A horizontal slab of meat gently sweating the fat onto the wooden fired oven. No hard tissues, no membranes, no bones, nothing unsavory. This is the tenderest kebab in the whole of the Turkish kitchen. So juicy that even people who aren’t kebab fans will be salivating at the thought of the cağ kebab.
But watch out: compare it to a döner, and you’ll find yourself the ire of the chef. The difference? A döner is cooked in a vertical electrical oven (usually) and has a variety of ingredients. The cağ kebab is 100% succulent lamb, fat to make it tender, spices, and cooked horizontally in a spitfire oven. The result is something softer, daintier than its vertical cousin.
Related content: Istanbul’s Top 8 Doner Kebab Places: A Complete Guide w/ Maps
If you have the opportunity to watch the chefs serve you a shish of this scrumptious meat, you may be mesmerized by how they poke the skewer into the doner and cut a touch of the best-cooked part for you. Definitely one for the foodies, here is a list of the 6 best restaurants serving cağ kebab in Istanbul:
1. Şehzade Cağ Kebap
Located in a buzzing marketplace, you can lose yourself to the moment here, or you can be amused by watching the awesome fez-wearing facial-hair-supporting Ottoman-styled chef cooking away in the spitfire oven.
Cozy up in this intimate spot while you wait for your dishes. With only one main course on the menu, the fast service will have you portioning out the tender meat, chutney-like tomatoey ezme, crunchy salad, tangy sumac sprinkled onions onto the roomali roti-type bread with the proportions that you get to decide. Swallow it down the salty ayran for a real high.
Related content: 20 Best & Most Famous Turkish Kebabs (w/ Authentic Recipes)
2. Palandöken Erzurum Çağ Kebabı
Sandwiched in a residential neighborhood, this folk-music playing, family restaurant is a bit of distance from the usual touristic spots. This is a family-friendly spot, and it has its own special family “saloons” (no single or group of men allowed), but wherever you sit, the grilled peppers mixed with the wonderous salad all have the same brilliant taste. The rural vibe extends to the chef. If you’re really feeling the vibe, the traditional Turkish dessert kadayıf dolma with the nuts is the perfect end to a perfect meal.
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3. Cağistan Erzurum Cağ Kebabı
In addition to the juicy meat, this place offers a crazy amount of side dishes like pickles, cucumbers with yogurt, and even a buttermilk (ayranaşı) soup as an ingenious starter. What better way to start your dining experience?
If you have a car, you can park up front. Off the beaten path, the unassuming place has cute old-style furnaces like out of Hansel and Gretal. Their stuffed kadayıf is also no joke, particularly when paired with Turkish tea!
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4. Tarihi Sadabad Cağ Kebap
This dramatic restaurant with neo-noir vibes is actually pretty chill in its execution. When asked, the attentive waiters will happily bring you seconds, thirds, and even fifths of Cağ Kebap.
Perhaps the lentil soup isn’t the best, but the ezme and the ayran made from foamy buffalo yogurt more than makes up for it. From the smooth, round semolina helva, to the sütlaç with crunchy hazelnuts to Noah’s pudding with a pretty raisin, pomegranate, and walnut topping, really what more can you ask for?
Related content: The 6 Best Tantuni in Istanbul – Complete Guide w/ Maps
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5. Yörem Cağ Kebabı
You can try blending the fabulous Turkish cağ kebab with the somewhat confusing British chip sandwich here. This restaurant not only serves French fries as a side but also dressings like balsamic vinegar. We’re sure that the vinegar is supposed to be for the colorful Shepherd’s salad with its carrots, red cabbage, and green lettuce, but you may decide to pair the salad with pickles and the buttery rice just so you can put the vinegar in the fries and fries in with the kebab. If you’re doing things wrong, like us, it may just be that you’re distracted by the cute chefs or, more likely, the elegant 1930s-esque oaky yet creamy vibe.
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6. Seki Erzurum Sofrası Cağ Kebabı
A family-friendly spot with a playground for children, this rural-esque yet highly Turkish place has meat so tender that it feels as silky as their rice pudding. The chairs are a touch uncomfortable, but with two different types of salads and the extremely spicy salsa, you may forget your bottom for an hour or two.
The delicious Turkish soups really help your rumbling stomach prepare for what’s about to come. And for those feeling adventurous, we dare you to pair the tender cağ kebab with purple carrot juice. Hey, it’s supposed to be good for digestion.
If you are looking for the best cağ kebab restaurants in Istanbul, this list of our top picks will surely help you. We also offer food tours so that you can taste delicious Turkish dishes without having to search them out yourself. Join us and find your favorite!
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