Located on the Marmara Sea coast on the Asian Side of town, the Kadıköy district and its Moda neighbourhood in particular have soared in popularity over the past few years, leading us to name it one of the 50 coolest neighbourhoods in the world. Hundreds of new bars, cafés, restaurants and shops have opened here, making the area a must-see for those really wanting to get a feel of how the city hangs out these days. While it may be the apple of the eye for an ever-increasing number of Istanbulites, Kadıköy still features a more relaxed vibe than the bustling European side, a fact quite evident upon first visit. If you’re still not convinced, taking a ferry there might just be the best way to soak up Istanbul's inimitable views.
Where to eat, drink, go out and more in Istanbul's coolest neighbourhood
Kadıköy's best restaurants
Çiya serves a variety of Anatolian dishes (mostly Eastern Mediterranean and Southeastern Anatolian), all made with ingredients imported from their native regions. Their wide selection of delicious dishes are accompanied by an assortment of herbs, most of which you’ve probably never have heard of. The two-storey venue offers such unusual dishes as şıhılmahşi (stuffed zucchini from the Kilis region), mualle (aubergine and lentil stew with pomegranate molasses), maş (mung bean) soup, malhıtalı (red lentil) soup, firik (grilled wheat) rice, sitti simidi (thin cracked wheat rice), and yeşil erik tavası (green plum stew).
Bonkis doesn’t have a set “menu,” per se, but on weekends you’ll find focaccia sandwiches (Saturdays) and burgers (Sundays). The burgers here are easily some of the best in Istanbul, served with a 120-g beef patty, cheese, mushrooms and caramelized onions as well as your choice of two sauces, with options like homemade tomato paste and eggplant pesto. The homemade breads are soft without being too greasy, which makes them the perfect complement to the beef patty covered in sauce. We also love that the burgers are served with green onion-potato salad instead of French fries.
While it's unusual for an eatery with the word ‘meyhane’ in its name to not offer any fish, the idea here isn’t to have a full family meal; it’s to have a couple of bites to accompany your drink. Warm starters like kokoreç (seasoned, skewered lamb’s intestines), uykuluk (sweetbread) and döner kavurma (braised lamb) more than make up for the menu's lack of a main course. As for the meze, we suggest trying the fried eggplant topped with yogurt, garlic and tomato paste sauce; the haydari (yogurt spread seasoned with garlic, mint and dill), which is just as thick as it should be.
With over 50 flavours and decades of history under it's belt, Ali Usta's fame extends well beyond Moda. While his recipes are kept secret, the only thing we know is that they haven’t changed a bit in all these years. If you’re fortunate enough to be here in the colder months, we definitely recommend getting the traditional winter beverage salep with your ice cream.
Those studying gastronomy in college are often recommended not to open their own restaurant shortly after graduation. Two alums of the Department of Gastronomy and Culinary Arts at Yeditepe University, Naz Tiryaki and Emre Çeri, took this lesson to heart, choosing to forgo lavish plates in favor of a snack bar specializing in mini burgers that resemble the American slider. Five of the six burgers on the menu come with 70-g beef patties, and most feature a variety of toppings – with the exception of the popular şamburger, which comes with a bold pistachio sauce that offsets the need for any cheese or additional garnishes.
Reinventing the humble dürüm (wrap) with gourmet influences, chefs Kaan Sakarya and Derin Arıbaş say that what sets the quality of their dürüm apart is their meat cooking technique as well as the spices and sauces they use. The ribs in their beef dürüm are slow-cooked for seven to eight hours, while the pickles and mustard sauce served alongside it are made using the chefs’ own recipes. Basta! also serves dürüm with homemade chorizo, smoked chicken and a daily-changing variety of vegetarian ingredients. The chefs’ talent really shines through in the desserts, like the vanilla sütlaç (rice pudding).
Situated in an old two-storey house in Koşuyolu, this brand new meyhane is a gem among a handful of fish restaurants offering more or less the same meals. Sakar Zeybek offers a daily menu of Aegean and Greek recipes, made with ingredients that are almost all brought from the owners’ homeland of Muğla on the southern coast. Since this is a meyhane, the most frequently consumed drink is obviously the rakı – to do the space justice, we highly recommend ordering a bottle of Sarı Zeybek and making a night of it with friends and family.
Kadıköy's best bars, clubs and live music venues
Get your caffeine fix at Kadıköy's third wave cafés
Kev serves all sorts of hot and iced coffees, homemade lemonades and iced teas as well as frozen beverages. If you happen to go for breakfast, we recommend the stacked pancakes, which can be made sweet with jam and chocolate or savory with ham and cheese. In the mood for a full meal? Try the crispy mantı (Turkish ravioli with minced meat) served with yogurt and spices.