Top 5 Esnaf Lokantası (Tradesman Restaurants) in Istanbul

An Esnaf Lokantası (Tradesman Restaurant) offers a nice variety of dishes at very moderate prices. The emphasis lies on pleasing the regular customers, who are mostly working people. Some locals prefer to go there for breakfast before work, but most will visit an esnaf lokantası during the lunch break. Others stop by for dinner before they return home or a night out. In every Istanbul neighborhood you’ll find at least one. In this article we introduce you to the best 5 restaurants in Beyoğlu.

Picture of dishes you can find in an esnaf lokantasi in Istanbul.
Dishes you can find in an esnaf lokantası. © Photo by Hacı Salih

What Is an Esnaf Lokantası?

These establishments reflect family warmth with both the employees and the customers. Most of the restaurants are family businesses or behave like families with their staff over the years. There are some waiters working in the same establishment for more than 20 years. Some of them even have the same customers for over 15 years.

These type of restaurants use fresh seasonal vegetables. Since most of them have regular customers, they avoid serving the same dish twice in a certain time span. Every day they have a fresh variety of dishes, mostly from traditional Turkish and Ottoman cuisines.

They open very early to serve soup. Generally two or three types of soups are available. Starting eleven, the dishes are mostly displayed on rectangular trays on the counters. These restaurants are quite packed during the lunch rush. So if you can, go a little earlier to make sure you do not miss out on the goodies … or a seat.

As a rule of thumb, an esnaf lokantası doesn’t serve alcoholic beverages. However, the younger, modern versions in Beyoğlu like DAI Pera do.

Şahin Lokantası

İsmail Şahin owns and runs the business since 1967. The chef is with him for more than 30 years. For 30 years the same butcher and grocery shop supply all the top notch ingredients they use.

The menu changes daily, yet it manages to provide about a dozen dishes such as meat or vegetable stews, pilafs, various types of köfte (meatballs) and other classics of Turkish home cooking. Compared to the quality and taste of the food, the inexpensive prices are beyond belief.

The restaurant opens at 06:00 and closes around 17:00 every day. You may not find all the dishes after 13:30. If you want the morning soup, you better order before 10 a.m. Be prepared to share your table.

Address: Orhan Adli ApaydınSokak No:11/A, Tepebaşı, Beyoğlu
Telephone: +90 212 244 2543

Hacı Abdullah

Picture of Hacı Abdullah esanf lokantası.
Hacı Abdullah. © Hacı Abdullah

Sultan Abdülhamit II personally handed the license to run this place in 1888. The former name of the restaurant was Abdullah Efendi. When foreign commissions visited Istanbul, the state hosted them in the restaurant. It is one of the oldest restaurants in Istanbul with genuine traditional Ottoman and Turkish cuisine, and it proudly claims to have the same tastes since.

The restaurant is open every day from 11:00 to 22:30. To be on the safe side, you can make reservation, but they are very welcoming and helpful for the ones that don’t. Hünkarbeğendi (roasted meat served on mashed eggplants), elbasan tava, kuzu tandır are highly recommended dishes beside the stuffed vegetables and a special dessert of quince served with honey, banana and cream. Prices are reasonable; a three-course meal for two will cost you around 80 Turkish Liras.

Address: Ağa Camii Atıf Yılmaz Caddesi, Eski Sakızağacı Cad. No:9/A, Beyoğlu
Telephone: +90 212 293 8561

Özkonak Lokantası

They first started as Özkonak Muhallebicisi in 1962 and sold pudding as well as similar desserts. In 1987 they became Özkonak Lokantası. Their desire is to make people happy with the food and desserts they serve.

They open their doors early, around 7 a.m. Various kinds of homemade jams, eggs, cheese and olives are also available. The restaurant serves 20 different dishes every day: stuffed vegetables, köfte (meatballs), karnıyarık (fried eggplants with meat filling), chicken/veal sauté, mantı (meat stuffed dough dish) and many more traditional tastes. Using the milk of their own dairy farm creates the privileged mouth polishing taste of their desserts.

Thanks to their generous portions you do feel like you are being fed by your mum. The restaurant closes at 21:30, but is open on Sundays.

Address: Kılıç Ali Paşa Mh. Akarsu Ykş. No:60/B, Cihangir, Beyoğlu
Telephone: +90 212 249 1307

Hacı Salih

The restaurant is named after its founder, who established it in 1944. Ever since, they ran the business from father to son, safeguarding the excellence of the dishes.

The restaurant serves fine examples of Turkish and Ottoman cuisines. 10 different dishes are served every day between 11:00 and 21:00. They also have a vegetarian menu and a fish of the season dish. All the vegetable dishes are cooked with extra-virgin olive oil. Pudding lovers will adore the gum mastic flavored pudding.

Address: İstiklal Caddesi, Mis Sokak No: 18, Beyoğlu
Telephone: +90 212 245 79 20

Selvi Restaurant

Picture of Islim Kebabı as served in Selvi Lokantası, Beyoğlu, Istanbul.
Islim Kebabı at Selvi. © Selvi

Ayvaz Hacızade opened his restaurant in 1950 and still runs the business with the help of his family, including his daughter, son, and daughter-in-law. Their mission is to preserve and introduce the traditional Turkish cuisine to the world.

Among the esnaf lokantas in this article, this one is rather innovative. In 1970 the restaurant was the first to introduce self service in Turkey. The restaurant also has a home delivery service. Every day their website and the menu is updated. They also serve beer for the tourists.

The prices are quite cheap. The most expensive meat dish is islim kebap (roasted lamb wrapped with fried eggplants) and will set you back for only 15 liras. The price range of the other main dishes is around 8 TL.

The restaurant opens at 07:00 and closes at 19:00.

Address: Sıraselviler Cad. No:42/44, Beyoğlu
Telephone: +90 212 293 8964

Further Recommended Reading

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  2. What to Drink in Istanbul?
  3. Istanbul’s Street Food – What’s Hot and What’s Not?
  4. Do you have a question? Ask it here!

Last updated on 04/07/2015