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Apr 03
Reviews (Eats)
Zübeyir: The Meat is On

Smoked out: diners sitting around the grill at Zubeyir

Finding a kebab restaurant in Istanbul is not hard. There must be thousands of them. But finding the right kind of place, especially if you want to make it a bit more of a meal, can be surprisingly difficult.

Most kebab joints tend to be no-frills, in-and-out places. Some are very good (and we will review a few in the future), but they don’t make for a night out. On the other hand, some of nicer places – where you can find a more extensive menu and, more importantly, drink booze with your dinner – take things too far. Tuxedoed waiters serving kebab? Griller, please! At the end of the day, we’re still talking about meat on a stick cooked over a fire.

Which is what makes Zübeyir – a fantastic grill house in Beyoğlu that always seems to be packed with large groups having a very good time – such a refreshing find. They serve seriously good food, without taking themselves too seriously.

The restaurant, which occupies two cozy floors in a historic building near the pedestrian-only İstiklal Caddesi, is dominated by an ocakbaşı, a long hearth topped by a copper hood, where the meat is grilled over hardwood coals. It’s a bit like Turkey’s hot and smoky answer to the sushi bar, with a few seats available grillside, where you can watch the chef do his thing.

Meals at Zübeyir usually begin with a round of mezes, brought to your table on a large tray to choose from. Particular standouts are a subtle spread made out of mashed pumpkin and yogurt, as a well as a sublime warm salad made from freshly grilled eggplant, tomato and onion.The gavurdağı salad – a mix of greens, herbs and tomatoes in a piquant pomegranate molasses dressing – is also worth ordering.

From there, it’s on to the kebabs. The standard grill items are all outstanding. Their Adana kebab – spicy minced lamb – has just the right combination of meat, fat and red pepper. Chicken wings (kanat) and lamb chops (pirzola) are also superbly grilled. Zübeyir also serves up some cuts of meat not found at most kebab joints, such as the tasty tarak (lamb spare ribs) and, for the more adventurous, the koç yumurtası, or ram’s testicles (which, we must admit, we have yet to try).

It’s not easy to stand out in a city filled with kebab restaurants. Zübeyir does it effortlessly.

Address: Bekar Sokak 28, Beyoğlu
Telephone: 212-293-3951

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21 Responses to “ Zübeyir: The Meat is On ”
  1. Martin Selsoe

    May 1, 2009

    Hi guys,

    Great site you’ve build here, a truly excellent idea. I love both your writing style and the places you intriduce.

    The link to Zubeyir doesn’t work, but all I basically want to know from them is where Bekar Sokak is. So an even better idea than fixing the link, would be for you to post a googlemap with pins for each restaurant. That would also make for another way to search through your postings, ie. by geography.


  2. Thanks, Martin. Yes, working on maps. We recently changed or URL structure, so some old links are no longer working. Also working on fixing that. Thanks again for the feedback.

  3. We went to Zubeyir last week and it was just as described. Thanks for your blog and all the recommendations – it made our first trip to Istanbul a VERY good experience. Zubeyir was exactly what we were looking for. Excellent food, terrific atmosphere and very friendly diners and staff. Everything that came off the ocakbasi was amazing!

    And how do you find it… it was a snap, just using the map in our DK guidebook – walking away from Taksim Sq. = Bekar Sokak was the third street on the right going down Istikial.

    Martin – get yourself over there – you won’t be disappointed.

  4. A friend who was just in Istanbul sent me the URL to your blog bc I’m headed there in two weeks, and I love your recs. They sound super local and tasty, which is exactly what I’m looking for.

    I’ll be sure to report back after my trip. Cheers!

  5. Hi Guys,

    Fantastic blog!!! I have had a chance to visit Istanbul several times over last few months and I wish I had found the website earlier (so that I could have adoided a few of the culinary disappointments).
    Abracadabra is special indeed, kaymak turned out to be really heavenly (I asked for it at the hotel – you should have seen how happy the waiter was when he brought it to my table – You need to jog afterwards! exclaimed joyfully), but as I am a dedicated meat lover, Zubeyir is definitely at the top of my list. I have been there twice already and I will try more…
    Many thanks!

  6. Just to echo your review – chicken wings, lamb ribs and chicken sis all grilled perfectly (the chicken wings were especially good).

  7. Perry in Istanbul

    May 4, 2010

    Last night I had a particularly good Zubeyir experience. I sat right there at the grill at the corner seat next to Zuybeyir usta himself! Throughout the night he sent little plates of morsels our way- grilled peppers, little charred scraps of lamb. He told me that in his years at the grill he has converted a total of two vegetarians. What a character. It was a great experience that I highly recommend even if it gets a bit hot sitting at the grill!

  8. Murat Yilmaz

    Jun 9, 2010

    I live in New York for the past 10+ years and am really sad about the fact that even though there are a number of Turkish restaurants in NYC, none of them serves “real tasty” kebaps … and my all time favorite, the “Iskender/Doner Kebap” is especially bad, unfortunately …

    During my last visit to Istanbul in April 2009 my ‘local’ friends brought me to Zubeyir for a wonderful kebap experience. I tasted almost everything on the menu. The mezes and especially the kebaps are fantastic! Exactly as good as you have described them in your blog (maybe even better), which, by the way, I find very entertaining and informative. Thanks for all the good information.

  9. not the place to go on a hot summer weekend night – incredibly noisy part of Beyoglu, staff stressed and unfriendly – food fine though, may return in winter

  10. Zübeyir is way too expensive and great honestly, you can find better deals (in terms of more decent prices) along the same street where Zubeyir is located at. the only great thing what Zubeyir’s cooking at is the grilled garlics and that s it. my suggestion is for you guys before heading directly to Zübeyir, just stroll around the street and look at the other establishments as well…

  11. I’m in Istanbul right now and a bunch of us ate at this restaurant last night. We came across it in an article on World Photo Adventure by Barbara Pasquet James with a link to your site. It was incredible and only locals were there. Damn. A great experience and going back again – Thanks!

  12. Sid Mewara

    Dec 10, 2010

    I decided to do a blind food trip ( still here) to Istanbul to scope out places that would “pop out” to me…
    2 nights ago walking around Taksim I was looking a watering hole when I walked past Zubeyir… One look and I knew this was a hot spot. Plenty of locals eating and explaining the food to their friends.. So it had to be good.

    I had a a few meze, a few raki and tried the Adana and chopped lamb…. BRILLIANT !!!!

    Im glad I found this website… heading of Durum Zade in a few

  13. Zubeyir is a little pricey (20 TL for my three lamb chops) but they make fantastic food. Gavur dagi worth the hype. Crowded outside (seems you need to reserve), nice interior spaces. Highly recommend. Hopefully I’ll get back to try the sheep liver.

  14. We have eaten two times here and it is very good, but also expensive. Last time the service charge was 17 percent. We did not tip, as we otherwise would. Now we don’t know if the waiter got something. The athmosphere in the restaurant in not posh, so we can’t ser why they have this high service charge.

  15. Hi. The website for Zubeyir doesn’t seem to be working. Either it’s down or they’ve possibly closed or changed their website name. The place came highly recommended to me for an upcoming trip to Istanbul. Thankfully, Istanbul Eats offers any suggestions for similar establishments so we’re not concerned if we don’t get to Zubeyir.

  16. Melissa,
    We’ve noticed that the Zubeyir website seems to be down a lot of the time but that does not mean they have closed. They are still there and very much worth a visit!
    -Istanbul Eats editors

  17. Melissa,
    Yelp is a good resource for reviews by local users. There are reviews as current as August 2014 so (fingers crossed), Zubeyir is still alive and kicking.

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