Istanbul is a meat lovers’ paradise with kebep restaurants, döner stands and grill/barbecue houses on just about every corner. A different take on eating grilled meat is eating at an “ocakbaşı,” which translates as “fireside” or “stand by the grill.”
The Kebab, the iconic Turkish dish locally known as Kebap, is probably one of the first things that spring to mind when talking about Turkish cuisine, and it’s no surprise that a lot of visitors want to find the best kebab joint to sink their teeth into some freshly grilled and spiced meat.
Istanbul has a lot of very good restaurants that have been making the same excellent barbecue/grill for years, so Culture Trip has rounded them all up so that you eat only the finest.
Where should you eat kebab? You have the choice of sitting around the grill and watching the “usta” do his thing or even grilling the meat yourself. Feeling the heat on our face and taking in the mouthwatering smell of the kebabs is an experience you wouldn’t want to miss.
Here is a list of some of the best ocakbaşı restaurants in Istanbul:
Zübeyir Ocakbaşı is a fantastic grill house located just off Istiklal Street in the heart of Beyoğlu that always seems to be packed with large groups of people.
Serving extremely delicious food since 2006, there are two large hearths where the meats are freshly prepared and cooked before your eyes. The three spacious floors are comfortably engulfed in avid conversations coming from tables, while dishes of fresh meze, as well as meats recently removed from large skewers, travel to tabletops.
Meals at Zübeyir usually start off with a round of mezes (dips), brought to your table on a large tray to choose from. The Gavurdağ salatası (salad with finely diced onion and tomato), Van cacığı (a spread made of strained yogurt and cucumbers), and Balkabaklı ezme (a spread made of squash) are some of the best you can try at Zübeyir.
After the starters its time for the kebabs. All of the standard grill items, Adana kebab (spicy minced lamb), kanat (chicken wings) and pirzola (lamb chops), are all outstanding.
Address: Şehit Muhtar Mahallesi, İstiklal Caddesi, Bekar Sokak, No 28, Beyoğlu, İstanbul
Price: 54,42 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 293 39 51 / +90 538 371 07 69
Located in the conservative district of Fatih, Sur Ocakbaşı is known for its slogan “Savior coming from nature.” Offering quality service to its customers from the first day it was established, Sur Ocakbaşı continues to provide an excellent service with the hygiene in its kitchen, its excellent service mentality, and overall quality.
As an Anthony Bourdain fan would know, Sur Ocakbaşı is the restaurant Bourdain visited in “No Reservations” to sample the famed Buryan kebab. While enjoying your Turkish yogurt drink from a little bowl and shovel-like spoon, make sure you try the Buryan kebab, sac tava, sur kebab, and the eggplant kebab.
For the full experience make sure you have the mouthwatering special sur dessert. Known for its friendly waiters and staff you are sure to have a warm welcome upon your visit.
Address: Zeyrek Mahallesi, İtfaiye Caddesi, No 19/A, Fatih, İstanbul
Price: 17,55 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 553 80 88 / +90 212 621 07 24
Established by Erkan Ezer and Cahit Coşkun, Adana Ocakbaşı has been serving customers since 1978. Located in Kurtuluş, transportation to the restaurant is particularly easy as it doesn’t deal with the hassle of city traffic, only being a short walk from the Osmanbey metro station.
Even though Adana Ocakbaşı is constantly growing and becoming more and more popular, they are not opening another shop and franchising the brand because they value the sincerity and quality the restaurant has to offer its customers. From day one, their motto has been to ensure the satisfaction of the customers and give them all they could expect from a meat joint.
Born and raised in Adana – Kebab heaven -, Adana Ocakbaşı’s chef, otherwise known as “usta,” is Doğan Usta, a famous chef in the kebab world. Doğan Usta puts his years of experience to work as nothing goes served to the tables without his consent.
Address: Bozkurt Mahallesi, Ergenekon Caddesi, Baysungur Sokak, No: 2/D, Şişli, İstanbul
Price: 45,64 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 531 836 61 11 / +90 212 247 01 43
If you’re looking to dine a bit fancier while enjoying your kebab, make sure you check out Felek Mangalbaşı in Bakırköy. Away from the loud and claustrophobic atmosphere of the city in the quiet district of Bakırköy, Felek is the perfect place to have some great meat and a great conversation along with it.
Being a huge hit among the locals Felek Mangalbaşı is a great place to enjoy great food and have a blast with a group of friends at the same time.
