It’s a well-known fact that Istanbul is one of the most historic cities in the world. This is why it should come as no surprise to hear that there are many historical and old restaurants here, some of which date back over 170 years. In this blog post, we will talk about ten of these historic Istanbul restaurants and their story.
The best part is, many but not all of these oldest restaurants in Istanbul are located in Old City, which means you can walk to them from your hotel in Sultanahmet.
Related content: Best Restaurants in Istanbul
1. Tarihi Kalkanoğlu Pilavı
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the Ottoman Empire and have access to some of the most delicious foods that were served at Topkapi Palace for Sultans?
At “Tarihi Kalkanoğlu Pilavı,” you can find the same rice dish as Ottoman Sultans used to savor every day.
The founder of “Tarihi Kalkanoğlu Pilavı,” Süleyman Kalkanoğlu was the master rice chef in palace kitchens before he fed the Ottoman army during the Ottoman and Russian war in 1853. Following the war, he retired and opened his restaurant in Trabzon in 1856. Today, the original restaurant still offers its legendary rice and is run by the 6th generation.
What makes this rice the absolute best in Turkey is that its made with bone marrow boiled for 24 hours and the butter made from the cows grazing in the 2000m highlands of the Black Sea region of Turkey.
Tarihi Kalkanoğlu Pilavı is one of the many delicious stops on our Taksim Evening Food Tour.
Note: The original restaurant is in Trabzon. The restaurant in Istanbul is opened in 2011 and run by the same family.
Related content: 18 Best Restaurants in Taksim & Beyoğlu
2. Kebapçı İskender
The first-ever döner kebab was cooked in 1867 by İskender Efendi of Bursa, who stacked lamb cuts on a rotisserie and cooked it for the first time vertically rather than horizontally.
He also created the “Pideli Döner Kebabı” (a.k.a. İskender Kebab) by placing the sliced döner pieces on tomato paste and butter-soaked pita bread.
The original restaurant opened in Bursa in 1867, and it is still serving one of the world’s best döner kebabs. They do have a branch in Istanbul that is located in Kadıköy. We visit this historic restaurant on our Taste of Two Continents food tour.
Note: The original restaurant is in Bursa. The restaurant in Kadıköy is opened in 2003 and run by the same family.
Related content: Istanbul’s Top 8 Doner Kebab Places
3. Hacı Abdullah Lokantası
In 1888, skilled chef Hacı Abdullah was given a restaurant license by the Ottoman Sultan “Abdulhamit II Han” and opened his restaurant in Karaköy Pier.
To offer the best of Ottoman cuisine and hospitality, the official foreign delegations were hosted at “Hacı Abdullah Lokantası” during the late Ottoman era. It moved to its current location in Beyoğlu, near Taksim square, in the 1950s.
With its 130-year history, Hacı Abdullah Lokantası is an Istanbul institution and the oldest restaurant in Istanbul. Dating back to the Ottoman Empire and serving some of the most delicious Ottoman and Turkish dishes for locals since 1888, it holds nostalgic importance in many people’s lives. Their childhood memories are often intertwined with visiting this restaurant with family members regularly.
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4. Meşhur Filibe Köftecisi
Turkish köfte is a traditional dish that has been around for centuries in Anatolia and was the inspiration behind Istanbul’s oldest restaurants; Meşhur Filibe Köftcisi and Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi.
Meşhur Filibe Köftecisi was founded in 1893 by Mehmet Saltuk, who immigrated to Istanbul from Bulgaria before the Balkan Wars. He named his place and his meatballs after the city of Plovdiv (Filibe in Turkish), where he lived before.
The köfte recipe was handed down from generation to generation to maintain its authenticity; this succulent dish has been known for being juicy and tasty despite having only onion, cumin, and salt inside.
Hacı Ahmet Doyuran from Konya arrived in Istanbul and opened a small restaurant in Sirkeci in 1897. As a result of its Anatolian roots and delicious & authentic food, Konyalı restaurant quickly became the epitome of Turkish cuisine, especially after the 1940s.
Konyalı has hosted many famous figures, including the founder of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk, Queen of England Elizabeth II, President of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, and former U.S. President Richard Nixon.
