17 Awesome Greek Food Experiences in Athens
There are many awesome Greek food experiences to have in Greece. From slow-baked traditional meals, grilled meat served without plates, strong spirits to exotic desserts — Athens has it all!
*Updated April 2017
Best Greek Food Experiences to Have
One of the plus points to expat living in Greece is appreciating the beautiful food culture where people value authentic recipes and simple, fresh ingredients. I think this is why Greek food, and Mediterranean food, is so popular. Not only is it healthy – it’s delightfully delicious.
As a professional food and travel writer based here, I must say that I love my job. Reviewing restaurants, trying new dishes and sipping great wine – someone has to do it! Greece has proven to be great stomping grounds for these experiences.
Awesome Greek Food Experiences
If you love Greek food or you are willing to try more than just the Greek gyro, I have compiled this list of awesome Greek food experiences you can have here when you visit Greece. I also suggest eateries in the city I know best – where I live – Athens.
Magirefta: Greek Home Cooking
Magirefta is slow-cooked food just the way a Greek mom would cook it!
Okay, women and men love to cook here. In fact, Stef cooks way more (umm… 100 percent) than me. In Greece, there are plenty of amazing slow-cooked and baked dishes that are considered comfort foods.
I have come to love, for instance, arakas which are slow-cooked green peas in tomato sauce. Moussaka (pictured above) is a slow-baked meat, eggplant and cheese casserole.
Where to find excellent slow-cooked dishes in Athens:
One of the top Greek restaurants in Athens is Mana’s Kouzina-Kouzina, known for the quality of the food and the value for money.
The daytime menu specializes in these slow-cooked dishes, served cafeteria style. The variety of plates change seasonally and hail from all over Greece so you get a bit of a food tour of the country. More than moussaka – but that is always available – and it is the best I have had!
At night it morphs into an a la carte restaurant with a special evening menu featuring dishes influenced by different regions and products of Greece. Another plus, it is in a non-touristic yet very central square of the Athens: Plateia Agia Irini/St. Irene Square.
It is my favorite traditional Greek restaurant in Athens.
Another one of the awesome Greek food experiences to have is sampling delicious meze or mezedes.
They are a selection of hot and cold dishes, similar to appetizers or the famous Spanish tapas. Order a few of these and share them. It’s best to drink some ouzo or a traditional Greek spirit with them. Some include dolmadakia (grape vine leaves stuffed with rice), keftedes (Greek style meatballs), grilled or stewed octopus and vegetable fritters.
Greek dips also fall under this category such as skordalia (garlic and bread or potatoes), tzatziki (yogurt-cucumber-garlic), melitzanasalata (eggplant), fava (yellow split pea puree) and taramasalata (fish roe).
Mezes can be ordered at Greek restaurants and tavernas. Perhaps at some point you just want to try a whole bunch at a true mezedopolieo (restaurant specializing in meze).
Where to find excellent meze in Athens:
Kapetan Mixalis (Fidiou 6) in the center of Athens is a favorite meze place for locals.
Who needs plates? When you go for a ladokolla meal you will be served hot meat, grilled cheese and french fries on waxed paper. It’s an informal way of enjoying Greece’s grilled specialties.
Where to eat ladokolla “plates” in Athens:
There’s a non-touristy place tucked in the neighborhood of Kesariani called Ladokolla (Immitou 46).
Souvlaki or the plural – souvlakia – is the Greek fast food. You can order kalamakia which consist of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer.
You can order a gyro which you probably have had at a Greek gyro place in your home country. If you haven’t heard of it, the gyro is a handful of tasty Greek meat tightly wrapped in a large pita with garnishes and sauces.
Souvlaki is very economical too. A skewer ranges from €1 – €2 and you can get a whole tasty delicious gyro with the fixins for less than €3. Instead of pizza night, families here have souvlaki night!
Where to have souvlakia in Athens:
A famous and classic souvlaki place, although located in highly touristic Monastiraki square, is Thanassis Kebab.
In Kolonaki, my neighborhood, I like Kalamaki Kolonaki (Ploutarchou 32). They serve nice grilled turkey patties too.
Kostas (Pentelis 5) near Syntagma is the best in souvlaki in Athens. Note that it isn’t open at night and there may be long lines during the day!
If you would like to sit in an authentic Greek neighborhood and enjoy good souvlakia head to Piotita Paliakis (Varnava Square 11/Plateia Varnava 11).
Every neighborhood has a few Greek tavernas. These family-run, informal Greek restaurants serve typical dishes. Sometimes there is traditional Greek music, which livens up the atmosphere especially as people dance and sing out loud.
Find an authentic Greek taverna meal and atmosphere in Athens:
Klimataria has a lively authentic taverna experience. It is located in a non-touristic part of town. Visiting foodies do find it though! Another non-touristic place which is simple and quality is To Kati Allo (Chatzichristou 12) near the Acropolis.
The traditional Greek deli experience is one of the amazing Greek food experiences you can have.
The Greek deli derives from the Byzantine pastomageireio which is a tavern and deli conveniently located in one spot. Greek delicatessens, like in other cultures, offer a colorful feast of colors and smells for the senses, featuring the best of local cheese and cold cuts.
Where to experience the Greek deli in Athens:
There have been a few new openings in town (the latest food trend) but the best in my view Ta Karamanlidika Tou Fani in Monastiraki is the best.
Gourmet Greek Food
There are some pretty amazing gourmet restaurants in Greece. Some of the chefs have become celebrities. My favorite is Varoulko, a beautiful Michelin-starred seafood restaurant in Piraeus.
