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Food & Drink

How to truly experience Istanbul's culinary scene

Best late-night bites

Top picks from the experts at Istanbul Eats

Beyoğlu kebab house Dürümzade

May, 2013

by: Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer

photo by: Hollie Longmore

In a 24-hour city like Istanbul, you’re sure to find yourself hungry outside the standard meal times. We asked the experts at Istanbul Eats to share five of their favourite places for a late-night bite:


If New York is the city that never sleeps, then Istanbul is the city that never stops to eat – and then eat some more. The typical Istanbul day often seems to run along an uninterrupted line of snacks, nibbles and more proper sit-down meals, from the first simit to the last kebab.


It’s late at night, though, when the city’s appetite really comes to life and a host of enablers – be they pushing a humble food cart or fanning the flames of a smoky storefront grill – come out of the woodwork to meet the nocturnal needs of Istanbul’s eaters. These are our five favourite spots for the classic Istanbul midnight bite:


Meşhur Unkapanı IMÇ Pilavcısı

Don’t come looking for these guys during the daytime. This food cart – a culinary institution found on the sidewalk near busy Atatürk Bulvarı – only comes out at night, when it attracts a massive crowd drawn by its cheap, filling and very tasty pilaf of rice, chickpeas and chicken. Look for the throng standing zombie-like around a cart while they shovel rice into their mouths and you’ll know you’ve found the right place.



A star turn on Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ may have given the wrap artists at this Beyoğlu dürüm house major international exposure, but their turn in the limelight hasn’t gone to their heads. It’s still the dürüm here that gets top billing, made using succulent kebabs and a thin, ovular lavaş, rubbed with a mix of red pepper and spices, that’s a far cry from the stiff, uniform discs found in many other dürüm joints. Conveniently located near the bars of the Balık Pazar area, there’s no better place to have an edible nightcap.



Could the greasy and saucy ıslak burger be Turkey’s greatest contribution to world cuisine? Ask us the question at 02.00 after a night of bar-hopping and the answer is a definitive ‘yes!’ At that time of night, there’s no more welcoming sight than Taksim Square’s Kızılkayalar and the bright glow of its ‘burger hamam’, where the burgers have been incubating in an oily, tomato-based sauce, rendering their once-fluffy white buns a greasy, finger-licking radioactive shade of orange, both chewy and slick on either side of the garlicky beef patty. Nothing is as good as a Kızılkayalar wet burger – except for another one.


Albay Dürüm

Chances are that most late nights you won’t be finding yourself on the stretch of road between Etiler and Arnavutköy. On the other hand, chances are that most taxi drivers will give you a knowing look when you hop into their cab and direct them to that road’s culinary landmark: Albay Dürüm. Little more than a trailer shaded by a big willow tree with a plywood shack for a ‘dining’ area, Albay serves as a source of multi-layered sustenance for the drivers working at a nearby taxi stand and others passing by. Presided over by the avuncular Zuhur Usta, who grills up a mean dürüm, Albay is an excursion worth making any time of the day.


Adana Ocakbaşı

Who says late-night eats need only be consumed standing up or in a rush? This superlative Pangaltı grill house – open until 02.30 – makes the case for the more leisurely midnight meal. In fact, the lamb chops and sweetbreads here are so good, we’d come to Adana Ocakbaşı for breakfast if they were open in the morning.


About the authors

Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer of IstanbulEats.com and CulinaryBackstreets.com have a combined 15 years of experience eating their way through Istanbul and a serious penchant for undiscovered local eateries. Istanbul Eats’ Culinary Walks include the ‘Kebab Krawl’, a night-time feast of Southeast Turkish cuisine in Istanbul’s ‘Little Urfa’.




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