Greek Eateries: Tavernas, Cafés, and More

Greek Taverna

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink. – Epicurus

Wondering where to eat and drink in Greece? Let me assure you; you will find an abundance of unique eateries to enjoy a meal or sip a cup of coffee. Greeks love to socialize with friends and family at open-air cafés and tavernas.

A variety of cafés and restaurants are available in Greece to suit your palate, budget, and travel schedule. The secret is to know what’s available and then make the difficult decision of which fabulous dining option to choose.

Types of eateries you’ll find in Greece:

Cafeteria or Café (Coffee shop):

Often located on the main town square, the cafeteria or café is a sit-down place for hot and cold drinks, toasted sandwiches, snacks, and ice creams. They serve hot Expresso, Greek coffee, Cappuccino, as well as, Iced Frappe, Freddo Cappuccino, and other specialty coffee drinks. Tea and liquors are also served.

A favorite summer drink, the Frappe is a blended or shaken cold coffee made with instant Nescafe and served either black or with sugar or milk.

Cafés packed with people are found everywhere in Athens.

Estiatorio (Formal dining):

The Estiatorio (restaurant) is more upscale and elaborate than a taverna. Expect tablecloths, higher prices, and more formal service.

A Greek Estiatorio may serve either traditional or nouvelle Greek cuisine.

In the ‘old’ days, Estiatorio were casual places that served cooked foods from the oven such as casseroles, meat and game stews, and baked meat and fish.

Fournos (Bakery):

Along with loaves of bread, fournos sell tiropitas (cheese pies), spanakopitas (spinach pies), bougatsa (breakfast pastry), cookies, and other baked goods.

Kafenion (Locals-only neighborhood coffee shop):

A traditional coffee shop where local men above a certain age gather to smoke, drink Greek coffee, talk politics, and play cards or backgammon with friends or sit alone and people-watch. The kafenion serves Greek coffee and spirits but little else.

While everyone is welcome, women and tourists do not typically spend time at the kafenion.

The kafenion is an icon of traditional, old-style Greek living still thriving in neighborhoods in the city and village centers outside of Athens.

Ouzerie

An Ouzerie specializes in small plates of food eaten along with ouzo, a strong liquor with the flavor of anise, or other strong liquors such as tsipouro. Beer and wine are also served here.

The Ouzerie is a good place to eat late at night when you want a light meal or a snack.

Psaro-taverna (Fish taverna)

A taverna that specializes in fish and seafood and is mainly found by the seaside. You can also find fish tavernas in Athens.

While Fish Tavernas offer non-fish options, the choices are spare and at times disappointing. If you aren’t a fish or seafood lover, best to dine somewhere else.

Psistaria (Grill House):

A casual outdoor place that serves spit-roast lamb, lamb and pork chops, grilled or rotisserie chicken, beef steaks, as well as, salads and appetizers.

Grill houses are found in the suburbs outside of Athens where there is space to accommodate an outdoor grill area and the accompanying smoke.

While grill houses may offer non-meat options, the choices are slim for vegetarians.

Souvlatzidiko (Souvlaki Shop):

A traditional Souvlaki Shop serves:

  • Yiros (gyros) – carved spit-roast meat served in a pita with salad and tzatziki.
  • Souvlaki – skewered and chargrilled cubes of chicken, beef, or pork with pita and tzatziki.
  • Grilled and rotisserie chicken.

The Souvlaki Shop serves primarily meat dishes.

Taverna (Casual dining):

A casual place to spend many hours dining in the late evening hours with friends and family. Typically family-owned, the pricing is affordable. Tavernas serve appetizers (mezes) and traditional oven-cooked and grilled foods. They are an extension of the Greek home table.

Tavernas typically offer plenty of options for meat and fish lovers, as well as, vegetarians.

A few more things to know before you go:

  1. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t find belly dancers or patrons breaking plates at traditional Greek eateries.
  2. Dinner for the Greeks starts at 9:00 pm or later. No need to worry, you will find tavernas and other eateries that are open all day. If you dine early, the restaurant may be empty. It doesn’t mean the food isn’t good; you are just out of sync with the locals.
  3. Grilled meats at a Psistaria are unrivaled for chargrilled flavor. I find the fresh lamb and pork cuts are more tender and tastier in Greece than in the states.
  4. Other places to eat and drink include Beer Gardens, Pizza Shops, and ethnic food restaurants serving Mexican, Chinese, and German cuisine.
  5. If you have little ones that prefer familiar foods, or you are in a hurry, fast-food chains such as Goody’s, McDonalds, KFC, Dominos, and Pizza Hut are available. Goody’s is a Greek fast-food chain and is much easier to find in Greece than the US chains.

Καλή όρεξη – Good appetite!

 

Featured image: pixabay.com (nikoslefkas)

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