Think of Ramadan, which just began in many parts of the world, as a kind of monthlong biathlon that consists of an all-day race to beat back the hunger and thirst of fasting, followed by an all-night marathon of eating and drinking in order to fortify the body for the next day’s fast. In recent years in Turkey, iftar, the traditional break fast meal that used to mostly consist of some dates and a freshly baked round of Ramadan pide, has started to become an increasingly trendy affair, with ministers, businessmen and regular people trying to make an impression by hosting ever more lavish meals.
Still, even if you’re not fasting, a traditional iftar meal at the right place remains a unique and tasty window onto life during the Ramadan period. Below is a list of our favorite spots for iftar in Istanbul (note: reservations are recommended):
Set menu 95 TL
This upscalish restaurant near the lovely Chora Church prides itself on its devotion to cooking according to ancient Ottoman recipes. For whatever reason, we’ve usually found the place uncomfortably devoid of customers during most of the year, but during Ramadan, Asitane fills up with fast-breakers looking for an Ottoman-style iftar. The restaurant’s garden is a particularly pleasant place to spend the evening.
Address: Kariye Camii Sokak 6, Edirnekapı
Telephone: +90 212 635 7997
Set menu 70 TL
Although no excuse is needed to visit this well-known spot – one of our favorite restaurants in Istanbul – during Ramadan they are serving up a special iftar menu which, like the restaurant’s regular menu, will likely change daily and feature lesser-known regional specialties from around Turkey. Highly recommended.
Address: Güneşlibahçe Sokak 43, Kadıköy
Telephone: +90 216 330 3190
À la carte
Located in the Asian side’s Üsküdar neighborhood, this classic restaurant is an esnaf lokantası (tradesmen’s cafeteria) that has grown into something bigger and classier, with an almost overwhelming selection of very nicely made prepared dishes served from what seems like a mile-long steam table.
Address: Selman-ı Pak Caddesi 9, Üsküdar
Telephone: +90 216 341 5444
À la carte
Unlike Kanaat, Şahin has remained a humble, yet bustling, esnaf lokantası, with two small floors and a smaller menu of classic dishes prepared with a lot of love. It’s another one of our favorite places in town.
Address: Orhan Adlı Apaydın Sokak 11/A, Beyoğlu
Telephone: +90 212 244 2543
“Luxury” iftar menu, 48 TL
Istanbul’s Eyüp neighborhood and its complex of mosques and mausoleums is a major pilgrimage site and a favorite spot for families who want to have an outdoor iftar. During Ramadan, the historic neighborhood has an almost carnival-like atmosphere after sundown. Sultanzade Sofrası, a restaurant serving food from the Hatay region and overlooking Eyüp’s main square, is a great perch from which to take in the neighborhood’s iftar vibe.
Address: Kalenderhane Caddesi 35/3, Eyüp
Telephone: +90 212 615 3455
(top photo by Fumie Suzuki, above photo by Monique Jaques)