Also offering the opportunity to bring your own meat and have it cooked for you, this nifty restaurant offers the perfect ocakbaşı experience with a hooded charcoal barbecue on each of the tables.
Address: Sakızağacı Mahallesi, Kennedy Caddesi, No 29, Bakırköy, İstanbul
Price: 49,12 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 543 92 48
Güler Ocakbaşı was established in 1981 by İsmail Akcan and Mustafa Yazıcı in Şişli. As a result of the inclusion of Ali and Rıza Akcan to the partnership, the company expanded to meet the expectations of the younger generation with a new structure.
Being a family business that is run by the grandchildren of the establishers, Güler Ocakbaşı is currently celebrating its third generation. Their aim is to cook and serve the most delicious dishes for their customers and ensure quality service, Güler Ocakbaşı has been bringing new dishes and different tastes to the table since day one.
With almost 40 different kebabs and 52 different meze varieties that are prepared daily, Güler Ocakbaşı has mouthwatering flavors with a quality you won’t want to miss out on. Now with two restaurants giving service in both Esentepe and Harbiye, it is easy to find a Güler Ocakbaşı near you.
Address: Esentepe Mahallesi, Keskin Kalem Sokak, No 37, Şişli, İstanbul
Price: 52,63 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue:+90 212 275 44 66 / +90 212 211 29 27
Having two restaurants – one in TomTom, the other in Şişhane – in the heart of Beyoğlu, Paymane Ocakbaşı brings over 10 years of experience to the table. Established in 2004 Peymane Ocakbaşı’s new building is actually pretty old. Being a restored historical artifact, the gorgeous five-story building gives dining to great meat a new edge.
With Ömer Usta still at the grill since day one, Peymane hasn’t changed in quality or customer satisfaction over the years. With a wonderful garden surrounded by buildings drenched in history, Peymane is perfect for a summer night out.
There are also VIP dining rooms for important dinners, conferences, and seminars if needed. Inside there is also a nostalgic bar that was once used as a cellar with brick walls and a fireplace. With a variety of meze, kebab, off the grills, appetizers, salads, and desserts Peymane Ocakbaşı is meat lovers paradise.
Address: Tomtom Mahallesi, Boğazkesen Caddesi, No 65/H, Tophane, Beyoğlu, İstanbul
Price: 49,12 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 293 31 36 / +90 212 244 09 55
Siirt Şeref Büryan Kebap Salonu
Kadinlar Pazari, a pleasant, pedestrianized square in the Fatih neighborhood, is the closest Istanbul has to a “little Kurdistan”. This superb restaurant specializes in büryan kebab; a kind of Turkish version of the Texas pit barbecue.
Aside from a small lamb is slowly cooked over coals in a deep hole in the ground, resulting in exceptionally tender meat covered in a thin layer of crackling, crunchy fat.
Be sure to also try the perde pilavi, a fragrant peppery pilaf made of rice, chicken, almonds, and currants wrapped in a thin pastry shell and baked until the exterior turns golden and flaky.
Address: Zeyrek Mahallesi, İtfaiye Caddesi, No 4, Fatih, İstanbul
Price: 21,05 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 635 8085
This small restaurant, which serves the tasty food of southern Turkey’s Hatay region, exudes cool without sacrificing flavor. Antiochia’s meat dishes are simple, recognizable dishes, set to a higher frequency. Şiş et is a plate of marinated cubes of beef skewered and grilled over a charcoal fire.
On any given evening in the Beyoğlu region, there must be thousands of skewers of şiş et coming off the grill, but none are quite as tender and succulent as at Antiochia. And the minced meat dürüm (wrap) with onions and tomatoes is among the best in the city.
Address: Asmalımescit Mahallesi, General Yazgan Sokak, No 3, Beyoğlu, İstanbul
Price: 52,62 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 292 11 00
Şehzade Erzurum Cag Kebabi
Cağ kebab, which originated in the eastern Anatolian province of Erzurum, looks like a horizontal döner but tastes otherworldly. This place has just a handful of tables, all within whiffing distance of the spit, where marinated lamb cooks slowly over a wood fire.
Unlike with döner, where the meat often ends up lying in a puddle of grease, the cağ man carefully selects each morsel with a knife and a thin skewer. When he’s done, he’ll present you the skewer, threaded with a collection of tender yet crispy bites, served on warm lavash (flatbread). Like Argentina’s asado, it’s a kebab for serious meat lovers.
