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Aug 17, 2014 05:32 PM
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Athens - Regional/ Traditional Restaurant & Food Recommendations?

Heading from NYC/Philly to Athens with 2 foodie friends for four days at the beginning of September. Unfortunately staying in the tourist zone just west of Syntagma Square and want to escape (or find hidden gems)for meals.

Any recommendations for non-touristy, casual, traditional/somewhat traditional Greek restaurants with excellent food?

Also: Street food vendors, market food stalls?

Any help of what is GREAT RIGHT NOW in Athens would be much appreciated.

MORE INFO:
-We eat everything and have no dietary restrictions.
-We don't mind a long walk, metro ride or a taxi ride...
-Ambiance and service are less than secondary to us. Great food is essential.
-We are not interested in fine dining on this trip. We are interested in casual dining (or standing room to eat a souvlaki) only.
-Our focus is on regional/tradtional cuisine but we would not want to miss an amazing modern/innovative casual restaurant.
-Have been reading about the Cretan restaurant trend...
-Saw antman's posts from 2012 http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8709... and am wondering if any of those are still excellent.
-Would love to find a wonderful, simple seafood restaurant...could be near Piraeus or elsewhere...

I am already curious about whether these are STILL great (IF THEY EVER WERE):
-Kostas – Souvlaki - Pentelis 5, Plaka/Syntagma
-Kriti – Cretan food - Veranzerou 5, Kanigos Square
- Karavitis – Meat-focused old-school taverna - Pafsaniou 4, Pagrati
- Triantafilo tis Nostimias - Lekka 22, Downtown
- Strofi – tourist zone near Acropolis museum, touristy restaurant with allegedly good food and great view from terrace.
- Mavro Provato - Arrianou 31, Pagrati – was this ever great? Reviews are really conflicting…
- Melitotos – Kalamiotou 19, Monastiraki – did this move and go downhill?
- Yiantes – Still great? Valtetsiou 44, Exarchia – Still/ever great?

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  1. Hi Carolina, how did your trip go, and do you have any recommendations?

    5 Replies
    1. re: gtravels

      Hi.
      The trip was WONDERFUL.
      We wish we had done a few things differently in Athens food-wise but I am glad to have an excuse to go back.
      See attached pdf notes for Athens / Kokkoni Beach / Santorini recommendations.

      1. re: Carolina2

        hmmm... either I am doing something wrong, or your PDF didn't make it. Any chance you can post the Athens notes as a reply? Many thanks if you can!

        1. re: gtravels

          Apologies. I guess the PDF got censored somehow. Text copied below. Hope it's not too late:

          August 31st – September 15th, 2015 – Greece Trip – Notes on Food and Other

          ----------------------------------------------
          ATHENS:
          Loved:
           The New Hotel (great breakfast, very, very nice food at the roof top restaurant…hotel prices but excellent/worth it, Barbara at the front desk was beyond helpful…rec’d a lot good restaurants that we missed/ found out later we should have gone to, her husband is a chef)
           Athens Walks food tour with Kostas (3 of us/ private, street food and other local places a little outside the Plaka).
           Walking around off-beat neighborhoods.
           Anafiotikia restaurant in Anafiotika
           Drinking coffee and Ouzo with greek 20-somethings / students in the outdoor seating / in the shade/ on the hill near the above.

          Liked:
           Cafe Avissinia in Monastiraki for lunch after the Acropolis and Agora – traditional mezze, vesene beef iberica?
           Melitotos – some orders great/ not all.
           Mani-Mani (aka Manh Manh) – Barbara and Kostas rec’d
           Strofi - Decent to good food, depending on what you order. Amazing view of Acropolis. Nice quiet neighborhood. Easy/nice walk from the Plaka. Greek families were eating there along with tourists…we were there in early September/the beginning of the off-season. Reserve and reserve on the roof, ask for a view though they cannot promise…We went a bit earlier than our already early 7pm res (1st night there/night flight jet lag…) and got a dream table.

