What to Know About Dining in Turkey

A Note About Food:

Typically on vacation, I prefer to hold the reins, do copious amounts of research, and plan our foodie experiences well ahead of time.  However, since our days in Turkey centered so much around historical sight-seeing, and action packed adventures (some way up high in hot air balloons, and others way down low in underground museums), we were a bit more fluid, which resulted in a truly authentic food experience.  In Istanbul, our guide steered us to her favorite stalls at the Grand Bazaar that offered quick bites, or hole-in-the-wall tiny restaurants where she knew the owners.  In Cappadocia, we ate many meals in the homes of local families, not often in restaurants.  As you may know from my food reviews of other destinations, this culinary experience was a bit different than my typical foodie restaurant finds.  However, the truly local culinary tour, and all the people we met, made for some of our most memorable moments. 


If you prefer to map out your own restaurant experiences, it’s easy to find delicious spots to dine.  However, there are some cultural food twists that may be helpful to know ahead of time:


In Istanbul:

  • Restaurant life:  There are hundreds of restaurant options in Istanbul, but you will not find menus that have a little bit of everything on it.  Instead, if you go to a seafood restaurant, fish dishes are the star of the show.  Are you craving meat?  Then you need to make a new stop.  Why?  Someone explained it to me like this:  It’s similar to when we say “Let’s go for Chinese...or Italian..etc” in America.  In Turkey, fish and meat are categorized separately as their own cuisine.  A fish restaurant will serve more Mediterranean flavors, and a meat establishment will serve a flavor profile similar to an Arabic/Middle Eastern palette. 


  • Bazaars: If you visit one of the many local bazaars, you will find endless options of snacks and treats.  Check out the Grand Bazaar for the widest selection.

In Cappadocia:

  • Lunch with locals:  A local Turkish woman made us homemade mezze platters like hummus, pita, tabouli salad and a tomato salsa.  She sun dried the tomatoes outside the day before and then turned it into a beautiful sauce.  I slurped up every bit of juice!  The following day, a local family slowly baked fish in a clay oven for 12 hours.  We arrived to watch her take the fish out of the oven, and together enjoyed the meal overlooking the Ilhara Valley below.
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Lunch with local
Fish in oven
  • Explore the countryside markets: There are many farmers markets open everyday throughout Cappadocia.  Stop by and taste the pistachios, almonds, and dried fruit.  You can find these markets on the side of busy roads, or within town centers.  
Baked Bread
Farmers market
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