Istanbul food tour – Hidden Beyoğlu

Home breakfast in Beyoglu

The Istanbul Hidden Beyoğlu food tour explores the cosmopolitan European Quarter neighbourhoods in the district formerly known as Pera. From the steep narrow streets of Cihangir to the covered lanes and markets of Istiklal Caddesi and the adjacent streets, we explored the food culture in Istanbul.

Although many of the immigrant communities have long left the city, the aromas of regional cuisines from the Black Sea in the Northeast to Hatay and Gaziantep in the Southeast fill the air as one walks along the narrow streets and lanes.

If this is your first trip to Istanbul then you may want to read my Istanbul travel guide and about the other food tours I have taken in the city in my Culinary Backstreets food tours roundup. I fell in love with city nearly 20 years ago during my first visit and have returned on numerous occasions over the years.

There is so much culture, history and incredible cuisine within the city limits that you will have much to do whether you are on a 3 day stopover or a longer visit. One of my favorite activities in Istanbul and one of the best Istanbul tours is a walking food tour with knowledgeable tour guides.

How to book an Istanbul Hidden Beyoğlu food tour

The Istanbul Hidden Beyoğlu food tour was the second tour that I booked directly on the Culinary Backstreets website for our family trip with my brother and Simone. The tour cost cost US$ 125 per person at the time of booking but we received a 10 percent “Welcome Back! Discount” available for return customers.

The website indicates that the tour lasts for 5.5 hours but it may take a bit longer if the group is small and the tour leader shows you their favorite places to purchase authentic Turkish products.

Where does the Istanbul Hidden Beyoğlu food tour take place

We were staying in Beyoğlu at the Nuru Ziya suites and the meeting place for the tour appeared to be a short walk from our hotel. Check rates and availability.

This Istanbul walking tour covers the neighbourhood of Cihangir and the backstreets, alleys and covered passages on either side of Istiklal Street. The meeting place for the Istanbul Hidden Beyoğlu food tour was by the side of a very popular mosque (Firüzağa Cami) and restaurant in Cihangir.

It took much longer than expected to reach the meeting point because the terrain on the route was sometimes downhill and at other times uphill. The final stretch was all uphill and really tested my endurance and resolve as my knee joints felt as if they were going to break. My brother was counting down the meters until we reached our destination and reminded me that I had pushed through worse pain and discomfort over the years.

Highlights of the Istanbul Beyoğlu food tour

Özkonak Lokantası – Kılıçali Paşa Mh., Akarsu Ykş. No:46, 34433 Beyoğlu

Our first stop on the Istanbul Beyoğlu food tour was not the large cafe where we met our Tour leader Benoit, but a smaller lokanta or tradesman’s restaurant further down the road.

Here we enjoyed our first bites of the day consisting of a typical Turkish egg breakfast of bal kaymak (clotted cream with honey), Turkish bread and eggs Menemen (scrambled eggs with tomato, onions and chili). It was nearly 10 am and we were famished so this was a very good start to the day. Had we known what was to follow we would have been less enthusiastic.

Home breakfast hosted by Hanni Karadaş – Beyoğlu Central Greek High School

As we made our way up a steep hill, Benoit informed us that he had a surprise stop for breakfast. This was not a standard stop on the tour as the family who hosted the breakfast were sometimes in their home city of Hatay in the South. Just that morning he was able to reach the hostess, Hanni Karadaş.

We found our breakfast spot at Beyoğlu Central Greek High School, a private school established in 1850 that ceased operations about twenty years ago. The school became unviable due to falling numbers of residents of Greek ancestry and could no longer operate as a viable institution. To prevent the building becoming derelict, the administrators appointed Enver and his wife Hanni, as custodians and caretakers.

Over the past two decades the building has become increasingly dilapidated with rotten ceilings where the rain has poured in, peeling walls and a crumbling exterior. Estimates to rehabilitate and restore the property are in excess of 200 million Turkish lira. Inside, Enver has transformed a few of the ground floor classrooms into a warm and cosy residence with a kitchen, bedrooms, a bathroom and living room.