          Not amazing:
           The central market - sad and run down compared to visiting markets in Istanbul, Rungis, Tokyo etc. Kostas of Athens Walks took us to some interesting street food/ little take out places near by / amazing coffee etc. though.
           Would be wonderful if the city could find a way to make the market what it apparently used to be.
           Still worth a quick visit though…

          Recommended restaurants / street food we did NOT get to:
           Kostas Souvlaki on Agias Irinis (the other souvlaki in the Plakalooked really cheesy) – Kostas is less traditional but excellent?
           Oraia Ellas – some said it’s excellent, others did not.
           Tiatsas in the meat market for tripe soup, pastitsio, dolmades
           Marvo Provato – may have gone down hill / conflicting info.
           Yiantes – has gone down hill according to some.
           Hatsis sweet shop on Mitropoleos in Syntagma – rec’d by Persophone’s garden
           Rakaki / Pakaki in Kesariani – Cretan cuisine – dakos, apaki, snails (khohlee bourbouristi), green beans, staka me avga
           Koulouri from lady w/ big white on Omirou street btw Panepistimiou/Sadiou nr Hondos Center store. Sells out by 12:30PM. Syntagma kolouri all come from the same bakery…ask for crisp ones.
           Tzitzikas and Mermiagas – Mitropoleos Street, cheese balls, aubergine balls, salad, spice cheese dip – Barbara’s rec.
           Kuzina – overrated?
           Thanassis – Overrated?
           I Kriti – mixed reviews, sounded good anyway/ would have gone if time had allowed.
           Kit Aristos – Glyfada - for souvlaki - Kostas’ rec
           Aleria – Garden/posh
           Karavitis – overrated?
           Taxidevonatas – Kerastini - orange pie – found on Culinary Backstreets. Kostas verified it’s good / proprietor’s name is Theodore?
           Pbox- Kifisia/khoisia – upscale but casual, fusion – Greek/ Cypriot international cuisine?
           Hatzis – Piraeus – also, Turkish baklava, Turkei sweetbread. – Barbara’s rec
           Vasilenas – Peiraias – closed Mon – Barbara’s rec
           Hyperokeanio in Pireus – Sardines on toast, fried calamari, barbounia, fresh octopus – Barbara’s rec

          Other:
           The Culinary Backstreets tour sounded wonderful but $$$...likely worth it though.
           In Persephone’s Garden blog had some nice articles/ info.
           Go to the Acropolis at an off hour for sure.
           The Agora was quiet and peaceful even when the Acropolis was mobbed.
           National Archaeological Museum
           Delphi Day Trip – Epikouvros Restaurant - Took bus trip to the oracle of Delphi hired by hotel and that was fine because it was easier than driving and we had lots of time at the site. When the bus stopped for lunch in the town of Delphi, we declined to eat with the group and hoofed it through town and found this spot that someone in Athens had mentioned. It was completely empty/ the off season and we were nervous about trying it. They were super nice, made a fast meal for us, and everything was fresh, delicious, and nicely prepared. The view was spectacular. Everyone else had a miserable meal.

          ----------------------------------------------
          KOKKONI (Kokkoni Beach nr Corinth (simple, low-budget, pebbly but beautiful, family beach, great base for touring antiquities…or having an inexpensive but wonderful destination wedding like my cousin did…everyone could join, rich or poor, the hotel rooms were like $40 a night).

