A narrow street in Istanbul with lots of restaurants and people sitting outside
Gourmet Discoveries

Exploring 100+ Year-Old Restaurants in Istanbul

Istanbul, a city straddling two continents, is a melting pot of cultures, histories, and flavors. It’s a place where every corner, every street, and every dish tells a story. The culinary scene, with lots of restaurants in Istanbul, is a mirror of its rich and diverse history, offers a unique experience that goes beyond mere gastronomic delight. It is in the historic restaurants of Istanbul that one can truly experience the essence of this city, a blend of the past and present, tradition and innovation, east and west.

As you walk through the bustling streets filled with historic restaurants Istanbul, you are walking through centuries of history. From the times of Byzantine emperors to the Ottoman sultans, each era has left its mark on the city, and nowhere is this more evident than in its oldest restaurants. These establishments are not just places to eat; they are custodians of history, each with a story to tell. Dining in these restaurants is like taking a step back in time, with each bite offering a taste of a bygone era.

 

Tarihi Kalkanoğlu Pilavı (Opened: 1856):

Step into the world of Ottoman royalty at Tarihi Kalkanoğlu Pilavı. This restaurant’s history goes back to Süleyman Kalkanoğlu, a master rice chef in the palace kitchens and for the Ottoman army during the Ottoman-Russian war in 1853. After the war in 1856, he opened this restaurant in Trabzon, known for its special pilaf that was a favorite among Ottoman sultans. This renowned restaurant is famous for its rice dish, once served to Ottoman Sultans. Their signature pilaf, a perfect blend of buttery flavors and aromatic spices, offers a regal dining experience. This restaurant not only promises a delightful meal but also a journey back in time to the grandeur of the Ottoman era.

 


Kebapçı İskender (Opened: 1867):

Kebapçı İskender, a name synonymous with the döner kebab, revolutionized Turkish street food. This restaurant is not in Istanbul, but in Bursa, accessible from Istanbul via a short journey that is totally worthy it. Opened in 1867, this restaurant is credited with inventing the first-ever döner kebab, a now-global phenomenon. Enjoy thinly sliced, perfectly seasoned meat served over a bed of pita, topped with tomatoes, yogurt, and melted butter. Kebapçı İskender offers an authentic taste of one of Turkey’s most iconic dishes in its original glory.

Hacı Abdullah Lokantası (Opened: 1888):

Hacı Abdullah Lokantası, the oldest restaurant in Istanbul, has been serving delectable Ottoman cuisine since 1888. This historic eatery, sanctioned by the Ottoman sultan himself, takes you on a culinary expedition through time. Here, traditional recipes are prepared with the utmost care, preserving centuries-old flavors. Savor dishes like lamb stews, richly seasoned kebabs, and an array of mezes that reflect Istanbul’s historical palate.

Meşhur Filibe Köftecisi (Opened: 1893):

Founded by Mehmet Saltuk, who immigrated from Bulgaria, this restaurant is named after the city of Plovdiv (Filibe in Turkish). You can expect to experience the simplicity and richness of Turkish köfte at Meşhur Filibe Köftecisi, one of the oldest restaurants in Istanbul. Since 1893, this restaurant has been renowned for its traditional Turkish meatballs – a perfect blend of spices and finely ground meat, grilled to juicy perfection. Accompanied by fresh bread and simple sides, their köfte offers a taste of Istanbul’s everyday culinary delights. This unassuming eatery’s long-standing reputation is a testament to its commitment to flavor and tradition.

 

Hot turkish bean stew with a tasty tomato sauce
Konyalı (Opened: 1897):

Konyalı, with its Anatolian roots, is a cornerstone of authentic Turkish cuisine in Istanbul. Since 1897, it has been a culinary landmark, serving dishes that are a testament to Turkey’s regional diversity. From rich stews and savory pastries to sweet Turkish delights, Konyalı offers a comprehensive taste of Anatolia’s culinary riches. The restaurant’s historical ambiance, combined with its commitment to traditional cooking methods, makes dining here a culturally immersive experience. The restaurant, which moved to Topkapı Palace in 1967, has hosted numerous famous figures including Atatürk, Queen Elizabeth II, Benazir Bhutto, and Richard Nixon.