The restaurant moved to Topkapı Palace in 1967 and has been a favorite for over half a century and continues to uphold its status as one of Turkey’s most celebrated restaurants.
Related content: Best Turkish Foods You Must Try in Istanbul
6. Develi Kebap
Gaziantep is the capital of culinary wonders. It’s no surprise that some of the most famous Turkish foods are from this ancient Southeastern city.
The Develi Restaurant is one of the most important representatives of this Gaziantep cuisine. Develi was founded in 1912 by Arif Develi in Gaziantep, and the 3rd generation of the family left the city in 1966 and opened their restaurant in Istanbul Samatya.
Today, along with a menu of traditional Gaziantep dishes, Develi offers an eclectic array of Mediterranean and Anatolian cuisine. Moreover, the baklava served here might be one of the best in Istanbul.
Note: The original restaurant was opened in Gaziantep. The restaurant in Istanbul is opened in 1966 and run by the same family.
Related content: The Best 11 Baklava Shops in Istanbul
7. Yanyalı Fehmi Lokantası
The restaurant was founded in 1919 by Fehmi Efendi, who escaped from Yanya (Ioannina in Greek) and came to Istanbul. He was not a cook himself, so he made Hüseyin Efendi of Bolu head chef who had previously worked at Ottoman Palace kitchens.
This small restaurant with both an entrepreneur and a renowned chef behind it quickly became a staple of the local Istanbulite populace.
The 3rd generation now runs Yanyalı Fehmi Lokantası. It remains as popular today as it was in its earliest days. They serve one of the most diverse selections of traditional Ottoman and Turkish dishes in their original restaurant in Kadıköy market.
Related content: 10 Best Kadıköy Restaurants
8. Tarihi Ali Baba Balık Lokantası
Tarihi Ali Baba Balık Lokantası is the oldest fish and seafood restaurant in Istanbul. Palabıyık Ali Baba, a barber by trade, had a barbershop in this seaside location. Still, locals became so enamored with the view of the Bosphorus from the shop’s garden that they started coming for picnics.
Eventually, Palabıyık Ali Baba decided the land should become more than just a place for haircuts; he opened up a fish restaurant in 1920.
Still being popular since it opened in 1920 – and it’s not only for its fantastic views of the Bosphorus. The fish is fresh, the food delicious and well-presented with excellent service. The prices are reasonable for a historic establishment like this as well.
Related content: Best Fish Restaurants in Istanbul
9. Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi
The success story of Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi began when Mehmet Seracettin Efendi migrated from Turkmenistan and opened a tiny restaurant, which was founded in 1920 in the heart of Istanbul near the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.
The meatballs Mehmet Seracettin Efendi cooked in this tiny kebab shop became one of the most essential tastes to come out of Istanbul.
Today, Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi has branches worldwide, including Germany, England, the USA, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Azerbaijan.
Related content: Best Restaurants in Sultanahmet, Istanbul
10. Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı
Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı, which was established in 1923 by Hüsamettin Doğan on the ground floor of Grifin Han in Karaköy, has been one of the most popular fish restaurants for locals in Istanbul.
When the Doğan family retired, Hakan Özkaraman took over and helped the restaurant become even more popular. Now one of the most famous fish restaurants in Turkey, it has grown to have a worldwide following.
Today, the restaurant operates on 2 floors. The top terrace has one of the best views in Istanbul thanks to its incredible cityscape and a breathtaking view looking down at Hagia Sophia and Old Istanbul.
Istanbul is a city of contrasts. The historic buildings and mosques are juxtaposed with the modern skyscrapers that dominate the skyline, while many neighborhoods remain traditional despite recent gentrification efforts. Despite this seeming conflict, one thing remains consistent throughout all parts of the metropolis – its cuisine. Whether you want to experience Turkey’s rich history or get your hands on some delicious kebab, Istanbul has plenty for everyone.
In this list of 10 oldest restaurants in Istanbul, you’ll find the most historic restaurants and some delicious dishes that have stood the test of time in Istanbul. These historic restaurants are all definite “must-tries” if you’re on your way to Istanbul.
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