          Loved
           Miscellaneous beach “shack” type restaurants – anything that did not look fancy was great.
           Nafpoli day trip
          Pantazi’s – Nafpoli, near big parking lot near water - Souvlaki sandwich. Looks like a tourist trap. Was excellent.
          Farmer’s market was incredible – highly recommended.
          Wonderful stroll through non-tourist part of town…stopped at random bakeries, tasted things, no idea what I ate, etc.
           Epidaurus day trip
           Mycanea day trip
           Melagavi Lighthouse/ swimming/hiking day trip, stop at Canal at Corinth

          ----------------------------------------------
          SANTORNI
          Loved
          - Taverna Glaros – Outdoor restaurant near Akrotiri ruins museum – absolutely wonderful – asked for the fish that came in that day – “greek salad” was a cut way above with lots of caper leaves and homemade cheese.
          - Selena Taverna – Pyrgos – Bucatini with sweetbreads was excellent, ordered off-menu glass of wine rec’d by waiter, best overall meal I had in Greece. There were so many nay-sayers on line and in Santorini about the Taverna and their Michelin 2 star that I did not go to the 2 star and ended up wishing I had. They seem to have a PR problem…
          - Bakery on main street in Pyrgos. Sells out early. Wonderful/ a cut way above most places on the island.
          - Sigalas vineyard –wine tasting and food pairing/mezze. Wonderful and wonderful terrace setting.
          - Melevio Bakery for early, pre tourist, breakfast in Oia- incredible view, nice simple breakfast items on open air terrace.

          Liked
          - Krinanki Restaurant – Finikia
          - To Steki tou Nikou – Imerovigli – Hangs off a cliff on the main road – Stopped here for lunch on the hike between Oia and Thira and had a great fresh fish, fries, etc. Was delicious. Perfect stop on the hike.

          Overrated
          - Taverna Katina – Everyone recommended this place as being touristy but still excellent. The sunset setting was wonderful but the fish was extremely overcooked, the service was extremely surly even for Greece, and it was quite expensive. Overall, a complete bust.
          - Generally avoid Thira…except the museum…and to check the view…and to change busses.

          Recommended but did not make it to:
          - Aegeon in Imerovigli
          - Altana in Imerovigli
          - Anogi in Imerovigli
          - Aktaion in Phirostefani
          - Koukoumavlos in Fira
          - Assirtico in Fira
          - Nilolas Taverna in Fira
          - 1800 in Oia – mixed reviews?
          - Psaraki near Vlyhada Beach – Fish tavern.
          - Atlantis books

          Other
           I was REALLY worried about Santorini being a tourist nightmare. However, you can easily avoid the cruise ship hoards, the bad restaurants, and have a wonderful time. I stayed in the top floor apartment at Fava Residence in the beautiful little cave town of Finikia and loved it. 10-15 lovely walk to main part of Oia (I went early and it was peaceful and quiet…and spectacularly beautiful). Would go back in the off season again…
           Captain George of Santorini Yachting S/Y Eleftheria’s wooden sail boat tour of the island was wonderful. I did NOT love the grilled fish meal/ thought the fish was a bit passed…and the wine was, well, drinkable…but, in this one instance, I liked everything else about the trip so much that I can ignore the food. It was very affordable so everyone in our group could attend whether flush or not, private, spectacular, fun…and the captain and the boat had so much character compared to the other boats we saw…we were extremely happy.
           Liked little shop called Anemi Artcarfts in Oia. In tourist area but very nicely finished/ crafted olive wood items/ a cut above. Very nice proprietor.

          General notes re Athens restaurants:
           We had no direct connections in Athens and there was not a lot of foodie info online for Athens leading up to our trip and it was harder than for other cities to get the low down.
           We ended up getting some rec’s from people who live in Athens via Trip Advisor of all sources.
           When we got to Athens, we got some conflicting opinions from locals and ended up losing focus a bit.
           I think we missed some good places but we were left with a good impression and would like to return.

