A Guide to Istanbul's Best Burger Joints

Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

Istanbul isn’t really a city known for its burgers, as most Turkish kitchens have more than enough options to keep visitors happy. But sometimes nothing but a juicy burger with a side of fries will hit the spot. So it’s just as well that the city does have some great burger joints that serve up the American classic in just the right way.

1. Akali Pub

Restaurant, Bakery, Cafe, Italian, American, Fast Food, Vegetarian

Akali is a small café which is quite the culinary playground for its chefs who experiment with different dishes. At first it was homemade pasta with various sauces and then came an array of giant gourmet burgers. Juicy meat patties, bacon, melted cheese, homemade sourdough bread and caramelised onions are just some of the ingredients. Plus, their hamburgers often have three patties.

2. Nusr-Et

Restaurant, American, Fast Food

Nusret Gökçe is known for his meat marinating techniques. However, the man also really knows how to serve up a hamburger. His ‘Lokum Burger,’ is a delicious mix of steak slices, melted cheddar cheese and caramelised onions.

3. J. Burger

Restaurant, Turkish, American, Fast Food

This burger joint, formerly known as Jumbo Burger, on the Asian side has been open since 1977 and is a bit of an institution. What sets J Burger apart from its counterparts is its special sweet and savoury sauce, the recipe for which has remained a secret. The restaurant’s homemade mayonnaise is also the stuff of legends and a perfect accompaniment to their delicious burger.

4. Mano Burger

Restaurant, American, Fast Food

Inspired by the classic American diner in terms of its interior, Mano Burger is a casual eatery in the Asmalımescit neighbourhood. The menu is pretty straightforward with seven burger options that range from the simple Mano Burger (with two patties, lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and caramelised onions) to the more extravagant Ottoman Burger (with lettuce, tomatoes, halloumi cheese, caramelised onions, eggplant puree, pickles and a special sauce).

5. Numnum

Restaurant, Turkish, American, Italian, Mediterranean

One of the most popular fast food restaurants in Istanbul is Numnum. Its burger is a standout, with a patty made from local beef plus sourdough bread and fries without trans fat. Apart from the classic Hamburger and Cheeseburger, the menu also features the Louisiana Burger (with a spicy sauce, red pepper, onions, Jalapeno pepper and guacamole) and the Mushroom Swiss (with sautéed mushrooms and Emmental cheese).

6. Kızılkayalar

Restaurant, Fast Food, Turkish, Halal

The ıslak burger (moist burger) is Istanbul’s famous late night snack. Located right on Taksim Square, Kızılkayalar is popular with the city’s bar hoppers who often pop in for one (or more) islak burger and an ayran (yogurt drink) before they head home to bed. The Kızılkayalar ıslak hamburger is drenched in a special tomato sauce and then steamed for hours, resulting in a delicious burger that’s unique to Istanbul.

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