Where to Reserve a Table:
I also recommend Orizontes which has the most amazing view of the city from its coveted spot on Lycabettus Hill – and of course, nice gourmet choices.
If you are dining in the Athens Riviera, I recommend Ithaki for the sea view and the gourmet dishes.
Enjoying Greek seafood in Greece is one of the amazing food experiences you can have.
Seafood dishes feature quality fresh and local ingredients. There are many variations. Sometimes fish can be topped with spices and herbs. Usually, a side of extra-virgin olive oil and fresh wedges of lemon are part of the meal.
I especially love the fish dishes lambraki (sea bass) and bakaliaro (fried cod). I also love fried calamari and octopus either stewed or grilled. Simple yet so tasty.
Where to enjoy Greek seafood in Athens:
Naturally, the best seafood places are in Piraeus, the capital’s port city, and along the Athens Riviera. If you are looking for an authentic neighborhood taverna that is off the beaten path and loved by locals check out Kapileio O Zaxos (Komotinis 37) in Piraeus.
Also in Pireaus, Margaro (M. Chatzikiriakou 126) is a nice choice especially if you love shrimp.
For gourmet seafood, the aforementioned Varoulko and Ithaki are both excellent choices.
Greece is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world. Today the Greek wine industry features excellent producers that have taken the Greek varieties to international markets, earning much deserved rewards.
Athens has a handful of excellent wine bars to sample these wines. My favorite is the white wine called Moschofilero.
Where to drink Greek wine in Athens:
Check out my post: Top 10 Wine Bars in Athens.
If you have time for a day trip, visit a scenic Greek winery. Check out my post: Greek Wine and Cooking Class: Domaine Costa Lazaridi.
Wine is one of the awesome Greek food experiences you can have in Athens and Greek spirits are another. In Greece, Greek spirits are strong, tasteful and are meant to be sipped slowly as you enjoy some tasty meze (brings out the flavor of the food) and chat among friends.
You may have heard of ouzo or raki. These anise flavored liquors are served in small glass bottles and poured into oversized shot glasses. Other popular ones to try are rakomelo (honey infused raki), masticha (mastic flavored liquor) and citron (citrus infused liquor).
Also, you rarely will find drunk people in Greece enjoying their Greek spirits. You’d typically see people happy and dancing people enjoying the drinks with food and company. That’s the Greek spirit. No pun intended.
Where to drink Greek spirits in Athens:
Check the suggestions I wrote about on the aforementioned meze Greek food experience to combine meze with Greek spirits.
Also, a nice and atmospheric bar-type place to sample Greek spirits is Bretto’s in Plaka, famous for their selection of spirits. It is the oldest distillery in the city.
If you have a sweet tooth, Greek desserts will be one one of the best Greek food experiences you’ll have in Greece. The zaharoplasteio is a part of Greek life! It is a Greek dessert and sweet shop, and the word literally translates to sugar workshop.
Greeks like their cakes creamy, almost like pudding. There are also a variety of exotic type desserts like kataifi which is a unique pastry like baklava. My all-time favorite is galaktoboureko which is a sweet milk custard pie. I also enjoy the Greek variation on apple pie called milopita. Also try the very traditional Greek spoon sweets. Pictured below and often served on thick and creamy Greek yoghurt.
Where to indulge in Greek desserts in Athens:
Definitely go to Nancy’s Sweet Home in Psirri. This is the most famous dessert café in the heart of Athens, and rightfully so.
Another good option is Lukumades in St. Irene Square/Plateia Agia Irini in Monastiraki. Near the aforementioned Manas Kouzina-Kouzina. They serve loukoumades, the traditional Greek fried doughnut balls topped with cinnamon and honey but you can also order them with all types of modern twists – stuffed with chocolate, with a scoop of rich ice cream or drizzled with delicious hazelnut syrup.
There is an incredible coffee culture in Greece. People sit over coffee for hours, and enjoy the world passing by. It’s just different here. It’s lovely! You should try it. The issue is which coffee to order.
The traditional Greek coffee is a strong brew. It’s best when it is prepared the traditional way – in a briki – which takes more time. It is served with foam on top and the grounds in the bottom of the cup.
If you are not about that type of coffee, you can also go for cold coffees such as the Greek frappe. The frappe is a Greek foam-covered iced coffee drink made from instant coffee. It is too strong for me but some places make it decaf. Another option you can only get in Greece is the freddo cappuccino which is espresso topped with frothy milk and also served cold over ice. If you don’t like milk in your coffee go for the freddo espresso.
Where to drink Greek coffee in Athens:
More Greek Food Experiences: Consider This
Athens Central Market
In Athens, visit the dimotiki agora or the Central Market on Athinas street in Monastiraki. It is a “crazy” kind of place. Full of noises, smells and colors — a true foodie feast for the senses. Tip/Warning: If you are sensitive to seeing animal carcasses, this market may not be for you.
Local Farmers’ Market
To add to related awesome Greek food experiences, visit the laiki (farmer’s market) that blocks a neighborhood street every week. Kolonaki has one each Friday on Xenokratous street from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Greek Street Food
Try Greek street food. We’re talking about koulourakia, bread rings sold on the street and and pites which are savory pies.
Greek Gastronomy Tours
Take a Greek wine or food tour. For more, check out my earlier posts: Discovering Greek Wines tour with Discover Greek Culture. Athens Insiders can take you on a journey of fantastic Greek beers. Culinary Backstreets has a culturally minded food tour.
Awesome Greek Food Experiences
Have you ever had any of these awesome Greek food experiences in Greece or anywhere else in the world? Would you add anything to this list? Feel free to comment in the comment box below!
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