          Notes on Greek hospitality and plumbing:
          We would back for sure but in spite of:
           We were there during the EU austerity measures and the controversy over it. Not sure if it had anything to do with it but for every professional and lovely person we met, we met a surly and bitter one.
           There seemed to a be a general sense that people were waiting for someone else to give them something or do something instead of getting organized and doing something themselves…a lot of talk about how the government was not giving this or doing that.
           We knew it was complicated and the history was complicated and that the middle and upper classes had really sold the general Greek population down the river…but still wished our hosts had felt it was more important to put their best foot forward…for their own sakes more than ours.
           Perhaps all understandable but to a New Yorker, who for 20 years often worked highly productive 80 hour weeks to earn a middle class living, all of this was a bit hard to take on a sometimes frequent basis.
           Not that it does not happen everywhere to some extent but it was out of proportion on this trip… we loved so many of the people and found the locales so striking and beautiful that we would go back but think some people would be put off.
           As a point of comparison, if you go to places like the central highlands of central Mexico or to Nicaragua or Thailand, etc., etc., where people have so little relatively, they are so upbeat, professional, hospitable, caring of the details, so on time, so helpful, so efficient, so diligent, and so clearly hard working…it’s hard not to think at least occasionally that the Greeks are resting on their laurels…literally.
           They have so much to build on and they don’t seem to get it. Here’s hoping for the future.
           We were surprised Greece had the typical third world “don’t flush your toilet paper” for any reason anywhere, even in your nice hotel type rules. They seem to miss the whole point of indoor plumbing…garbage cans full of tp in your hotel room bathroom etc. It seems the Greeks had better indoor plumbing 3000 years ago.

        2. re: Carolina2

          Hi Carolina2--Would love to see your notes. Any chance of posting them, or posting a link?

          Thanks!

          1. re: dhound

            August 31st – September 15th, 2015 – Greece Trip – Notes on Food and Other

            ----------------------------------------------
            ATHENS:
            Loved:
             The New Hotel (great breakfast, very, very nice food at the roof top restaurant…hotel prices but excellent/worth it, Barbara at the front desk was beyond helpful…rec’d a lot good restaurants that we missed/ found out later we should have gone to, her husband is a chef)
             Athens Walks food tour with Kostas (3 of us/ private, street food and other local places a little outside the Plaka).
             Walking around off-beat neighborhoods.
             Anafiotikia restaurant in Anafiotika
             Drinking coffee and Ouzo with greek 20-somethings / students in the outdoor seating / in the shade/ on the hill near the above.

            Liked:
             Cafe Avissinia in Monastiraki for lunch after the Acropolis and Agora – traditional mezze, vesene beef iberica?
             Melitotos – some orders great/ not all.
             Mani-Mani (aka Manh Manh) – Barbara and Kostas rec’d
             Strofi - Decent to good food, depending on what you order. Amazing view of Acropolis. Nice quiet neighborhood. Easy/nice walk from the Plaka. Greek families were eating there along with tourists…we were there in early September/the beginning of the off-season. Reserve and reserve on the roof, ask for a view though they cannot promise…We went a bit earlier than our already early 7pm res (1st night there/night flight jet lag…) and got a dream table.

            Not amazing:
             The central market - sad and run down compared to visiting markets in Istanbul, Rungis, Tokyo etc. Kostas of Athens Walks took us to some interesting street food/ little take out places near by / amazing coffee etc. though.
             Would be wonderful if the city could find a way to make the market what it apparently used to be.
             Still worth a quick visit though…

