When in Turkey, do what the Turks do—dine at the best kebab restaurants! After all, no one else understands the delicacy that is the kebab more than the Turks. For them, kebabs are not just staples but tiny slices of luxury—the perfect union of spices, meat, and grilling artistry.
With every restaurant aimed to master the art of the kebab, how do you find the best kebabs in Turkey? Moreover, kebabs are not just the “must-have” items on the menu. There’s also meze or mezze, which is an assortment of small portions of Turkish appetizer (antep ezmesi, pickled beetroot, Turkish bread with olive oil, etc.) served before a meal. It is quite similar to the Italian antipasti but the Turkish meze consists of really flavorful starters compared to your usual salads and dips.
Order some raki, an anise-flavored, unsweetened, alcoholic beverage that is the perfect partner with any kebab you order. No alcohol? Then settle for an order of Turkish aryan, a yogurt-based non-alcoholic beverage that could pass for a milkshake.
Now, let’s get to the meat of our business. We have compiled the top kebab restaurants in Turkey.
Siirt Seref Büryan Kebap Salonu in Istanbul
Imagine a slab of a small lamb cooked over coals in a hole in the ground. Similar to a Texas pit barbecue, right? This small restaurant in the Faith neighborhood of Instanbul is so famous among the locals because of its extremely tender and flavorful meat. The perde pilavi is also a local favorite. Similar to the Spanish empanada, the perde pilavi is a combination of almonds, chicken, rice, and currants wrapped in a pastry shell that is baked to golden perfection.
Zübeyir Ocakbasi in Istanbul
Picture a Japanese sushi conveyer belt in your head. Now, instead of sushi, think of grilled meat in a long hearth. This cozy kebab place in Istanbul literally reeks of flavor from its open grill where you can watch the kebab master do his thing. The famous Adana kebab is also served here, along with other delicacies like kanat (chicken wings) and pirzola (lamb chops). If you don’t want to reek of kebab smoke, you can choose a table outside where you can enjoy your Turkish delicacies under the night sky.
Dürümzade in Istanbul
Don’t worry, you can get great-tasting kebabs Istanbul 24/7. Dürümzade serves one of the most popular durum (wraps) in town. What makes Dürümzade popular is its thin pizza-crust like flatbread that are crispy on the edges but oozing with tender fillings. The durum master in Dürümzade works with mastered precision, which also adds to its entertainment value.
Hamdi Restaurant in Istanbul
While the kebabs are the main event of your visit to this magnificent restaurant near the Egyptian Bazaar, the view from this restaurant while make your dining experience an unforgettable one. Okay, so getting a window table can be such a hassle that you literally have to make reservations even days in advance, dining with the view of the Galata Tower, Golden Horn, and Eminönü Pier makes it all worth your while.
Order the Testi Kebabi, which is cooked for four hours inside a clay jug. The jug itself is covered with dough that rests over the layer of charcoal. There’s a ritual when serving this delightful dish: the server breaks the jug in front of the guests and the meat inside just sizzles and oozes with flavor.
Kebapçi Halil Usta and Imam Çagdas in Gaziantep
When you’re visiting Gaziantep, there are only two restaurants to keep in mind if you’re after the best of the best kebabs. Let’s start with Kebapç? Halil Usta, a small restaurant that is so popular it opens only for lunch and closes at 3PM because they don’t have any more meat to serve its large following. If you’re one of the fortunate few to land a table at this humble but very popular establishment in Gaziantep, order the famous kü?leme, the melt-in-your-mouth version of the lamb kebab.
Your next stop would be ?mam Ça?da?, a larger and more modern kebab establishment that serves the best pistachio baklava for deserts. Their kebab stew, the Alt? Ezmeli Tike Kebab?, along with the Ali Nazik (grilled eggplant yogurt puree) are your must-try dishes.
Onbasilar in Adana
One of the best minced lamb kebabs in Turkey is found in Adana that locals and foreigners alike travel to Adana to have a taste of the local delicacy in its hometown. Adana kebabs are best enjoyed with a glass of ?algam, a Turkish version of carrot juice. A local desert called kadayif, rolled shredded pastry with pistachio filling, is the perfect way to cap off a meal in Adana.
Kasap Osman in Istanbul
Döner is a Turkish kebab cooked in a vertical spit. While Döner kebabs are served in almost every restaurant in Istanbul, nothing comes closest to the one served in Kasap Oman. By 12NN, you can see the butcher shaving slices of the vertically-grilled meat. The Iskender Kebab is most famous here, which is a version of a Turkish grilled sandwich made with peppers, tomatoes, and meat. The “sandwich” is then grilled and garnished with browned butter and yogurt.
Koç Cag Kebabi in Erzurum
One of the most unique and flavorful meat skewers in Turkey is found in a small, local eatery in Erzurum. The famous ca? kebab? (lamb kebab) is found here—slices of lamb are marinated for 12 hours in salt, pepper, and onions and then cooked over wood fire. The best way to eat this is to tear the meat with your hands and have it with a serving of lava?,Turkish flat bread.
Mabeyin in Istanbul
While most of the kebab places in Turkey are small, home-grown establishments, Mabeyin appears to be the most sophisticated kebab place with is restored 19-century mansion setting and elegant outdoors. Don’t let the swanky setting fool you because this restaurant serves a selection of kebabs that exude a strong Middle Eastern influence. The meze served at Mabeyin are fancier but just as delightful.
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