Visitors often use Izmir as a launch point to get to the famous ruins at Ephesus, but don’t think that means you should overlook this city on the Aegean sea. Its location makes it ideal for great seafood and the unique Mediterranean flavors of Turkish cuisine are vibrant and delicious. From traditional savory dishes to delectable sweets and even international fare, Izmir has it all. Here are our top picks for dining in Izmir.
Located a short distance outside of the heart of Izmir, Akinin Yeri is definitely not to be missed. Enjoy the drive, as you pass gorgeous coastal views, and prepare yourself for what may be one of the best meals you have ever had. This restaurant has been heralded as the best seafood restaurant in Izmir, and even in all of Turkey by some reviewers. The menu is centered around the bounty that is available to the seaside restaurant, and changes to reflect the freshest offerings of the day. It can be busy at times, yet service is always friendly and the food remains consistently amazing.
Right in the middle of all of the action of Izmir, this top notch seafood restaurant has made a well-deserving name for itself. Deniz Restaurant opened in 1981, and has been one of Izmir’s go to restaurants ever since. The atmosphere is elegant, but not at all stuffy and the restaurants placement over the water offers stunning views over the Aegean Sea. Visit for dinner and snag a table on the veranda while the sun goes down, it is an unforgettable experience. Your meal will most likely start with traditional bread and olives, then go for mezze, or various appetizers like grilled eggplant, stuffed zucchini blossoms, and octopus salad. Then try the grilled sea bass or branzino for your entree. The fish is always fresh, and cooked to perfection.
For something a little bit different than the local fare, visit Cafe La Cigale. Often categorized as a French restaurant, it actually offers a variety of cuisines. The feel of the restaurant is inviting and open, with high ceilings, and playful lighting. In fact, La Cigale actually sits on the garden site of the French Cultural Institute, which adds to the overall relaxing and inviting atmosphere. On the menu, you can find a classic French cheese plate or Niçois salad, alongside Italian risottos or pastas, or go for something really out of the ordinary like a Chinese-inspired noodle dish. With an eye for international flair, and being just steps away from the most popular sites and areas of Izmir, this dining spot is an excellent choice.
Mavra Restaurant is located at the intersection of two busy streets, it may be easy to miss. However, a stop in to Mavra will be well worth your time. Starting with the traditional mezze is an absolute must here, as the recipes are always authentic and on point. After that, both fish and meat options are available for entrees. Be sure to try the grilled octopus as it’s the house specialty and always a favorite of guests.
The Turkish pastanesi is similar to a pastry shop, or café. The atmosphere is casual, and there are typically no menus, just a selection of bakery and small items in a display case. Reyhan Pastanesi is the perfect place for breakfast, a light meal, or an indulgent snack. The interior of Reyhan is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the stomach. The pastry case is filled with some of the most beautifully prepared and decorated pastries you may ever see. From profiteroles and tarts to cakes and cookies, there is more than enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. For a less sugar filled light meal, order a coffee or tea and a house made croissant.
Pizza is not naturally a Turkish food, but Ristorente Pizzeria Venedik has made it just that. This unique restaurant combines the beloved Italian staple with Turkish ingredients and flavors, making a dining experience that is all its own. Of course, you’ll find must have classics like the margherita pizza, and a pizza with prosciutto and cheese, but the Turkish pizza adds regional flair, with Turkish sausage, bacon, and eggs. Also, because Izmir is a city by the sea, a seafood pizza is featured, with shrimp, mussels, and tuna. Though it’s an unexpected ingredient combination for a pizza, it’s worth a try. Ristorente Pizzeria Venedik is like a little bite of Italy, a thousand miles away.
Part pastry shop, candy store, and ice cream parlor, Rumeli Pastanesi has been said to be the best Pastanesi shop in all of Izmir. The shop’s biggest draw is probably its dondurma, or ice cream, though to be fair, dondurma is very different from ice cream, or even gelato. The addition of a thickening agent creates an almost chewy texture, that is almost like a soft taffy. Add to that flavors like pistachio, rose water, lemon, or orange, and you have the perfect treat to cool down a hot day. Of course, you can opt for the traditional strong Turkish coffee with a cookie instead. Or get both. We won’t tell anyone.
Sevinc Pastanesi is a wonderful place to slow down, relax, and just enjoy a day. Make friends with some locals while they give you a recommendation, or just people watch. The Pastanesi has been a part of Izmir’s dining scene for over 70 years, which is long enough to prove that it’s doing something right. Beyond the luscious pastries, Sevinc also offers a large variety of teas. Try the apple tea, a specialty that tastes fresh and not too sweet. The pavlova with berries and the chocolate cake with crumbled pistachios are especially delicious.
If you’ve had your fill of fresh seafood in Izmir and are ready for something a bit more meaty, head to Tavaci Recap Usta. This restaurant offers the opportunity to try the hearty dishes of traditional Turkish cuisine. Succulent lamb is prepared numerous ways and beef dishes like meatballs and skewers are always fan favorites. The puffy bread that is served with each meal is perfectly warm and pillowy, and makes a great side to any entree. Tavaci Recap Usta also has a large outdoor patio that is a lovely place to spend an evening on a good weather day.
Simply put, Yengec Restaurant is just a beautiful dining experience. Sitting on the edge of the water, housed in a 150-year old stone building, the atmosphere is romantic and special from the get go. Upon entering, the staff create a feeling that is warm and friendly. It’s almost as if you are joining them for an intimate family meal. The menu is crafted around traditional recipes and the highest quality of ingredients. Of course, seafood plays a prominent role, with over 22 varieties offered, and all of them served the same day they are caught. The menu at Yengec is seasonally-driven, and changes frequently to reflect the very best ingredients.