            Recommended restaurants / street food we did NOT get to:
             Kostas Souvlaki on Agias Irinis (the other souvlaki in the Plakalooked really cheesy) – Kostas is less traditional but excellent?
             Oraia Ellas – some said it’s excellent, others did not.
             Tiatsas in the meat market for tripe soup, pastitsio, dolmades
             Marvo Provato – may have gone down hill / conflicting info.
             Yiantes – has gone down hill according to some.
             Hatsis sweet shop on Mitropoleos in Syntagma – rec’d by Persophone’s garden
             Rakaki / Pakaki in Kesariani – Cretan cuisine – dakos, apaki, snails (khohlee bourbouristi), green beans, staka me avga
             Koulouri from lady w/ big white on Omirou street btw Panepistimiou/Sadiou nr Hondos Center store. Sells out by 12:30PM. Syntagma kolouri all come from the same bakery…ask for crisp ones.
             Tzitzikas and Mermiagas – Mitropoleos Street, cheese balls, aubergine balls, salad, spice cheese dip – Barbara’s rec.
             Kuzina – overrated?
             Thanassis – Overrated?
             I Kriti – mixed reviews, sounded good anyway/ would have gone if time had allowed.
             Kit Aristos – Glyfada - for souvlaki - Kostas’ rec
             Aleria – Garden/posh
             Karavitis – overrated?
             Taxidevonatas – Kerastini - orange pie – found on Culinary Backstreets. Kostas verified it’s good / proprietor’s name is Theodore?
             Pbox- Kifisia/khoisia – upscale but casual, fusion – Greek/ Cypriot international cuisine?
             Hatzis – Piraeus – also, Turkish baklava, Turkei sweetbread. – Barbara’s rec
             Vasilenas – Peiraias – closed Mon – Barbara’s rec
             Hyperokeanio in Pireus – Sardines on toast, fried calamari, barbounia, fresh octopus – Barbara’s rec

            Other:
             The Culinary Backstreets tour sounded wonderful but $$$...likely worth it though.
             In Persephone’s Garden blog had some nice articles/ info.
             Go to the Acropolis at an off hour for sure.
             The Agora was quiet and peaceful even when the Acropolis was mobbed.
             National Archaeological Museum
             Delphi Day Trip – Epikouvros Restaurant - Took bus trip to the oracle of Delphi hired by hotel and that was fine because it was easier than driving and we had lots of time at the site. When the bus stopped for lunch in the town of Delphi, we declined to eat with the group and hoofed it through town and found this spot that someone in Athens had mentioned. It was completely empty/ the off season and we were nervous about trying it. They were super nice, made a fast meal for us, and everything was fresh, delicious, and nicely prepared. The view was spectacular. Everyone else had a miserable meal.

            ----------------------------------------------
            KOKKONI (Kokkoni Beach nr Corinth (simple, low-budget, pebbly but beautiful, family beach, great base for touring antiquities…or having an inexpensive but wonderful destination wedding like my cousin did…everyone could join, rich or poor, the hotel rooms were like $40 a night).

            Loved
             Miscellaneous beach “shack” type restaurants – anything that did not look fancy was great.
             Nafpoli day trip
            Pantazi’s – Nafpoli, near big parking lot near water - Souvlaki sandwich. Looks like a tourist trap. Was excellent.
            Farmer’s market was incredible – highly recommended.
            Wonderful stroll through non-tourist part of town…stopped at random bakeries, tasted things, no idea what I ate, etc.
             Epidaurus day trip
             Mycanea day trip
             Melagavi Lighthouse/ swimming/hiking day trip, stop at Canal at Corinth

            ----------------------------------------------
            SANTORNI
            Loved
            - Taverna Glaros – Outdoor restaurant near Akrotiri ruins museum – absolutely wonderful – asked for the fish that came in that day – “greek salad” was a cut way above with lots of caper leaves and homemade cheese.
            - Selena Taverna – Pyrgos – Bucatini with sweetbreads was excellent, ordered off-menu glass of wine rec’d by waiter, best overall meal I had in Greece. There were so many nay-sayers on line and in Santorini about the Taverna and their Michelin 2 star that I did not go to the 2 star and ended up wishing I had. They seem to have a PR problem…
            - Bakery on main street in Pyrgos. Sells out early. Wonderful/ a cut way above most places on the island.
            - Sigalas vineyard –wine tasting and food pairing/mezze. Wonderful and wonderful terrace setting.
            - Melevio Bakery for early, pre tourist, breakfast in Oia- incredible view, nice simple breakfast items on open air terrace.

            Liked
            - Krinanki Restaurant – Finikia
            - To Steki tou Nikou – Imerovigli – Hangs off a cliff on the main road – Stopped here for lunch on the hike between Oia and Thira and had a great fresh fish, fries, etc. Was delicious. Perfect stop on the hike.

