Mezes Restaurants in Istanbul – Istanbul, located on the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea, is home to many fish restaurants called “meyhane.” These establishments have been around since the Byzantine empire and were originally located in coastal cities to serve sailors who wanted to have a meal while drinking. They became popular in the Ottoman era, particularly among Muslims who couldn’t drink wine but still wanted to enjoy a drink. Rakı, an anise-flavored liquor similar to ouzo or pastis, became a popular choice at these establishments.
During your holiday in the city, you may come across a “meyhane” on nearly every street corner. However, it is best to avoid entering the first one you see and to steer clear of those in the old town and under the Galata Bridge. These establishments are known to serve lower quality farm fish at inflated prices.
“Meyhane” are traditional Turkish restaurants where people typically drink rakı (Turkish pastis) and eat mezes as appetizers before moving on to fish dishes. This type of meal has given rise to the expression “let’s have a rakı-balık” (rakı-fish), which refers to the cultural tradition of spending hours chatting over a leisurely rakı-balık meal. It is a very social and enjoyable experience, and it is definitely something you should try during your stay in Turkey.
“Meze” are small appetizers that are served before the main course in a traditional Turkish meal. There are many different types of meze, both cold and hot, and the easiest way to choose what you want to eat is to ask for a presentation tray of meze, or “meze tepsisi.” Some popular meze dishes include marinated sea bass with mustard, levrek marin (marinated sea bass), various salads and vegetable dishes, hummus, karides güveç (shrimp cooked with mushrooms, tomato, and cheese), squid or fried squid plancha, octopus salads, and ahtapot salatası (octopus salad). These are just a few examples, and there are many other delicious meze options to choose from.
If you are still hungry after the meze, you can order a hot meze or a grilled fish served with a salad and a slice of raw onion and lemon. The price of fish can vary depending on the season, and it may not always be listed on the menu. It is a good idea to ask about the price before ordering. You can find a table of fish by season below.
Eating good fish in Istanbul is possible if you know the right places!
In addition to traditional “meyhane” taverns, you can also find excellent fish dishes at more upscale restaurants located along the Bosphorus with beautiful waterfront views.
The Arnavutköy district is one of the most charming areas of Istanbul, with its beautiful wooden houses and local atmosphere. There are several great restaurants in this neighborhood, such as Sur Balık (a more upscale option with a stunning view of the Bosphorus),
Lipari (an affordable, local spot with excellent food), Arnavutköy Balıkçısı and Eftalya (two well-respected neighborhood institutions with good service and great food). These restaurants are all located on the same street, but it is advisable to make a reservation for the weekend as they can get very busy.
In Arnavutköy, you will also find several nice bars to continue your evening, such as Alexandra Cocktail Bar, which serves delicious homemade cocktails and has a lovely rooftop, and Any Istanbul, a small pub that occasionally features live Turkish music.
Here is the address of the street: Arnavutköy Mah. 1. Cad, Arnavutköy
This is a lovely terrace located on Istiklal Avenue with views of the Bosphorus. The meze dishes are fresh and tasty, and the prices are reasonable. In addition to traditional Turkish meze, you will also find delicious Greek meze options and various specialities offered by the restaurant. It is a good idea to make a reservation a few hours in advance on weekdays and a few days in advance on weekends to ensure that you can get a table.
Address: Istiklal Caddesi, Hıdivyal Palas, No 231, Kat 2, Beyoğlu, İstanbul
This restaurant is a true institution and a reliable choice. It has been beautifully renovated in turquoise colors, and its historic atmosphere makes it a must-visit. The restaurant is comfortable, and although the menu may not have a wide variety of dishes, it is worth ordering the meze tray rather than fish. The value for money is excellent, and the ingredients are very fresh. If you are in the area, it is highly recommended to dine here instead of at the touristy restaurants near the Galata Bridge.
At noon, the restaurant also offers daily specials of homemade dishes that are very tasty. This restaurant is often fully booked in the evening, so it is advisable to make a reservation in advance.
Address: Kemankes Karamustafa Paşa Mh, Kemankes Cd. No: 37, İstanbul
Web site: karakoylokantasi.com
This restaurant is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, and it offers excellent food and breathtaking views of the city and the Bosphorus Strait. The restaurant provides a boat shuttle service from Europe, adding a touch of romance to the experience. Some must-try dishes include octopus carpaccio, fried shrimp, yogurt ravioli, and both Turkish and fish meze. The restaurant also has a great wine list (including rakı) and offers excellent service.
While the prices may be slightly higher than average, the quality of the food, the romantic atmosphere, and the stunning setting make it well worth the price.
Address: Çengelköy Mahallesi, Kuleli Cd. 45-1, Üsküdar/İstanbul
This is an exceptional restaurant that can only be accessed by boat. To get there, go to the platform at Rumeli Hisari and take the boat to the other side of the Bosphorus. The best time to visit is from April to October. The restaurant is located right by the sea, just a few meters from the water’s edge, and it offers a unique dining experience. It is recommended to visit in the evening or on a sunny afternoon. The appetizers are excellent, with options such as sea bass with basil and squid a la plancha with walnuts.
This restaurant is very popular, and it is necessary to make a reservation to secure a good table. The prices are on the higher side, but the quality of the food and the setting make it well worth it.
Address: Anadolu Hisarı Mh., Körfez Cd No:55, İstanbul