Food & Cuisine in Athens
One of the great joys of any trip to Athens, and indeed all of Greece, is the fantastic food. Athens restaurants range from traditional tavernas to high-end fusion restaurants, but all have one thing in common. All of them utilise the basics of Greek cooking, from the fresh, sun-ripened produce and spit-roasted lamb to the flavourful cheeses and lashings of hearty extra virgin olive oil.
Greek food is a delight, and there is no better place to experience the range of flavours and restaurants than Athens!
This Athens restaurant guide gives a background on eating out in Athens, as well as listing some of the better restaurants that you may wish to visit. For further information about Greek food and cuisine, check out our Greece restaurants guide. And while you're wandering through the main pedestrian zones searching for a restaurant, why not take a look at some of the interesting shops mentioned in our Athens shopping guide?
Food & Cuisine in Athens
Eating out will definitely be one of the highlights of your visit to Athens, and for very good reason - the food, wine and atmosphere of the dining scene in Athens is fantastic.
Greeks love eating out. Restaurants, for them, are not merely places to eat at. The experience of eating out is fine tuned to serve as a form of entertainment in itself. Whether they dine at an elegant restaurant or at a local tavern, Greeks believe in savouring their food. As far as eating habits go, as in other places, breakfast is usually light followed by a sumptuous lunch at midday with dinner starting late, usually at 10 pm.
Restaurants in Athens range from cosy and traditional taverns to chic and elegant diners. Tavernas are traditionally small, informal establishments run by the family, whereas Estiatorian are conventional restaurants and are expensive. Psarotavernas specialize in seafood dishes and psistarias specialize in grilled meats.
Plaka is an area most tourists will base themselves, as most of the major sights are situated close by. As such, there are a huge amount of restaurants in this district and its surrounds which are ideal for sampling Athens food and cuisine. These cover all types, from casual tavernas up to chic, high-end restaurants, and will enable you to sample an excellent cross-section of both Greek restaurants and traditional and modern Greek dishes.
Traditional tavernas are always a lot of fun, and are normally bustling little family-run places, making meals in the same style of that going back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Cosy inside, and often featuring open-air courtyards, they are laid-back, good value, and offer great food and wine. Sitting outdoors on a balmy summer night, tavernas can be quite magical, and are an authentic slice of Greek life. Ouzeries, or mezes, are a great way to sample a number of small dishes, rather than choosing one main course.
Becoming increasingly popular in the restaurant scene in Athens are the trendy, upmarket fusion restaurants, that experiment with traditional ingredients to create inventive and unusual dishes. Normally located near late-night bars, and often with DJs themselves, these ultra-chic places offer great food in a funky environment, and are the places to see and be seen in Athens. However, food is the focus, and a trio of restaurants in this mould have been awarded Michelin stars for their consistent excellence.
Local Cuisine in Athens
A typical Greek meal starts with a selection of small cold and hot hors d’oeuvres called mezedes, which are served on individual plates in the centre of the dining table. Mezedes, popularly known as mezes, have items like melitzanosalta – mashed aubergine with garlic, oil and lemon; dolmadakia – rice or meat rolled in vine leaves; kalamarakia, popular as calamari; tyropitakia – cheese wrapped in strudel leaves; and taramosalata – a Greek caviar spread. These dishes are usually served with tzatziki – a yoghurt dip that contains cucumber. Don’t miss the Greek salad, made of cucumber, tomatoes, feta, olives, onions.
Traditionally, the main course is a casserole or grilled fish with rice or potatoes. Instead of being eaten separately or served as a side dish, vegetables like peas, courgettes, artichokes, beans and carrots are cooked together and served as a stew. Greece, famous for its fresh shellfish and fish, has numerous restaurants which serve excellent seafood.
Souvlaki is a popular Greek delicacy, also known as the ‘Greek hamburger’. It is usually made using chicken, beef or pork. The cooked meat is served on round pitta bread along with lettuce, onions, tsatziki and tomatoes. Some of the souvlaki shops sell skewered meat like ground beef, known as beefteki. Swordfish souvlakis are available at numerous upmarket souvlaki outlets. Athens has a number of good souvlaki shops, which are located on Mitropoleos Street close to Monastiraki square. They provide pleasant and prompt service and the food is tasty and economical.
During the summer months fruits like grapes, peaches, melon and pears are the preferred dessert because of the warm climate. Baklava, a rich pastry made of chopped nuts, filo (pastry dough) and sweetened with honey or sugar is very popular.