It was in the kitchen / dining room where we tasted the fruits of Hanni’s labour over the summer. Plump home made preserves, pickles, spicy dips and flavorful spreads made with pomegranate molasses made with fruit from their own orchards, served alongside olives from their own grove in their home town of Hatay. Their city is located in the far south of the country very close to the border with Syria. I was quite surprised that the mother tongue of our hosts was not Turkish or Greek, but Arabic, and that many of their specialities were similar to those of the Arabic speaking countries of the Middle East.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Suat Usta Mersin Tantuni – Katip Mustafa Çelebi Mahallesi, Tel Sk. No:1, 34433 Beyoğlu

We walked to the end of the block and turned down a charming narrow street before reaching this casual takeaway restaurant that specialises in Tantuni. Tantuni is a speciality spicy dürüm or wrap consisting of yufka or lavash flat bread filled with sliced or chopped meats fried with onions, green peppers, tomatoes and fresh parsley. It is finished off with pickled chilis and a squeeze of lemon juice.

I had never heard of or tasted it before and was transfixed watching the cook behind the shop window as he cut and fried strips of meat for the filling. In this chain they use only the best quality steak for the filling and bake their lavash in a wood burning tandir oven every day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hayvore (Karadeniz Mutfağı) –

I had tasted a breakfast dish called Kuymak from the Black Sea region on the Uskudar leg of the Istanbul Born on the Bosphorus food tour on my previous trip and could not get enough of it. It was a buttery, cheesy hot cornmeal concoction into which we dipped chunks of corn bread. I salivate even now remembering how simple yet delicious it was. Kuymak is not to be confused with Kaymak (buffalo milk clotted cream) that is also served for breakfast.

At Hayvore we were treated to a variety of unique Black Sea specialities including gooey Kuymak with slices of corn bread, Kaygana (a herb and anchovy studded omelette), dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and pickled fava beans and anchovies.

The owner, Hızır Keskin, worked and managed restaurants for 15 years before he decided to open his own place specialising in Black Sea cuisine. He realised that it was not very well represented in the Istanbul hospitality offerings.

By the time we left Hayvore we felt stuffed to the gills and looked forward to taking a long walk to İstiklâl Avenue to recover.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

İstiklâl Caddesi – Independence Avenue

This elegant pedestrianised avenue stretches for 1.6 km’s from Karaköy in the South to Taksim square in the North end. It is lined with boutique hotels, churches, cafes, restaurants, museums, art galleries, theaters and covered passages and shopping galleries.

The most famous is Çiçek Pasajı (originally called Cité de Péra) and known as the Flower Passage after the flower shops that occupied it by the 1940’s. In 1988 it was restored to it’s former glory and re-opened as a galleria of high end restaurants. Benoit, our tour leader, warned us to steer clear as it was an expensive tourist trap with very mediocre offerings.

Istiklal Avenue Flower Passage

Our next stop was at a food cart in front of one of the buildings where we sampled roasted sheep head. The meat was still warm, beautifully seasoned with herbs and expertly carved by the cart owner.

Roasted sheep head

We walked in the covered lanes and narrow pedestrian streets around the block housing Çiçek Pasajı smelling the grilled meats and freshly baked breads, and salivating over counters full of freshly made salads. Regrettably we were still too full to eat any of it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Midyetik – Hüseyinağa Mahallesi, Kamer Hatun Cd. D:no 12, 34435 Beyoğlu

Our next few stops were all in the Hüseyinağa neighbourhood. Located on a corner of a building was this colorful small kiosk / shop that specialises in Midye Dolma or Turkish style mussels stuffed with spiced rice, pine nuts and currants. Every mussel was one perfect bite; spicy, flavorful, aromatic with a crunch from the pine nuts and a touch of sweetness from currants.

Midye dolma

Arıoğulları Petek Turşuları – Hüseyinağa Mahallesi, Dudu Odaları Sk. 1/D, 34435 Beyoğlu

Around the corner from Midyetik in an alley connecting Galatasaray to Balik Pazari (the fish market), was this pickle shop that seemed to have every vegetable or fruit that could be pickled on it’s shelves. We tried the crunchy carrots and piquant small peppers. The shop is frequented by locals who stock up on their pickles, preserves and pomegranate molasses.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sakarya Tatlıcısı – Hüseyinağa Mahallesi, Dudu Odaları Sk. No:3, Balik Pazari, 34435 Beyoğlu