Address: Hocapaşa Mahallesi, Hocapaşa Sokak, No: 6, Fatih, İstanbul
Price: 14,03 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 520 33 61
This all-night grill joint serves up a dürüm, or Turkish wrap, that’s satisfying at any time of the day. A good dürüm is all about the lavash(flatbread), and Durumzade’s is like a thin pizza crust, filled with crispy edges and moist chewy pockets.
To make the dürüm, the grill master drapes the lavash over the kebab (chicken or minced lamb) on the grill, creating a smoky tent for the meat. While the lavash is still flexible, he covers it with parsley, onions and tomatoes and the freshly grilled meat. Then, like a cowboy deftly rolling a cigarette, he makes the dürüm.
Address: Kamer Hatun Caddesi 26/A, Beyoğlu
Price: 10,50 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 249 01 47
Kebapci Enver Usta
Simply finding this subterranean kebab joint located on a quiet Beyoğlu alley, is part of the fun. On most days, it’s packed to the gills, presided over by Enver Usta himself, a scrawny man with a serious gaze and an occasionally surly manner.
It carries the standard array of kebabs and does them all just right. Standouts include Adana kebab, made of minced meat mixed with red pepper flakes, and the chicken kebab and wings, both marinated in a piquant red pepper sauce.
Be sure to ask for the excellent ezme salatasi, a salad made of red onion, tomato, red pepper, and parsley.
Address: Tramvay Sokaği 5/A, Tünel
Price: 10,50 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 252 29 41
Döner is sold on every Istanbul street corner, but few spots match the pedigree of Kasap Osman (“Osman the Butcher”).
At around noon the usta (master) starts shaving off the first long ribbons of succulent döner to make sandwiches or turn into Iskender kebab. For this, the cooked meat is laid over chopped flatbread, garnished with peppers and tomatoes and dressed with tomato sauce.
The dish is then fired in the oven, crisping the bread and softening the garnish. Finally, the dish is doused with butter browned in a skillet and a quick dollop of yogurt is added to one side.
Address: Hocapaşa Sokak 22, Sirkeci
Price: 14,00 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 519 32 16
Though köfte may seem like nothing more than grilled meatballs to non-locals, Turks – like New Yorkers with pizza – take their köfte very seriously. Some of the best in town come from Köfteci Hüseyin, a humble purveyor in Beyoğlu who got his start selling meatballs from a pushcart grill some 40 years ago.
Though Hüseyin has since passed on, he bequeathed his tongs to his son, who now works the grill at a tiny storefront just off Taksim Square and maintains a winning recipe combining quality, consistency and low prices. While some places lard their köfte with breadcrumbs, they distinguish themselves with their unusually high meat content.
Address: Kurabiye Sokak 14, Beyoğlu
Price: 15,00 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 243 7637
Don’t let the setting – a restored 19th-century mansion and with an elegant interior – fool you. Despite the upscale digs on the Asian side of the city, Mabeyin features the earthy but intricately spiced food of Turkey’s southeast, which has a strong Middle Eastern influence.
The mezes and kebabs are expertly made but even more interesting are the stews, such as one made with rice and meat dumplings in a warm yogurt broth, or another that has two kinds of bulgur dumplings in a tomato-based sauce. Mabeyin is a quick cab ride from the Üsküdar ferry terminal and serves guests in its splendid garden during warm weather.
Address: Eski Kisikli Caddesi 129, Kisikli
Price: 31,50 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 216 422 55 80
Murver is waiting for you in the top floor of the Novotel Istanbul Bosphorus with its constant burning wood fire in the restaurant, creative, comfortable, contemporary, food that can be enjoyed all together, interior full of the sound of glasses and laughter on a magnificent terrace overlooking the Historic Peninsula.
In the kitchen of Murver, different cooking techniques, including open fire and fumigation, come to the forefront. The menu offers the products purchased seasonally from local sellers in Anatolia, the products cooked in the wood oven or wood grill, rested on the barbecue, smoked in the incense furnace, sustainable seafood, hand-made dried meats, sausages, salamis, as well as a variety of meals and appetizers that vegetarians can easily consume.
Being a location attracting guests from all ages with its different lunch and dinner menus, Murver is opening its doors as a restaurant to be preferred for business dinners, group dinners, celebrations, and private meeting rooms.
A unique experience awaits guests with special plates letting you feel the real fire along with the chef on the impressive open kitchen countertops designed with Nero Picasso marble.
In the restaurant where live DJ performance is taking place, there are indoor and outdoor bars with comfortable, spacious use.