The Greeks enjoy their drinks. The ancient Greeks worshipped the wine god, Dionysus. Traditionally wine has been used in festivals and ceremonies in Greece. Low rainfall and good sunshine helps to produce excellent grapes, which are used to make wine all over the Greek islands and the mainland. You can also try several other wines from the islands of Paros and Santorini, the white wines have very good quality.
Retsina, a traditional Greek wine has been around for about 3000 years. The wine gets its distinctive taste from the pine-tree-resin that it is treated with. The flavour is the result of the wine being preserved and shipped in pine-pitch sealed vessels in ancient times. Retsina now occupies pride of place as a national drink.
The other national drink, ouzo is an aniseed flavoured beverage. This beverage, mixed with ice and water, or straight like the locals, is traditionally sipped slowly and enjoyed with mezes. It is extremely popular among the tourists and locals and is readily available, at affordable prices, in shops and bars.
Frappe is a delicious Greek version of cold coffee. It is served in various ways – with or without milk, without sugar, medium sweet and very sweet. It is delicious when had with Bailey’s cream. The Greek frappe is quite unlike the frappe found in other countries.
New restaurants in Athens are opening all the time, ensuring that you will be spoiled for choice in your dining options. Listed below are some favourites that you may wish to try.
2 Mazi restaurant
2 Mazi is a Gourmet restaurant located in Syntagma near Plaka area under the Acropolis, 2 Mazi meaning the 2 together. The cuisine is a Greek Mediterannean with special plates made world renown chef Yiannis Baksevanis, and Ilias Gogos, using local plates and served in a gourmet style decoration.
Nikis 48 & Kydathinaion Tel 00302103222839 http://www.2mazi.com/index.html
Plous Podilatou is a Fish restaurant , near Pireaus, in the charming harbor of Microlimano, with view to the sea. Plous Podilatou is refered to Fodors choice, and offers menus of Fresh fish with gourmet style, and plates that play with tastes and ingredients from Greece and the Mediterranean.
Akti Koumoundourou 42, 00302104137910
Strofi restaurant is located, at the back of the Acropolis. A mid war building with an open terrace and view to the Parthenon and the Odeon theatre. Many celebrities have tastes the specialties of the Strofi restaurant. It is also a very romantic place the night with view to the illuminated Acropolis.
Rovertou Galli 25 Tel 2109214130 http://www.strofi.gr/index.php?lang=eng
Butcher restaurant is located in Gazy, a student area, living only the night. You can have dinner in Butcher restaurant, a place where you will eat the best meat in Athens, with simple plates but delicious tastes. The restaurant serves Masticha at the end, a Greek digestive from the island of Chios.
19 Persefonis Tel 00302103414040
Ariston Bakery is one of the oldest bakery in Athens, making pastries and light lunch Breaded cheese called Tiropita. You will find also many other quick eat plates her, to take out and eat in the street, like the sweet Bougatsa from Thessaloniki, and other pastries.
10 Voulis street
Serbetia is located in Psiri area, in a descret are behind the square. The perfect place to taste a dessert of Greek and oriental tastes, like the Ekmek, the Baklava, or the Kataigi, with the companion of some Raki, Masticha liquor, or Greek coffee.
3 Aischiliou street Tel 00302103245862
Brettos is renowed Internationaly, and articles can be found in the Guardian and the National Geographic. It is the 2nd oldest brewery in Europe, since 1909 the owner is selling liqueur of many types and other types of alcohol and Greek wines, ouzo, masticha, but also some Olive Oil, and Wine from its own production. The bar has an impressive decoration of hundreds of bottles with many colors along the walls.
41 Kydathinenon Athens Tel 00302103232110 http://www.brettosplaka.com/index.php/history
Daphne's reatsutant is one of the most famous restaurant, where you had many foreign politicians, like Clinton and Jospin, and probably the most published restaurant in Plaka , from Financial time, to Elite Traveler magazine and Gournet magazine. Daphne’s is a charming cosy and warm place with stone walls and wall paintings. The restaurant serves Greek kitchen.
Lisikratous 4 Tel 00302103227971 http://www.daphnesrestaurant.gr/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
Electra restaurant is located in Plaka area inside Electra Palace hotel. In the 5th floor. It’s view on Acropolis and the Parthenon are majestic. It has won reward from the Greek gourmet contest more than once. The Electra Roof Garden is open only for dinner and serving Greek cuisine.
18 Nikodimou street Tel 00302103241401 http://www.electrahotels.gr/dining/7