we say every town in Turkey has created its unique recipe over the centuries. And the good news, these different köftes can be all found in Istanbul.
If you need a little bit of meat and a whole lot of history, we have eight jaw-droppingly good köfte in Istanbul lined up for you. These restaurants offer their unique take on this delicious dish, so you’re bound to find something you love!
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1. Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi Selim Usta
This decadent restaurant was founded in the same year that The Great Gatsby was being written/published, and it shows. It’s no surprise that the fourth generation is now branching out internationally – with branches all over Europe and Western Asia.
Specializing in köfte, Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi offers some of the most delicious and finest examples of meatballs in Istanbul. If you like your meatballs spicy hot, you can always order some extra homemade hot sauce.
If you’re lucky enough, you get yourself a table with scenic views to accompany your meal. If not, there’s nothing to worry about. The stunning images on the walls combined with the stomach-rumbling colors of the food on display would be enough to satisfy you. The walls aren’t just decorated with pretty pictures: you’ll find images of previous patrons. You may even find notes left by customers before you. History certainly comes alive here.
If you can resist the temptation of juicy meat and spellbinding desserts, there are healthier options on the menu. Ensure you bring cash because there isn’t a facility at Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi to accept card payments.
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Location of Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi:
2. AKO Adapazarı Islama Köfte
Consider yourself on a mission. If you’re not a local, you may find navigating here to be complicated. On the second floor, just above an optician, the entrance is in an alleyway. If you want to be shrewd, you’ll snag yourself a seat by the window on the second floor to people-watch while you’re enjoying your meal.
This restaurant serves “ıslama köfte,” which is served with sliced bread dipped in a meat broth and grilled with the meatballs. There are also sliced tomatoes and onions on the plate.
Despite the ‘homemade’ vibe of the meals, there are meal deals that’ll ensure that you leave feeling full. If you are on a diet, the various soups will warm up your soul and help you feel full quicker. The generous portions are also a huge plus. This is not a place of many words, and this is a place with items on the menu sounds as good as it tastes.
Moreover, the beautifully styled restaurant gives you the impression of five-star dining at a modest price.
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Location of AKO Adapazarı Islama Köfte:
3. Meşhur Filibe Köftecisi
From 1893, the köfte recipe at Meşhur Filibe Köftecisi is a family heirloom handed down from the Ottoman era. This is one of the longest-standing family businesses in Turkey. Now being run by the fifth generation, this is a place that has inspired many writers, artists, and celebrities. Featured in newspapers, novels, encyclopedias and even mentioned by notorious painters as their favorite restaurant. If you ever wanted to taste creativity, art, and history, this is the place to be.
On the walls, you’ll find clippings of newspaper articles mentioning this heavyweight, for a good reason. Their menu is minimalistic but concentrated on what they do best. They’re usually closed on Sundays so it may be an idea to visit during the week.
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Location of Meşhur Filibe Köftecisi:
4. Namlı Rumeli Köftecisi
Perfect for travel writers, bloggers, and Instagrammers, this quaint spot is located on a busy set of streets. However, what makes it intriguing is not the crowd passing by, the colorful fruit shop opposite, or even the awnings above the passageway. It’s the ultimate combination of ‘street food‘ and ‘comfort food.’ There’s something magical about eating sizzling, delicious köfte while watching life pass you by.
This humble restaurant is somewhere to cozy up to with a few friends to create memories that last. Alternatively, if you’re traveling alone, this is the kind of place that’ll spark up your imagination. If Wong Kar-Wai made a film in Turkey, the simple yet authentic vibe here would be reflected in the movie.
One reviewer suggested that you may never look at köftes the same again after eating at Namlı Rumeli Köftecisi. We think you may never look at your authentic Turkish dining experience the same.
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Location of Namlı Rumeli Köftecisi:
5. Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi
The minimalistic yet sophisticated décor hints at the kind of taste you may find here. However reserved the decoration may be, the food is the exact opposite: colorful and shiny. Always packed, you may end up waiting for a spare table. Once you sit down, you’ll find that the service is lightning fast (a.k.a ekspres), efficient, and friendly.
There’s no rush to consume the masterpiece köftes that are placed before you. This is just as well because you may need time to savor not only the flavor and spices of köfte but just how fresh the bread is.
They’ve been serving the same superior quality köfte for decades in Kadıköy, and they’ll likely stay standing for an even longer time: perhaps one day, you will be tempted to visit with your great-great-great-grandchildren.
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Location of Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi:
Taste of Two Continents Tour
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6. Köfteci Hüseyin 1958
If time travel existed, then it would be exactly like the experience you get here. A piece of bread served with delicious meatballs. This tranquil and simple restaurant hides in a passageway next to Taksim square.
Although they have a delivery service, it would be a shame to miss out on the vibe. And that’s nothing to say of the taste. Prepared by the hands of a master, you may find yourself ordering portion after portion. Prepare your stomach because your tastebuds will never get tired of the savory dish.
This restaurant is definitely for those searching for the best köfte in Istanbul and loves classic Turkish literature or film with its artsy, historic vibe. Get there early, however, as they close after they sell out.
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Location of Köfteci Hüseyin 1958:
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7. Köfteci Mustafa
Located next to the Grand Bazaar, this little escape from the hustle and bustle is absolutely worth checking out. This is one of those restaurants that care more about the dishes they make than the decorations hanging from the walls.
Despite the artisanal approach to the traditional köfte, the prices are very reasonable. The cost of the köfte is even more fascinating considering the prime location. Perhaps that’s why the locals keep coming back.
Pack some cash as they don’t have the facility to accept card payments. Don’t forget to ask for the dressing on the side of your tasty köfte.
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Location of Köfteci Mustafa:
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8. Tarihi Merkez Efendi Köftecisi
Three generations, fifty years at the same address, and a recipe dating back to 1917, Tarihi Merkez Efendi Köftecisi is an Istanbul institution. Much like their roots, the exterior architecture has that 20th-century Turkish vibe. You’ll feel like you’re in a classic Turkish novel.
The meatballs taste like fluffy clouds that melt in your mouth. Their ayran (salty yogurt drink) has just enough salt to complement the köfte. The piyaz (bean salad) may not be the star of the show, but it’ll have you raving. It’s not just the dessert menu that’s got a wide variety of choices. The mains are a treat for all carnivores.
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Location of Tarihi Merkez Efendi Köftecisi:
We hope you enjoyed reading our list of the best köfte in Istanbul. Although Turkish meatballs are famous throughout the world, we think Turkey still has the best and the unique köftes that deserve to be explored during your visit.
If you want to try these tasty treats for yourself or if you’re thinking about traveling around Istanbul and would like a guide who knows where all the hidden gems are hiding, please get in touch with us today! Our food tours will take your taste buds on an unforgettable journey through this culturally rich city.
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