It offers a relaxing, fun bar experience for after work, lunch, before and after dining with its wine, raki and cocktail menus with a wide range of local and foreign wines, with a special focus on Turkish wines.
Address: Novotel İstanbul Bosphorus, Kemankeş Cad. No: 57-59 Karakoy / Istanbul
Price: 31,47 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 372 07 50
We cheat a little because it’s not really a kebab restaurant, but how to talk about Turkish meats, without mentioning Nusret Gökçe, the Turkish butcher you all know as Salt Bae?
In a few years, he has become an international star and now has restaurants all over the world (New York, Miami, Dubai …). The meat star to the 10 million followers on Instagram has several delicious meat restaurants in Istanbul under the name of Nusr-et, and the quality of the meat is definitely worth the detour, especially since it also makes Turkish specialties!
Address: Etiler Mahallesi, Nispetiye Caddesi, No: 87, Beşiktaş, İstanbul 34337
Price: 122,40 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 358 30 22
With stunning views from the Bosphorus bridge to the Maiden Tower and beyond, the Bosphorus Grill Restaurant welcomes its valued guests to enjoy summer dining with exquisite international and Turkish cuisine with a large variety of seafood.
Lavish buffet with a wonderful ambiance served between 19.00 and 23.00 and à la carte lunch menu between 12.00 and 15.00.
Address: Çırağan Palace Kempinski, Yıldız Mahallesi, Çırağan Caddesi, No 32, Beşiktaş, İstanbul
Price: 87,43 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 236 7333
Overlooking Eminönü Square and the Golden Horn from its sixth-floor perch, you can’t miss Hamdi when you are visiting Sultanahmet due to its huge sign and the fact that the restaurant owns an entire building.
Visual boasting aside, the food at Hamdi is indeed excellent, and any kebab you order here, whether it’s Beyti (grilled kebab on a skewer) or Alinazik (kebab with eggplant puree), is prepared the traditional way and tastes amazing.
Make sure to reserve in advance and ask for a table by the window so that you can take in the great view.
Address: Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, Tahmis Caddesi, Kalçın Sokak, No: 11, Fatih, İstanbul
Price: 54,21 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: 0212 5280390
Beyti is a classic – founded in 1945 by current owner Beyti Güler’s father. A lot has changed since then, of course, as the success of Beyti grew, turning a small family business with only a few tables into a two-story restaurant with a modern aesthetic accentuated by Ottoman touches.
However, what hasn’t changed is the food, or more specifically, the prime choice cuts and special marinating techniques. Whether you are in the mood for the classic Beyti kebab or a nice juicy T-bone steak, Beyti’s menu satiates every appetite.
Located in Florya (near the Ataturk airport) the restaurant is one of the oldest kebab restaurants in Istanbul. Although a bit far from the city center, this place is worth a visit!
It is luxurious and more expensive than an average Kebab restaurant. Go for a Beyti Kebab, a specialty invented in the kitchen of the restaurant.
Address: Şenlikköy Mahallesi, Orman Sokak, No 8, Bakırköy, İstanbul
Price: 69,94 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 212 663 29 90
One of the Asian side’s most sought-after restaurants, Çiya is not only known for its dishes that represent the various cuisines of Anatolia but also for its excellent kebab.
With two restaurants that face one another on the same street, you can choose either side to get the same great food whether you want something from the daily specials, which are on display cafeteria-style, or the extensive menu.
Kebab varieties are unique at Çiya with options such as Soğan Kebabı (kebab with roasted shallots and pomegranate syrup) and Çiya Kebabı (kebab wrapped in thin crispy dough with walnuts, yogurt, kaşar cheese, sumac, mint, and parsley) along with more than 30 other varieties.
Address: Caferağa Mahallesi, Güneşlibahçe Sokak No:43, Kadıköy/İstanbul
Price: 26,16 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 216 330 31 90
Another kebab institution, so to speak, Develi was established in 1912 and serves excellent dishes from starters like içli köfte (crispy bulghur balls filled with minced meat) and lahmacun (crispy thin dough with minced meat and spices) to the house favorite Fistıklı Kebab (bkeba with pistachios), which they claim to have invented.
For dessert, don’t miss out on the excellent baklava, which has also made Develi a popular name in Istanbul.
Address: Cumhuriyet Mahallesi, Beykoz Caddesi, No:10, Polonezköy, İstanbul
Price: 48,96 $ (average price for two people)
Call venue: +90 216 434 89 26 / +90 535 085 33 53