Along with stunning views and a fascinating history, Greece’s capital city abounds with the simple pleasures of eating and sharing delectable food. Tantalise your taste buds with this selection of must-eat dishes in this gorgeous haven.
By NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR
You could, potentially, eat all day (and night!) in Athens and yet sample just a small fraction of the delicious cuisine this region has to offer. From neighbourhood tavernas to new-wave Greek restaurants and waterfront ouzeri serving just-out-of-the-net seafood, there’s simply no dearth of ways to enjoy the city’s culinary treats. Here’s our round-up of seven delicious Athenian delicacies just waiting to be tucked into!
One of the oldest pastries in the world, these gooey fried doughnut balls are traditionally topped with honey syrup. Once a traditional treat served at weddings and baptisms, loukoumades are now a full-on craze among sweet-toothed Athenians, with varieties that are filled with custard or drenched in chocolate. Crisp and golden on the outside and fluffy and chewy on the inside, they are simply irresistible.
Try it at: Loukoumades Ktistakis on the busy Sokratous Street.
You can’t, or rather shouldn’t, miss biting into what is, possibly, Greece’s most popular street food! This treat consists of a soft pita bread wrapped around marinated grilled meat along with sliced tomatoes, onions, and yoghurt. Some eateries add tzatziki, while others amp it up with secret sauces and potato chips. Enjoy this wholesome delicacy straight away, while it’s still hot and succulent; squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice on it when you do!
Try it at: O Kostas at Syntagma, but before 3 PM as most of it is already sold out by then.
Pies have been a street food staple in Athens for centuries and spanakopitas were first created for field workers, who would carry them in their pockets and eat them while working. These Greek pies comprise a buttery, flaky phyllo pastry with a filling of cooked spinach, lemon juice, feta cheese, and, occasionally, a sprinkling of dill. Even today, Athenians still love to snack on these savoury delights (cut and served as small triangles) along with the ubiquitous tzatziki.
Try it at: Mama Psomi in Koukaki for the best pies in town.
This rustic, fresh, and appetising salad is probably the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of Greek cuisine—and it’s equally ingrained in the country’s palate, too! It comprises tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and three of Greece’s favourite ingredients: feta cheese, olives, and a healthy dose of olive oil. Usually served with bread to help you mop up all the juices left by the tomatoes, cucumber, and salad dressing.
Try it at: Any of the city’s restaurants or kerbside eateries.
While this snack’s name might be a mouthful to pronounce, rest assured it’s a delightful mouthful to eat, as well! These gently fried, Greek-style fritters are made of shredded zucchini, and depending on where you dine, can be seasoned with dill, mint, and oregano, among other herbs. Their crispy exterior gives way to a lusciously soft, cheesy, and flavourful centre. Simply put, they taste like summer in Greece! Pair them with tzatziki for a quick and tasty snack.
Try it at: Attalos Restaurant, located on Adrianos Street, which also serves panoramic views of the Acropolis.
What’s not to love about a dish of plump, juicy prawns in a garlic-infused tomato sauce crowned with creamy, melted feta cheese? To prepare this loved Athenian meze dish, the shrimps are first deglazed with ouzo (an anise-flavored local aperitif), which gives them a distinctly Greek flavour. They are then added to a tasty tomato sauce flavoured with garlic and a mix of herbs and spices, including paprika. Named after sagani, a type of twin-handled frying pan in which the dish is made and served, it’s best savoured with warm bread that’s used to scoop it all up.
Try it at: O Ilias, a fish taverna in Piraeus.
One of the most lavish amongst all traditional Greek desserts is this decadent, three-layered dish of syrupy kataifi (delicate strands of shredded phyllo dough) pastry, topped with a luscious vanilla custard, sweet whipped cream, and chopped pistachios. With just the right amount of sweet creaminess and as airy as floating clouds, it tempts you to go for several helpings.
Try it at: Chara on Patision Street specialises in pastries and serves many varieties of the dish.