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Apr 17
Reviews (Eats)
Karaköy Lokantası: A Dockside Winner

Tucked into the street behind the yet-to-be gentrified docks at Karaköy, among shops advertising boat tickets to Odessa and cubby-sized import and export offices, is the neighborhood’s culinary port of call, Karaköy Lokantası. With great food, personable service and tasteful décor, this family-operated eatery defiantly proves that a good dining experience doesn’t have to come with a shocker of a bill.

After they relocated from just two doors away to a much bigger, high-design space, we feared they might loosen the grip that established this place as one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood. A recent visit to the elegant new locale put our minds at ease; same classic menu, same painstaking attention to detail.

Karaköy Lokantası is best known as a power lunch spot, with the midday star of the menu being hünkar beğendi. A leftover from the Ottoman imperial kitchen, this dish is one of the specialties on the menu that is not to be missed. It starts with eggplants charred whole on a charcoal grill, then peeled, mashed and thickened with milk and cheese. On this bed of rich creamy eggplant beğendi, tender morsels of slow-cooked beef are drizzled with the thin red gravy they were stewed in. The smoky taste from the grill lingers long after the immediate flavors from the stewpot have passed. Make no mistake, beautifully roasted meat is always welcome, but it’s the beğendi experience that keeps us coming back come for more. Unfortunately, this dish is only served at lunch, but the dinner menu has a few star attractions of its own.

A casual dinner starts with a selection of mezes, or cold salads picked from a large tray. All are meze tray standards, but the stuffed artichoke heart dressed up zestily with lemon and olive oil is a particularly tasty pick. The Karaköy salad is a refreshing blast of greens spiked with beans. The thick yogurt in a small clay pot is irresistible as a side dish, or even a dessert.

From the hot side, you’ll see the kitchen’s skills at work on the grilled octopus, which features the desired char to tenderness ratio. If you are as into innards as we are, you’ll be happy to find a delicious hot starter of thinly sliced, lightly fried liver. If the catch of the day doesn’t grab you, the lamb chops are sure not to disappoint.

Traditional Turkish desserts like fruit compote, rice pudding and aşure, a curious blend of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, wheat and rosewater, are on offer. However, we recommend satisfying the sweet tooth with some of the best baklava in town, right down the street at Güllüoğlu. Otherwise, treat yourself to a walk through this interesting, slightly scruffy neighborhood of seemingly abandoned churches, scuba gear shops, Ottoman-era banks and even a couple of bordellos.

Karaköy Lokantası
Address: Kemankeş Caddesi,
Telephone: 212-292-4455

Güllüoğlu Baklavacısı
Address: Rıhtım Caddesi, Katlı Otopark Altı Karaköy

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15 Responses to “ Karaköy Lokantası: A Dockside Winner ”
  1. “one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood”? High praise indeed! 😉

  2. Carpetblogger, stay tuned, there’s actually a lot more to be said about the dining scene in Karakoy, which we think is one of Istanbul’s great undiscovered food haunts.

  3. Hans R. Rüegg

    Nov 3, 2009

    We found two restaurants in Istanbul first class: Sarnic on Sogukcesme Sok No. 30, near Hagia Sofia and Karaköy Lokantasi on Kemankes Caddesi No. 37 in Beyoglu. The latter is more matter of fact, offers even better food for more modest prices. Highly commendable!

  4. I used to go here everyday (I mean everyday) for lunch. I have pretty much eaten everything on the menu.

    I will make it easier for you; the two things I did not like were yogurt soup and tripe soup (I love both but not theirs). Just eat ANYTHING on the menu, I guarantee you will love it! I always wanted to go there for dinner but never had a chance to. Hopefully, when I am in Istanbul…

    Btw, admin; if you find a better restaurant for this type of food, please let us know. I cannot imagine a better place to eat for this type of homemade dishes. There is one place I used to go before I knew Karakoy Lokantasi. It was called Karakoyum. It was not bad but no Karakoy Lokantasi.

  5. Tioli Cristina

    Jan 7, 2012

    If you are in Istanbul, go to this restaurant for dinner as well, reported by some guides, but if you do not know the turkish, keep in mind that none of the staff knows a word of English, French or Italian. Ask for the menu, which is not presented to you, and check the prices, which are astronomical. I have been there the evening of 3/1/2012, I ate badly and spent a great deal

  6. Tioli,
    We are really surprised to hear about your experience. It is true that the evening scene is a good bit different from lunch, which we prefer. During the day, the owners do the seating themselves and they speak English and German. We’ll check on the prices and update the post.

  7. Dear Tioli Cristina,

    I am the owner of Karakoy Lokantasi. First of all thank you very much for your honest comments. I could not stopped myself to make some comments as well. Karakoy Lokantasi is a very well known local restaurant, not a touristic one. Therefore all our evening staffs are Turkish, they are all professionals and yes they do not speak any other languages. But we have an English menu and the first thing we do is to give the menu to our guests especially if they are foreigners. Also, as the owners of the restaurant, we are always at present both at lunch and dinner service and we welcome all our guests at the door and do the seating. Therefore we were very surprised to read your comments. We thought that you may had been at another place with a similar name. So, if you every have a chance to come to Karaköy again, you are very welcome to visit real Karakoy Lokantasi.

  8. This place is excellent all round – food, service, decor. The prices too are very reasonable for the high quality.
    I don’t see it as a fault that the staff are not speakers of languages other than Turkish.

  9. I had a fantastic meal at Karakoy Lokantasi when I was in Istanbul and would recommend it to anyone who wants a boutique atmosphere, excellent food, great wines and a lovely host! Looking forward to going back there when I get back to Turkey!

  10. Julie more

    Sep 15, 2012

    I enjoyed a meal at your wonderful restuarant march 2011 and still think of it as one of the most delightful places I have enjoyed lunch at.

  11. I’ve had several dinners here, on occasion with a Turkish friend. The food has always been excellent and the prices very reasonable. It is hardly a fault that the evening staff do not speak foreign languages. If an ‘a la franca’ experience is required go to Maya next door. More expensive but the staff do speak English

  12. Carolyn PDX

    Oct 5, 2012

    As a foodie from Portland oregon USA I can say this restaurant was amazing and best place we ate in istanbul. We walked in on Friday dinner and got the last unreserved table. The dinner menu was in English and Turkish. Our waiter and manager and possibly the owner were fantastic and accommodating. When I got up to look at case of meze. He recommended we pick 5, we asked what his favorite were as well. We had smoked octopus, stuffed mussels, marinated sea bass, eggplant salad, marinated artichokes. We split the lamb chops and I got the Helva and also the special dessert of figs with walnuts. 2 glasses of their red wine. Which was great. We felt very much a part of the local scene here in istanbul and will be first place I come back to. With a reservation of course.

  13. Excellent site. Plenty of useful information here. I am sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious.
    And of course, thank you to your effort!

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