Istanbul is a city that never sleeps. It’s also a foodie’s paradise, and no place in the town better exemplifies this than Karaköy. This cool neighborhood is home to some of Istanbul’s best restaurants, and it has everything from traditional Turkish cuisine to French bistros and seafood restaurants with fresh fish flown in daily. In addition, there are several terrace and rooftop restaurants in Karaköy Istanbul.
Nearby suburb Sultanahmet is not a popular dining destination among locals (there are still great restaurants in Sultanahmet), but Karaköy will be packed with local Istanbulites if you want to eat like them. Another reason why Karaköy is a great place to visit frequently is because it is only 20-30 minutes walking distance away from Sultanahmet hotels and Taksim hotels, making it convenient for guests.
In this blog post, we’ll be exploring 10 of the most interesting & delicious Karakoy restaurants you should visit when your stomach starts rumbling for dinner.
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Difference Between “Lokanta” and “Restaurant”
You will notice that we use the Turkish term lokanta and restaurant interchangeably in this context. Although the literal translation of lokanta is a restaurant, there is a slight cultural difference to be aware of.
Lokantas function the same way as restaurants, but they are more casual eating venues. You do not need to dress up or make reservations for lokanta (dinners are generally an exception).
While it is not always the case, at Lokanta there is typically no menu, and you order from a buffet featuring pots of prepared food.
In general, Turks usually visit lokantas just like British people visit pubs. The vast majority of lokantas also offer alcoholic beverages, and they are great gathering places for close friends and couples to spend quality time while enjoying their meals.
Related content: Turkish Drinks: 10 Popular Beverages Turkey Can’t Live Without
Best restaurants in Karaköy:
1. Nato Lokantası
Nato Lokantası was opened in 1972. At this time, Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, so the restaurant took its name from this historical event.
One of the most popular restaurants in the neighborhood, this excellent eatery specializes in great pot-style Turkish kebabs. We highly recommend trying their forest kebab or eggplant kebabs, which are called “Orman Kebabı” and “Patlıcan Kebabı” in Turkish.
They do not serve a fixed menu; instead, they change their menu every day. If you enjoyed your meal the first time around, go back again to experience new tastes of Turkish cuisine.
Related content: The 10 Oldest Restaurants in Istanbul for a Taste of History
2. Karaköy Lokantası
Located in the heart of Karaköy, this family-owned restaurant has been serving some delicious dishes since 2000. It is one of the best choices to have a traditional Turkish lokanta experience.
The decor of this place resembles that of a French bistro, with Iznik-inspired tiles and hints of Turkish lokanta style.
The restaurant offers dishes from Ottoman cuisine as well as classic Turkish dishes. Their most popular main course is “Hünkar Beğendi” (Sultan’s Delight), made from sliced lamb meat, served over a bed of creamy pureed eggplant flavored with herbs.
If you are looking for an incredible example of Turkish hospitality, beautiful decor, and delicious food – Karaköy Lokantası should be at the top of your list.
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3. Mükellef Karaköy
If you are looking to enjoy a meal from the hands of one of the most famous Turkish chefs, Mükellef Karaköy is an excellent option. Owned by Arda Türkmen—a well-known Turkish chef—this restaurant specializes in traditional dishes with contemporary twists.
Its seating capacity of 120 places may not be difficult to secure, but it is suggested that you reserve a table ahead of time.
Music is an essential part of the traditional Turkish meyhane (alcohol-serving restaurant in Turkey) & lokanta culture. This is one of the greatest locations to savor “rakı,” with Turkish classical music playing in the background.
If you tell the waiters you’re about to try rakı for the first time, they may offer suggestions for mezes and appetizers that would complement your drink.
Related content: Turkish Raki | Complete Guide for Beginners
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4. Mürver Restaurant
Mürver Restaurant is an excellent option for those looking to try wood fire cooked Turkish food. Most of the dishes here are flame-grilled over wood, which adds a beautiful flavor that is difficult to find at other restaurants in Istanbul.
Guests can easily see the special wood oven where your foods are going to be prepared. This blue and brick oven is located right in the middle of the venue.
Since the restaurant is perched on the terrace of the famous Novotel Bosphorus Hotel, the scenery is spectacular. Moreover, the restaurant offers a wide range of alcoholic beverages which you can enjoy during or after your meal with the stunning view of Istanbul. You can make a reservation here.
Related content: 18 Best Restaurants in Taksim & Beyoğlu That You Must Try
5. Rakofoli Ocakbaşı
The rough translation of ocakbaşı is ‘grill side or ‘sit and eat by the barbeque’ in English. Ocakbaşı restaurants are Turkish restaurants where your meats and kebabs are cooked on a huge grill located in the seating area.
