Let me add my voice to the many people praising Turkish foods. It’s abundance and fierce. You can eat constantly during a week and still miss lots of signature dishes.
My hostel is in the Sultanahmet district – the Old City, the most touristic district but also very beautiful. After checking in, I went out for diner and was immediately invited into this “Bistro chef”, just 100 meters away from Topkapi Palace. It happened to be a good restaurant, with reasonable price. I tried Adana Kebab, one of the dishes that you should taste in Turkey.
After the meal (25 tl – 6 euros), they offered me a free tea and I took my time. Then I left and wandered the streets; 1h later, I passed by that restaurant again and they offered me a 2nd free tea. I had to say no this time. That happened to me in every shop. Whether I bought things or not, they genuinely offered me tea ^^
However, I don’t recommend the “Topkapi” shop next to it, it looked fancy but it sold Turkish delights at the highest price in town. Also, when I asked to buy 1 gr of saffron, the guy packed 5 gr for me and insisted on me to buy it. You know how expensive saffron is. With my style of eating, it’ll take me 50 years to use all that saffron.
Fruit juice everywhere, cheap and fresh. Don’t buy it inside museums or palaces, it will be of 3x price than small shops on street.
Turkish icecream (dondurma) with the smiling icecream-batter man, it may sound like a tourism cliché but the icecream tastes good:
Turkish food: grilled pepper, and feta-spinach flatbread, near Topkapi Palace.
Ok quality but a little bit over-priced, as with all restaurants next to tourist attractions. If you must eat near Topkapi Palace, or Hagia Sophia, I recommend the “Bistro Chef” above.
There’re some quite good cafe+sweets shops near Topkapi Palace. “Efezade” is one of them, they have a sweet baking oven just next to the window that you can admire. Of all the baklava shops I tried in town, I prefer this one.
At “Osmanlizadeler” confiserie shop nearby, very good too, it’s quite popular:
Then, when I walked to the sea port, I randomly discovered this small eatery which turned out to be great. “Sirin Kofte” located in a small alley which posted “Shortcut to train station, the sea, Galata bridge and Everything”. I took that shortcut everyday and literally had to walk through the eatery. Inevitably, the patron made me promise to eat there once, I did, and got hooked (with the food, not the patron!).
My Turkish breakfast there, fried anchovies one day (18 tl – 4.5E) and cheese/egg the other day (14tl – 3.5E):
While I was eating my fish, this kitty came and waited on me. How can you resist this face? So I threw her an anchovy head.
The patron, who said his name was Antonio Banderas. I told him my name was Catherine Zeta-Jones.
It’s not far from Hagia Sophia either. I regret I didn’t know it the first day.
Under Galata bridge, there’re a dozen of restaurants, eateries at one side of the bridge and dancing/live music bars at the other side. I don’t remember the name of this restaurant, but under the bridge they were all of the same caliber:
A plate of fish/seafood there was 25 tl – 60 tl (6E – 15E), depending on what kind of fish. A little bit more pricey than others in town, but you pay for this magnificent view:
The area around the water bank is the best bet for seafood (a must in Istanbul). I heard the small restaurants along the bank in the Karakoy district, just across the Galata bridge were good and cheap too, but I haven’t tried them.
One fancy dish that I saw and told myself to try, but then I forgot: Cerra Kebab. They seal meats & vegetables in a flaming claypot and serve it to you sizzling hot. You can order it at both Bistro Chef or Sirin Kofte. Do not order it near Topkapi Palace: 3x price, as usual.
(Only these 2 pics are from google, the other pics are mine.)