Develi Kebap (Opened: 1912):

Develi Kebap, a culinary gem since 1912, represents the rich flavors of Gaziantep cuisine. Known for its kebabs, the restaurant serves a variety of grilled meats, each marinated and cooked to perfection. Develi’s menu also features an array of mezze and traditional desserts, making it a go-to place for those looking to explore the depth of southeastern Turkish flavors. The warm and inviting atmosphere adds to the authentic dining experience.

Yanyalı Fehmi Lokantası (Opened: 1919):

Yanyalı Fehmi Lokantası, established in 1919, offers a diverse selection of traditional Ottoman and Turkish dishes. Established by Fehmi Efendi from Ioannina, Greece, with Hüseyin Efendi of Bolu, formerly of the Ottoman Palace kitchens, as the head chef. Known for its rich stews, grilled meats, and an assortment of cold and hot mezes, this restaurant captures the essence of Turkey’s culinary heritage. The interior, reminiscent of a bygone era, provides a perfect backdrop for a traditional Turkish dining experience. Yanyalı Fehmi is a testament to Istanbul’s enduring culinary traditions.

 

Grilled fish with garnish on concrete background

Tarihi Ali Baba Balık Lokantası (Opened: 1920):

As Istanbul’s oldest fish and seafood restaurant, Tarihi Ali Baba Balık Lokantası, established in 1920, offers a feast from the sea. Initially a barbershop with a beautiful view of the Bosphorus, it was transformed into a fish restaurant by Palabıyık Ali Baba.  Located by the water, it serves the freshest catch of the day, from grilled fish to flavorful seafood mezes. Dining here not only promises a delightful seafood experience but also offers stunning views of the Bosphorus and Old Istanbul, blending great food with scenic beauty.

Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi (Opened: 1920):

Famous for its succulent meatballs, Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi, established in 1920, has become a global chain, yet its roots in Istanbul remain its heart and soul. The köfte, seasoned and grilled to perfection, is a must-try for anyone visiting the city. Accompanied by traditional sides like beans and piyaz, it offers a quintessential Turkish meal in the historic Sultanahmet district.

Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı (Opened: 1923):

Concluding this culinary journey is Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı, a popular fish restaurant opened in 1923. Known for its fresh seafood and traditional cooking, it provides a genuine taste of Istanbul’s maritime cuisine. Overlooking the Bosphorus, this restaurant not only delights its guests with exquisite flavors but also with panoramic views of the city’s historic landscape.

As our gastronomic journey through Istanbul’s historic restaurants comes to an end, it’s evident that each of these venerable establishments is not just about food; they are timeless custodians of Istanbul’s rich culinary and cultural heritage. From the regal flavors of Tarihi Kalkanoğlu Pilavı to the bustling, aromatic streets evoked by Kebapçı İskender; from the traditional Ottoman delicacies of Hacı Abdullah Lokantası to the delectable seafood of Tarihi Ali Baba Balık Lokantası, each restaurant offers a unique window into the past.

These historic eateries provide more than just a meal; they offer an immersive experience into the soul of Istanbul, where every dish has a story to tell, and every flavor carries the legacy of generations. They remind us that food is an art form, a cultural expression that transcends time and connects us to history in the most delicious way possible.

For anyone visiting Istanbul, these restaurants are not just stops on a culinary tour; they are essential chapters in the story of this magnificent city. They are places where you can taste the essence of centuries, savor the craft of master chefs, and dine amidst the echoes of a rich, historical past. So, as you wander through the enchanting streets of Istanbul, let your taste buds lead you to these historic gems, and be prepared to indulge in a culinary adventure that you’ll remember for years to come.

1 Comment

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    Mandyt June 28, 2024

    Great read with a touch of humor! For further details, check out: READ MORE. What are your thoughts?

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