My love affair with Greece started after I fell in love with a Greek. Lets just say, he swept me off my feet after he cooked me the best seafood dish I have ever had in my life. This started my quest for the next best meal every time I visit Greece. My appetite for Greek food has become insatiable.
Before I arrived in Athens, I was already dreaming of the mussels Saganaki I had in a tavern in Mykonos on our last trip. Since I couldn’t wait 3-4 hours in a ferry to Mykonos, we drove off to Varkiza, a suburb in Athens 22 kms. from the city. This used to be a fisherman’s village but now it’s a popular beach destination. From the two known fish taverns there, we chose Kastelorizo.
I must admit, after many years I only know very few greek words, although I am proud to say I can read a greek menu very well (the pictures help too!).
Words that pop out in the menu for me are:
1. Htapothi sti skhara – Octopus on the grill
2. Mithia se lefko krasi – Mussels in white wine
3. Garides saganaki – Shrimp with feta and tomatoes (my favorite)
For this trip, my welcome meal was the Mussels cooked in white wine, and Makaronia me karavides (pasta with crawfish). The seafood was so fresh I can taste the Aegean sea!
Another recommendation for good traditional fish taverns is in Mikrolimano, Piraeus. Piraeus is the busy port area of Athens and Mikrolimano is only a few yacht-studded coves over. There are many restaurants to pick from for seafood lovers and meat eaters here but the real feast is for the eyes with the picturesque harbor coves of Piraeus.
Of course no trip to Greece is complete without a visit to my favorite souvlaki restaurant Thanassis in Monasteraki in down town Athens. Souvlaki transates to little souvla, which means grilling on a little spit (or barbecue). Souvlaki is served with bread or in (or on) a pitta wrap. Thanassis a perfect stop over after the hike to the Acropolis, and before shopping in Plaka where you can find merchants selling souvenirs. I have tried many souvlaki restaurants but Thanassis for me is the best souvlaki in Athens.
One of the thrills I have while traveling is finding restaurants that are tucked away from the touristy areas. I’ve learned my lesson in the past when I used to go to disappointing restaurants near the tourist attractions claiming to serve authentic dishes. In my travels now, I always try do some research online and ask the locals where to go for the real deal in their cuisine. A dear friend from Greece, took us to Artemida which is in the East coast of Attica. This charming restaurant called Xypolitos, meaning barefoot, suits its name. I wanted to take my shoes off as soon I sat in the blue chairs with matching blue tables that matched the color of the sea. The charm of Greek taverns is the simple and informal setting that allows you to focus on good food and good conversation.
We were immediately made to feel at home, as we were welcomed by the owners of this family run restaurant. Xypolitos is a traditional fish tavern which offers whatever the fresh catch of the day is. The dishes were simple yet my taste buds were stimulated. I’m told; the secrets to the best Greek food are the freshest ingredients, their really good olive oil and the passion and love of food of the cook.
What makes this experience even more enjoyable was that I shared it with family and friends while watching the Aegean sunset.
I hope what I shared will help inspire your future travels.
all photos taken with an iPhone