If there are an estimated 17 million souls in Istanbul, then there are at least that many opinions on the best kebab house in town. There are stodgy oak-paneled rooms with country-club appeal, where well-dressed businessmen marvel at heaping plates of delicious grilled meat. And there are 24/7 hole-in-the-walls, where lines form out the door for kebab that is just as tasty and expertly cooked.
Any credible best-of list will take for granted that what is coming off the grill is fresh and well-prepared, which leaves the determining factors somewhere outside of the sense of taste and more to a sense of personal style.
We want to feel comfortable eating with our hands and don’t mind if the table next to us gets loud as the rakı bottle makes its rounds. We want to be able to sit at the grill or at least close enough to feel the heat on our backs, reminding us of the valuable work of the usta preparing our food. We don’t want to see a menu or hear any fancy kebab names; ordering should resemble an exchange at a butcher shop – just cuts of meat.
That said, there are places that excel at certain specialty kebabs, such as offal, that we include not as a novelty but because sometimes no lamb chop can satisfy a hunger pang for liver.
Find out what our Top 5 kebab restaurants are at Culinary Backstreets .