What: Pronounced “lah-mah-joon,” these super thin, crisp rounds are traditionally topped with minced seasoned lamb or beef, cooked quickly in brick ovens, and served with lemon wedges and a little salad: parsley, tomato, onion. Popular across Turkey, it’s often called Turkish pizza, but it’s more like flatbread, really, that you can roll up if you wish—a light, savory snack that’s as satisfying as it is simple. Like pizza, however, not all lahmacun are created equal, fresh-to-order goes a long way—and please, put the fork and knife away.
Where: Of all the lahmacun we tried, we liked the specimen at longtime locals’ favorite Halil Lahmacun (216-337-0123; Güneşlibahçe Sokak No. 26/A, map), in Kadıköy on the Anatolian side, the best. Open since 1980, the small restaurant resembles a pizza parlor with its mirrored wall, narrow counter seating, and open prep area, behind which the homemade dough is rolled out, topped, and gently shoveled into a brick oven for about 45 seconds.
Good to know: Halil is very close to Çiya Sofrasi, a lokanta widely celebrated for its daily-changing spreads of regional Turkish cuisine and a must-make pilgrimage for food lovers. If you attempt both in the same afternoon, plan on a walking tour of Kadıköy in between!
When: Daily, 11:30am-11pm
Order: Lahmacun goes for 5 TL a pop here, and if you’re hungry you could probably do with more than one (or try the other thing on the menu: peynirli pide, pita-like dough stuffed with cheese and parsley, then baked). Paper-thin and topped with a beguilingly simple mix of finely minced lamb, tomato, parsley, and onion, this lahmacun managed to be both crispy and doughy, perfectly chewy and fresh-tasting. The smallest squeeze of lemon only enhanced the bright flavors. We loved it. Pair it with an ayran or şalgam (a tart, fermented red-carrot juice).
Alternatively: We also liked İsmail Usta Taksim (212-252-3487; Sıraselviler Cad./Hocazade Sokak No.7, map) in Beyoğlu, where the thin, crispy lahmacun was served with a lovely little salad of chopped tomato, white onion, red cabbage, parsley, and lemon. As for other star lahmacuns in a city full of them (beware the premade lahmacun!), we defer to the Istanbul Eats crew, who, along with Halil, recommends Borsam Taşfırın (216-349-4323; multiple locations including Serasker Cad. No.78, map), also in Kadıköy, and Fıstık Kebap (212-263-5884; 1. Cad. No. 40, map), in Arnavutköy, located near the Bosphorus in Beşiktaş. For a slightly more upscale take (if the tuxedoed waiters are any indication), follow Anthony Bourdain’s lead and check out Tatbak (Akkavak Sokak No. 28/A, map) in Nişantaşı; we hear from Istanbul Food that the garlic lahmacun is a winner.