Istanbul'sBeyoglu district to the north of the Golden Horn has plenty of variety:
Haci Baba (tel +90-212-244-1886), Istiklal Caddesi 49 a block southwest of Taksim Square, is a longtime favorite with glassed-in terrace tables overlooking the pleasant courtyard of the Greek Orthodox Church next door. The long menu has all sorts of delicious Turkish specialties, which you can also choose by simply going to the kitchen for a look. Lunch or dinner costs US$10 to US$20 per person with wine or beer. Nature & Peace, Büyükparmakkapi Sokak 21 off Istiklal Caddesi has good New Age food (including some vegetarian) served in cozy, candlelit surroundings, for about US$10 per meal (closed Sunday).
Hala, on Çukurlu Çesme Sokak (around the corner at the far end of Büyükparmakkapi Sokak), specializes in Turkish ravioli (manti) and has village women in the front window rolling out the thin dough with broomstick rolling pins as you watch. The manti, served with a light yogurt sauce, is authentic and delicious, which is why most of the patrons here are locals, not tourists.
Haci Abdullah (tel +90-212-293-8561), a half block northwest off Istiklal Caddesi at Sakizagaci Caddesi 17, is among the city's famous old dining places. The ambience is bright and lively rather than quiet and dark, the Turkish food is delicious, but no alcoholic beverages are served. This is a great place for women traveling alone to dine undisturbed. A full meal with soft drink or juice costs US$9 to US$15.
Çiçek Pasaji, Istiklal Caddesi 172, is a long narrow courtyard within a historic building. The courtyard is lined with restaurants offering good food (including seafood) for rather high prices, with unexpected mystery price mark-ups not unknown. It's the place many Turks bring first-time foreign visitors to Istanbul.
Nevizade Sokak, off Sahne Sokak near the Çiçek Pasaji, is chock full of meyhanes (Turkish tavernas) serving excellent food and copious booze at outdoor tables in a bright, active, noisy atmosphere. It's great fun with a Turkish friend, though a bit daunting without. It's really a friendly scene, women are welcomed, and the waiters will do their best to include you. After a few minutes you're certain to have made some new friends among the Turkish and foreign diners.
Your Nevizade Sokak dinner may be the most memorable of your entire Turkish trip. Choose any restaurant. If you're stumped, try Asirli, Boncuk, Çaglar, Kadri'nin Yeri, or Imroz.
Order several plates of meze (Turkish hors d'oeuvres and salads), then a main course of meat or fish, and dessert if you have room. With white wine or raki (grape brandy flavored with anise), you may pay US$10 to US$15 per person for a full meat dinner with drinks, or up to twice that much for seafood (ask fish prices before you order!)
Dört Mevsim ("Four Seasons;" tel +90-212-293-3941), Istiklal Caddesi 509, near Tünel Square, has offered excellent Turkish and continental dishes and service for 30 years. With old-time decor and a guitar and violin duo most evenings, it's great for a romantic last-night-in-Istanbul dinner. The fixed menu lunch (noon to 3 pm) is a bargain at US$10; dinner (US$20 to US$25 per person) is served from 6 pm to midnight; closed Sunday.