Wherever you are in the world, you’ll find plenty of restaurants or bars to have a drink. But if you’re in Turkey and want to sample the national drink, raki, then we strongly suggest that you find a traditional “meyhane” (Turkish Tavern). Meyhanes are based on a culture of fine food and pleasant chat. And one of the most important elements of pleasant conversation is raki. Meyhane staff will offer you a warm, familiar welcome when you enter. Here is our list of the 10 best “meyhane”s compiled by our specialists who know and love Istanbul:
1. Adana İl Sınırı
Adana İl Sınıri is the ideal place to experience the taste of real Adana kebab. The owner takes care of all the tables and loves to chat. The atmosphere is friendly and warm and you can choose from the menu yourself, or rely on the waiters’ many years of experience to choose for you. Once you eat there, they’ll never forget you, and when you come back, they remember your previous orders and serve you accordingly. The average price per person is between 200 TL to 400 TL. Adana kebab is spicy and fatty, and the accompaniments are unique to the region. The branch in Nisantasi is always full and you can enjoy drinking raki while listening to music in the garden.
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2. Ney’le Mey’le
Ney’le Mey, one of the oldest places in Taksim Nevizade, has been known for years as a place to meet with friends. First-time customers are greeted as if they were old friends and you’ll feel like part of the family. For the full meyhane experience, we strongly recommend Ney’le Mey’le. The starters are very tasty and change according to the season. Atom, Cretan sauce, cup pastry, sautéed liver, grilled octopus and humus are the main starters that we recommend. At Ney’le Mey’le a rare meyhane, carrying the spirit of Nevizade awaits you. You can expect to pay approximately 150 TL per person. If you want to drink raki with friends and have a sing-a-long then this is the place for you.
3. Karaköy Gümrük
This former customs building in Karaköy was restored and turned into a nostalgic meyhane. On the walls, you can see the work of famous photographer Ara Güler. History permeates the very fabric of this 5-story meyhane. Karaköy Gümrük, which is like a museum in itself, comes to the fore with its delicious food and drink. Far from traditional meyhane style, this place has its own unique design. If you want to get away from the chaos of the Karaköy streets and find some peace, go to Karaköy Gümrük. Located close to Galata Tower, this is the sister place of the much loved Ara Cafe on İstiklal Street.
4. Çukur Meyhane
There are no people playing music around you; there’s plenty of chat; there are nice appetisers and raki in a calm and peaceful environment. This is the Çukur Meyhane. From the outside, it may look like a shabby old place, but don’t be fooled. Since the employees don’t change all the time, the place has its own unique culture of service and there are many special appetisers for those who want to try something a little different. We highly recommend the Cretan sauce and grilled anchovy. The prices are very reasonable and cheaper than most other meyhanes in Beyoğlu.
5. Historical Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi
Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi is one of the oldest buildings on Istiklal Street. There is half a glass of raki and white chickpeas on the most interesting table of the meyhane. The table was reserved for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the country, and nobody sits there. Historic Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi is preferred by some people because of this table. The meyhane, which has several stories, also has live music on certain days. You’ll see many important scientists, historians and writers here. The starters and dinners are very tasty.
6. İnciraltı Meyhanesi
A modest and peaceful place in Beylerbeyi. The first thing that stands out here is the warm interest the waiters and the chef show towards their customers. The next thing is a peaceful silence. Whereas meyhanes are usually very loud with music or chat, in İnciraltı Meyhanesi, people who speak loudly are politely asked to quieten down as the owners feel it’s important for guests to be able to have a pleasant conversation. You’ll love the ambience and you must try the fish pickles. If it’s anchovy season, anchovies on vine leaves are very tasty.
7. Sakar Zeybek
In Sakar Zeybek, one of the famous meyhanes of Koşuyolu, Kadikoy, the appetisers are brought to your table on a tray. You choose any of the 30 kinds of appetisers on the tray and those appetisers are left on your table. Music is played at a sensible volume. The menu mainly contains Aegean appetisers and fish, and if you’re unsure what to choose the waiters will help you. It has a modest meyhane mood and the prices are very reasonable. You need to book for the weekend.
8. Piraye Taş Plak Meyhanesi
Located in a dead-end street in Bahariye, Kadikoy, Piraye offers peace and tranquility away from the crowd in a secluded location. Music is played by phonograph and you can chat accompanied by the crackling sound of vinyl while enjoying raki. The staff are very friendly and take care of you as soon as you enter. We recommend the meat dishes, especially the fried “leaf” liver. The meyhane is located in Kadikoy, so if you want to continue the night after leaving here you’ll have many bars and pubs to choose from.
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9. Melisa Balık Restaurant
Melisa Balık, located on the European side near the Black Sea, is a seafront meyhane with tables overflowing onto the road. Because it is a small place, it creates an intimate atmosphere. This is a sweet meyhane in a seaside town, thanks to the smiling face of the staff and the speedy service so you’re sure to have an enjoyable evening. You should book, especially on weekends. In this delightful meyhane, where you will feel the sweet wind of the Bosphorus, we recommend fried “leaf” liver. Don’t leave without tasting the fish patties and shrimp stew.
10. Prinkipo Meyhane
Prinkipo, one of the most beautiful places of Büyükada, is the place of Fıstık Ahmet, a master of appetiser preparation, who is well-known by meyhane fans. Prinkipo means the prince’s backyard. If you want to be transported to a completely different world while travelling around Istanbul, our advice is to visit Prinkipo. As soon as you sit down, cold and hot appetisers are brought to your table. Hot rice stuffing, rice with grain-shaped macaroni and fried “leaf” liver are the most famous dishes of Prinkipo, and don’t forget to try the appetisers, especially fava, tarama, squid.
11. Barba Yani
This meyhane, which has been the subject of films, is on the beach in Burgazada. Barba Yani, which you can see as soon as you get off the boat, looks like a seaside town meyhane with blue decoration and wooden tables. When you sit at your table you’ll be given cornbread and kalatama olives. The tastiest appetisers are topik, mussel wraps and pastry with shrimp. We also recommend the stuffed calamari and the Greek pastry. There are cats wandering around the place that come to you if you call them. In summer, you can listen to live music at the weekends.
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Born and raised Istanbulite. Keeping an eye on the opportunity to explore this ancient city even more. Trying to do the best for nature.