Ocakbaşı Rakofoli is one of the popular ocakbaşı restaurants in Istanbul. You can enjoy some of the finest kebabs here together with alcohol, and you’ll have a stunning view from your table that includes Galata Tower.
Although the restaurant has a wide range of dishes on its menu, all belong to Turkish and Ottoman cuisine. If you want, you can also enjoy live music here but of course, make sure to book it first.
Related content: 20 Most Famous Turkish Kebabs You Can Taste in Istanbul
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6. Berlin Line Karaköy
Berlin Line Karaköy is one of the newest investments in Karaköy and, compared to other well-known restaurants on the list, is relatively young.
Although the name of the restaurant includes Berlin, they also serve international foods from world cuisine. If you are looking for quick meals such as hamburgers, pasta, and salads, this restaurant can be an ideal choice for you.
Besides these, they also serve certain dishes from Ottoman and Lebanon cuisine. The extensive menu also includes starters, seafood, desserts, and main courses from around the world.
Berlin Line Karaköy is open for breakfast and a cup of coffee during the day, and it serves as a restaurant and bar after dark.
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7. Köşkeroğlu Restaurant
A family business with a popular name in the world of baklava, Köşkeroğlu also has an upscale restaurant that can satisfy your appetite for Turkish kebabs, soups, pide, lahmacun, steak, and mezes.
In fact, the kebab menu at Köşkeroğlu is probably one of the most comprehensive in Istanbul. Furthermore, at the end of the night, you will ensure that outstanding baklava is provided.
The restaurant was founded in Gaziantep in 1946 and later expanded to Istanbul.
The traditional atmosphere of Köşkeroğlu Restaurant makes it a place to visit before you leave. Decorated with Turkish culture, this restaurant is run by second-generation family members and serves authentic dishes for hungry customers who want something local and traditional in Istanbul.
Related content: The Best Baklava in Istanbul: TOP 11 Baklava Shops
8. Ali Ocakbaşı
Ali Ocakbaşı may be one of the best options for those who would like to eat kebabs, drink raki with a spectacular view of the Bosphorus and Istanbul from sea level.
A local favorite of kebab enthusiasts, the restaurant marries fresh and seasonal ingredients with wood-fired cooking to produce some tasty Turkish fare. Furthermore, you may try a number of the most delicious & famous traditional Turkish meze dishes here.
If you enjoy drinking, rakı (a.k.a lion’s milk) is the way to go at Ali Ocakbaşı. This restaurant has some of the most beautiful scenery in locals’ opinions when it comes to sipping raki.
Waiters can point you to the best pairings for rakı, but don’t forget to try feta cheese as an appetizer and any fish dish as your primary course.
Related content: Istanbul’s Top 8 Doner Kebab Places: A Complete Guide w/ Maps
Taste of Two Continents Tour
-Secret local restaurants & one-of-a-kind boutique markets
-Visit locals favourite Kadikoy market
-Taste the world famous Turkish ice-cream & baklava
-It is not just food, it's Turkish culture with an expert's insider view
9. Paps Italian
Paps Italian is one of the finest Italian restaurants in Istanbul, where you can try delectable examples of the cuisine. World-famous Luigi Mariconda and Orhan Gürbüz are the heads of the kitchen at Paps Italian. The chefs are both very talented and create delicious dishes that beautifully harmonize two Mediterranean cuisines, Italian and Turkish.
The restaurant has been in business for seven years and is located in the middle of Historic French Gateway in Karaköy. It will not only give you a broad array of delectable dishes, but it will also provide beautiful scenery.
One of the biggest perks at Paps Italian is that you can enjoy beverages made by both Turkish and Italian boutique manufacturers.
Related content: Best Mantı in Istanbul: 6 Absolute Best Mantı Restaurants
10. Karaköy Gümrük
Karaköy Gümrük is a casual, stylish restaurant that follows the trend of fresh ingredients. The food changes daily depending on what’s available at the market, and it tends to be more prevalent during lunchtime.
The restaurant is nestled inside the old Customs Office building, which is a magnificent neo-classical work. The building, which is so exquisitely restored and adorned, transports you to the golden age of Karaköy as a commercial center of Istanbul a century ago. You sense as if you’ve arrived in a place that smells like nostalgia, character, and spirit.
The cuisine at Karaköy Gümrük is equally impressive. It’s hard to know what surprises await you with the changing menu, but Chef Stavriani Zervakakou is worth surrendering to.
As you can see, Karaköy has a diverse and delicious food scene. Whether it’s breaking bread with your family or enjoying the company of friends over some street food on the backstreets of Karaköy, there are many reasons to visit this historic district.
But what if you want to search & explore more than just the restaurants? Join one of our upcoming food tours for an experience like no other! Our team will navigate through Istanbul’s best neighborhoods while sharing stories about their culture and cuisine. Let us show you why we think that “Istanbul is always hungry.”
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