            Overrated
            - Taverna Katina – Everyone recommended this place as being touristy but still excellent. The sunset setting was wonderful but the fish was extremely overcooked, the service was extremely surly even for Greece, and it was quite expensive. Overall, a complete bust.
            - Generally avoid Thira…except the museum…and to check the view…and to change busses.

            Recommended but did not make it to:
            - Aegeon in Imerovigli
            - Altana in Imerovigli
            - Anogi in Imerovigli
            - Aktaion in Phirostefani
            - Koukoumavlos in Fira
            - Assirtico in Fira
            - Nilolas Taverna in Fira
            - 1800 in Oia – mixed reviews?
            - Psaraki near Vlyhada Beach – Fish tavern.
            - Atlantis books

            Other
             I was REALLY worried about Santorini being a tourist nightmare. However, you can easily avoid the cruise ship hoards, the bad restaurants, and have a wonderful time. I stayed in the top floor apartment at Fava Residence in the beautiful little cave town of Finikia and loved it. 10-15 lovely walk to main part of Oia (I went early and it was peaceful and quiet…and spectacularly beautiful). Would go back in the off season again…
             Captain George of Santorini Yachting S/Y Eleftheria’s wooden sail boat tour of the island was wonderful. I did NOT love the grilled fish meal/ thought the fish was a bit passed…and the wine was, well, drinkable…but, in this one instance, I liked everything else about the trip so much that I can ignore the food. It was very affordable so everyone in our group could attend whether flush or not, private, spectacular, fun…and the captain and the boat had so much character compared to the other boats we saw…we were extremely happy.
             Liked little shop called Anemi Artcarfts in Oia. In tourist area but very nicely finished/ crafted olive wood items/ a cut above. Very nice proprietor.

            General notes re Athens restaurants:
             We had no direct connections in Athens and there was not a lot of foodie info online for Athens leading up to our trip and it was harder than for other cities to get the low down.
             We ended up getting some rec’s from people who live in Athens via Trip Advisor of all sources.
             When we got to Athens, we got some conflicting opinions from locals and ended up losing focus a bit.
             I think we missed some good places but we were left with a good impression and would like to return.

            Notes on Greek hospitality and plumbing:
            We would back for sure but in spite of:
             We were there during the EU austerity measures and the controversy over it. Not sure if it had anything to do with it but for every professional and lovely person we met, we met a surly and bitter one.
             There seemed to a be a general sense that people were waiting for someone else to give them something or do something instead of getting organized and doing something themselves…a lot of talk about how the government was not giving this or doing that.
             We knew it was complicated and the history was complicated and that the middle and upper classes had really sold the general Greek population down the river…but still wished our hosts had felt it was more important to put their best foot forward…for their own sakes more than ours.
             Perhaps all understandable but to a New Yorker, who for 20 years often worked highly productive 80 hour weeks to earn a middle class living, all of this was a bit hard to take on a sometimes frequent basis.
             Not that it does not happen everywhere to some extent but it was out of proportion on this trip… we loved so many of the people and found the locales so striking and beautiful that we would go back but think some people would be put off.
             As a point of comparison, if you go to places like the central highlands of central Mexico or to Nicaragua or Thailand, etc., etc., where people have so little relatively, they are so upbeat, professional, hospitable, caring of the details, so on time, so helpful, so efficient, so diligent, and so clearly hard working…it’s hard not to think at least occasionally that the Greeks are resting on their laurels…literally.
             They have so much to build on and they don’t seem to get it. Here’s hoping for the future.
             We were surprised Greece had the typical third world “don’t flush your toilet paper” for any reason anywhere, even in your nice hotel type rules. They seem to miss the whole point of indoor plumbing…garbage cans full of tp in your hotel room bathroom etc. It seems the Greeks had better indoor plumbing 3000 years ago.