This dessert shop is on the same block as the pickle shop and was the location for a welcome afternoon pick me up. We savored the chocolate baklava, walnut baklava and a rolled pistachio baklava. They had a wide variety of traditional Turkish sweets from desserts to small cakes and phyllo pastries soaked in sugar syrup. The beautiful desserts were fresh and not sickly sweet and we washed them down with cups of Turkish tea.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kibbeh cart from Sabirtasi Restaurant – near Passage Hazzopulo entrance in İstiklâl Caddesi

The restaurant specialises in icli köfte and manti (spicy stuffed meatballs encased in bulgur and ravioli like pasta) and is located inside the passage. We sampled the kibbeh from the cart outside on the main road. It was much larger than Middle Eastern kibbeh and had a wonderfully tender yet crispy bulgur shell and minced meat filling. It was hands down the best kibbeh I’ve ever had and more spicy than I expected.

Mandabatmaz – Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Olivia Geçidi 1/A, 34430 Beyoğlu

I actually saw this place in a travel show on tv and was pleasantly surprised when we entered the small shop with cosy seating along the walls and framed artwork and decades old newspaper articles lauding it’s Turkish coffee.

Their brewers follow a slow and deliberate ritual for brewing the best cup of Turkish coffee every single time. They don’t boil it for too long to ensure it doesn’t get bitter and never reheat cold coffee.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We sat and chatted for a while and Benoit told us a bit about how he came to be in Istanbul. I discovered that his wife was related to Iris, the chef / guide who led the Turkish cooking class that I participated in on my previous solo trip. After coffee he showed us a few of the shops in the area selling authentic artisanal Turkish products.

Beyoglu organic shop

Verdict

This was my fourth food tour in Istanbul and there were still regional specialities to discover like Tantuni from Mersin and Kaygana from Trabzon on the Black Sea coast. The visit to the home of Enver and Hanni Karadaş at the old Greek school was the highlight of the tour. Even though she spoke little English and we spoke no Turkish, her genuine warmth and hospitality were heartwarming. Her smile lit up her eyes when she saw how smitten we were with her home made organic pickles, preserves and cheeses. She allowed me to buy some of her prized pomegranate molasses, that she made in huge cauldrons over open fires during the summer in her home town, and fresh sumac powder from the shrubs on their property.

Help me to provide you with more travel tips and experiences by sharing these posts with your family and friends, and please remember to like and comment if you enjoyed this post.

Keep in touch on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram for more updates. Don’t forget to #tantalisemytastebuds if you repost from our account on Instagram!

Want more? To get new recipes and travel posts delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to Tantalise My Taste Buds.

You Might Also Like

31 Comments

  • Reply
    CORRITTA LEWIS
    September 23, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Istanbul is on our list to visit in 2021 during our gap year. You made me even more excited to try the food. We usually skip tours, but this time we will make an exception. Great pictures, I can never remember to take a picture before I eat because I am too eager to dig in.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      September 23, 2019 at 8:40 am

      Istanbul is a beautiful city with so much to see and do. If you go to the right places you will find delicious and authentic Turkish food, and not the bland uninspiring dishes they usually serve to tourists. I sometimes still forget to take the food photos 🙂

  • Reply
    Ann travelgirlto
    September 22, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    I’m a big fan of food tours. This one seems really good but a bit expensive. Do you think it was worth the price?

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      September 22, 2019 at 8:42 pm

      I truly found it well worth it. Not only for the actual food we tasted but also the history and cultural knowledge that was shared on the tour.

  • Reply
    Tania Muthusamy
    September 22, 2019 at 7:53 am

    I would love to do this hidden food tour. The stuffed mussels sound divine and also the spicy stuffed meatballs make my mouth water. Lovely post.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      September 23, 2019 at 8:41 am

      Those mussels are something else. I tried them from a few places around Istanbul but the ones from Midyetik Dolma were the most flavorsome.

  • Reply
    Emma
    September 22, 2019 at 12:16 am

    All of this food looks so delicious. I have wanted to visit Istanbul now for a long time, mostly due to the food I see people writing about. I watched a travel show about food and they were in Istanbul and I decided right then I have to go here some day

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      September 23, 2019 at 8:44 am

      I had visited Istanbul a few times and the food around my hotels were always a big disappointment. I too watched a travel show about Turkish food that made me go back and take my first Turkish food tours in 2015. It was the best thing I ever did and now I take a food tour whenever I visit a new city so that I can know the best places to go but also what the specialities are.

