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Oct 27, 2006 06:39 PM

Philly Phoodies in Athens

In mid November my wife and I will be on holiday in Athens on our first visit to Greece. Food and wine are a key part of our travels so I am looking forward to comments and suggestions from the experts on this site. We do not speak Greek, but have survived in the past in areas where we did not speak the local language (we will learn key phrases like please, thank you, where is the bathroom, and red or white wine). Fortunately the rest of the world is bilingual to make up for our shortcomings. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to visit the US and not be able to speak English.

We are interested in a range of experiences from gourmet white tablecloth to local picnic table. I will eat just about anything, but my wife is not quite as adventurous (stays away from shellfish and octopus) but is a real trooper. We will be staying in the Plaka area. If I do not count the first evening due to jet lag, we have six nights for dinner. I have identified the following possible restaurants.

• 48 The Restaurant
• Aristera-Dexia
• Varoulko
• Daphne’s
• Spondi (Or should we follow the chef to Jérôme Serres)
• Hytra

• Mamacas
• Taverna Tou Psiri
• O Thannassis
• Orizontes Lykavittou (Is the view worth it?)
• GB Corner (Is the old time hotel service and view worth it?)

Do you agree or have better suggestions or comments?

We are also planning a day trip out to Hydra. Any taverna’s open for lunch worth trying?

Do we need lunch or dinner reservations this time of the year? (Last year we stopped for lunch at a great tapas bar (Taktika-Berri) in Barcelona on a Tuesday and even arrived early, but they were fully booked. Fortunately we were able to sample the food at the bar.

Thanks for your input.

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  1. I'm not going to give you very many specific restaurant recs but I was there this summer and can tell you what made our meals memorable. Because I was travelling with 3 people who would not eat meat (fish, yes, but no shellfish, chicken or red meat) we usually made our meals a selection of mezes. It was an outstanding way to sample many different tastes and cooking styles and we found some wonderful dishes we might not have otherwise tried. We also discovered that the key to good taverna food was the taramasalata. If that was well prepared - not too pink, delicately flavoured - the rest of the dishes were probably going to also be good.

    If you have the time and money is no object, you might want to try Dourambeis in Piraeus for really excellent fresh fish. It's very close to metro, so easily reached without a taxi. The food is seriously excellent but the fish was really quite pricey (in my humble opinion). Their house salad is something I still dream about.

    Other restaurants we tried - less expensive, probably more lunchy choices for you - were Psara Taverna in the Plaka, which was pretty good and Byzantino (also called Visantino) also in the Plaka. Both reasonable and with decent food. We spent most of our time on the islands, so our other food experiences don't apply to your question.

    Have a great time.

    1. I liked O Thannasis. Their pita was amazing, although the meet was just eh. The place across the "street" is good too, but for some reason I they didn't put tzatziki in mine. weird.

      And yes I always recommend Taverna tou Psiri so I won't go on about it again. Just ask what's cooked that day and endulge.

      For loukomathes (think Greek doughnuts covered in honey, cinnamon, and walnuts), you should go to Krinos, which has been there for over 80 years. Definetly old school Greek. It's close to the plaka, very close to the Meat Market. Just ask anyone over 50 where to find it, and they will take you. Anyone under 50 isn't in the know, unfortunately...

      Something you might want to take into account:

      The wealthiest, old money parts of Athens are around the northern suburbs, like Marousi, and especially Kifisia. You might find more "high end" Greek food around there, which is far from the Plaka. The plaka is more or less a touristy area, and not much more. As far as restaurant recs in Kifisia, etc area, I don't know what is great.

      You might want to check out Zagats guide to Top European restaurants. Michelin also has a Top European Cities guide which includes Athens. That might be of interest.

      1. I like Maritsa's in the Kolonaki district of Athens. Upscale preparations of Greek classics. Also for roast lamb, a side trip to Vari outside of Athens is a must. The main road there is lined with psistarias, essentially Greek BBQ places that specialize in roast lamb.