  • Reply
    sana
    September 21, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    Istanbul has always been on my to-visit list. You have listed so many great eating places. I would love to have the corn slices you have mentioned someday.

  • Reply
    Jenn
    March 27, 2019 at 12:54 am

    Wow! That food looks incredible! I think the locals always cook better than the tourist ‘traps’ we do the same in Greece, go of the beaten part a bit and find a tiny family run taverna, perfect.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 27, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      The funny thing is that the tourist traps are literally steps from where the locals hang out, if only one knew 😂

  • Reply
    Liz Bayardelle
    March 26, 2019 at 2:35 am

    This food looks so colorful and delicious! I’ve never been on a food tour, but it looks so interesting.

  • Reply
    Jasmine Hewitt
    March 23, 2019 at 4:17 am

    I just ate dinner, but this has me hungry! I’d love to go to Istanbul and do a tour like this

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 24, 2019 at 9:16 am

      I think I’ve done all the tours that are alcohol free (five thus far) and every time I still find something I haven’t tasted before.

  • Reply
    Cindy
    March 22, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    These food tours are amazing! What a great way to see the city and experience the culture. I’d love to do this.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 24, 2019 at 9:15 am

      Indeed it is. One learns as much about the history and culture as one does about the food.

  • Reply
    Laura
    March 21, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    I am floored by how gorgeous this place is! I am living vicariously through these photos! It certainly looks like you had an amazing time!

  • Reply
    cait
    March 21, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    omg ive never been but this looks like such a blast- some of the food looks a little intense but i would love to try it

  • Reply
    Elizabeth O
    March 21, 2019 at 11:49 am

    The market looks great and sounds like you had a great trip. The food looks also delicious. Thanks for sharing your experience. I will try to plan my visit there

  • Reply
    aisasami
    March 20, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    Wow, this an amazing blog post because there so much delicious dishes! I never been to Turkey or tried Turkish dishes but now I want to try!

  • Reply
    Michael
    March 20, 2019 at 6:37 am

    So enticing to see those tables and better plating in that way.. Putting them in my bucket list then.

  • Reply
    Annemarie LeBlanc
    March 20, 2019 at 2:11 am

    That is the best way to experience real, authentic food from any region. Go where the locals eat. Happy to know that you had a fantastic food tour!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 20, 2019 at 2:18 am

      That is so true. Sadly many of the places are adjacent to the popular haunts and many tourists pass by without being any the wiser, missing out on so many authentic experiences.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 20, 2019 at 8:54 am

      Agreed! The tour was fantastic and many of the places we visited had no tourists in them at all 🙂

  • Reply
    Leyla
    March 20, 2019 at 1:40 am

    My mother lives in Istanbul as well as a lot of other relatives. The main dessert to try, of course, is Baklava. It’s so good, but it’s pretty pricey where I live, so worth it though. As for meal, Shaurma is something to try if you’re there. It’s also super delicious. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 20, 2019 at 1:52 am

      I usually go to buy baklava from a small shop in the Spice Bazaar where the same guy has been working for more than 20 yrs. I tasted really amazing schwarma from a place on the Old City food tour 👌

  • Reply
    Jay | Life of Creed
    March 19, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    The first photo with the olives and tomatoes… looks so yummy! Sounds like a cool tour to do. I’ll have to keep food tours in mind for when I’m traveling.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 19, 2019 at 11:04 pm

      That salad plate is served with every meal and after a while you can’t do without it 🙂

  • Reply
    Cristina
    March 19, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Those green olives, look sooo good!

    I simply want to visit Turkey or Istanbul because of the food, haha.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 19, 2019 at 11:02 pm

      On my first few trips the food was mediocre because I never strayed far from the tourist traps and eateries recommended by the hotels. I realized only after watching a chef on tv eating his way through all the regions of Turkey that they had so much to offer and I had to go back one last time to sample some of it for myself. I am so happy I took the Culinary backstreets tours as it opened my eyes to the true diversity of the regional cuisines.

  • Reply
    Lily
    March 19, 2019 at 7:49 am

    This sounds so neat! Some of this food looks so good!

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    %d bloggers like this: