Athens' Best Greek Restaurants: Varied and Tasty City Dining Spots
By Nelly Paraskevopoulou
Athens Local Expert
Greek cuisine is not only about the all time favorites moussakas and tzatziki, but includes also many other traditional plates, from fish and pies to salads with a twist, surprising ingredients and creative imagination. The new generation of chefs have launched a slightly different Greek cuisine, which experiments with combinations while enhancing the classic ingredients. Meat plays a central role in many plates and the famous mezedes, which are usually served before the main course, include simple or more elaborate morsels. The secret is always variety. Greek restaurants in Athens have to satisfy a demanding public, both local and international, and great attention is paid to quality and details. From the gourmet 2mazi and Alatsi close to the Hilton, to the all time classics Seventeen and Vlassis, the elegant Orizontes Lykavittou, great pride is taken in the specialties of each locale. Famous Taverna Platanos in Plaka, inspired Cookoovaya close to the Hilton, Xrysa-Xrysa in Petralona, Strofi with a view of the Acropolis, the Restaurant of the Museum of Greek Gastronomy, each one offers a unique experience of Greek cuisine, in a friendly atmosphere. Wine is all important in Greek dining and many restaurants have their own, served in large pitchers and carefully selected so as to best accompany the food.
Platanos is one of the oldest restaurants in Athens, with a long and interesting history. Since 1932, many generations of Athenians, writers, artists, poets, have enjoyed their meal and a glass of retsina sitting in the shade of the old plane tree in this quiet pedestrian street, where nostalgia is tangible. Returning visitors to Athens always make a point of visiting Platanos which has been highly praised for its unique atmosphere and authentic Greek cuisine. The retsina wine is made on the premises and accompanies specialties like stuffed tomatoes, a variety of appetizers, spicy meatballs, grilled meat, and many more tasty Greek dishes prepared in the traditional way. (210-322-0666)
Xrysa-Xrysa, located in Petralona, is a restaurant with a long history. For many years Xrysa Protopapa, the first well known Greek chef with great experience in Greek and Greek-Creative cuisine, has presented dishes which have made history and continues to impress with her gastronomic creations in her new space. Her secret is the fresh ingredients which are bought daily from the market and small local producers and also her knowledge and personal approach for refined tastes which enchant the senses and are as light as homemade cooking. Xrysa, who is descended from Asia Minor, continues and enhances family recipes of three generations aiming to develop them to the utmost. The decor of the restaurant has been planned by interior designer Lian Vermeer and is unique in its style. The menu has many specialties, but dont miss the shrimps with fennel and ouzo, the home made pasta with fermented milk, tomato and basil, the lamb fricasee with fennel, leeks and seasonal greens, the pork hock with aromatic beer marinade and honey, and for dessert the delicious halvas with cream, pistachio nuts and caramel. (213 0356879)
Restaurant of Museum of Greek Gastronomy
A Restaurant-Cafe operates in the courtyard of the Museum of Greek Gastronomy, where you can enjoy high quality fusion cuisine recipes, inspired by contemporary and traditional Greek cuisine, as well as Greek coffee in different flavors. The restaurant menu consists of daily dishes, selected by the Chef of the Museum, Kosta Papastamati, and also dishes inspired by the various exhibitions hosted at the Museum, aiming to create an overall experience for its visitors. In the context of the current exhibition #ReflectionOfThePlate, until end September 2015, the menu is complemented by the imaginative proposals of the twelve participating artists. You can try "Pavlova � the salted ballerina", consisting of cod, beetroot and sweet potato puree with garlic sauce or fresh "Rebel Lasagna" Bolognese with veal tails and green banana (plantain), and also a version of Baklava with almond net and handmade cinnamon ice cream. (210 3211311)
Vlassis restaurant has a long and successful history as a family run business since 1983. Situated in a small green park on central Michalakopoulou street , Vlassis specializes in quality Greek cuisine and has a long standing faithful clientele. A constant and reliable presence in the field of Greek cuisine, which has added new tantalizing tastes to the traditional menu, so as to satisfy even more varied tastes. The quality of the food is first class, and the prices are reasonable. The menu includes meat and fish specialties and also vegetarian dishes, such as 'sofrito', thin slices of beef cooked in white wine sauce, served with mashed potatoes, 'kalamari risotto', grilled kalamari served with shrimp risotto, 'chicken -feta cheese', small chicken fillets cooked with feta cheese, tomatoes, onions and sweet peppers. Fresh salads, delicious appetizers and mouthwatering desserts offer many more choices for an excellent meal. Check out the wine list with a large variety of Greek wines from many different regions of the country. (210 7256335)
Strofi Athenian Restaurant
Strofi restaurant has been a favorite since 1975 when it opened, and many visiting celebrities have dined on the ideally situated terrace with the magnificent view of the Acropolis, often after watching a performance at the famous Herodus Atticus theatre. The recently renewed and elegantly decorated locale, on three levels, is a very good choice to taste local specialties and excellent wines. The menu includes delicious dishes like octopus with oil and oregano, fried squid, tender goat with tomatoes and gruyere, risotto with seafood, Greek salad, and not to miss syrupy ekmek cake with vanilla ice cream, just to mention a few. (2109214130)
Cookoovaya is a new restaurant combining the talents of five talented chefs, who united their knowledge and imagination to create an inspiring cuisine. Periklis Koskinas, Manos Zournatzis, Vaggelis and Spyros Liakos, Nikos Karathanos and Spyros Pavlidis as chef de cuisine stated their intention : "our relationship is expressed through a creative procedure of five, around a table. We consider cooking an act of offering, we have a common culture and approach to food. We believe in the virtue of hospitality and desire to serve customers as hosts. We share with our providers the same care about produce and the environment. We collaborate not only for the perfect taste, but also for sustainable food. We select seasonal ingredients, without being greedy towards nature. We cook today's Greek cuisine. From urban cuisine we have taken only the authentic elements. The food you will taste is clean and light, without frills or unnecessary sophistication. " Guests can taste three different menus: one every evening from Tuesday to Sunday, a different one for lunch from Tuesday to Saturday and another for Sunday lunch. (210 7235005)
2Mazi in Plaka is the creation of young, talented chefs Giannis Baxevanis and Ilias Gogos, who specialize in re-inventing traditional tastes. Inspired by rediscovered ingredients, experimenting with a playful approach, they offer an experience of interpreting well known plates in a different way. This friendly locale, decorated with minimal elegance also has a wine bar where guests can taste various qualities accompanied with lights snacks. The daily menu is always adapted to seasonal produce with great attention to freshness and quality and includes special plates for dieters and health food fans, with organic produce. The menu is renewed monthly to include specialties from all over Greece. The wine list is based exclusively on the best varieties of Greek wine. For those who prefer gluten free dishes, several plates can be adapted and also the gratinated vegetables with cheese and aromatic salad, the tuna tartare, the salad with legumes, the veal fillet and the baked fish with aromatic herbs are tasty gluten free choices. (210 3222839)
Alatsi, which means natural sea salt in the Cretan dialect, is situated very close to the Athens Hilton and is a favorite hangout for celebrities, politicians and journalists. Specializing in simple Greek cuisine, all the products are acquired from small quality controlled units all over Greece and dishes are prepared with simplicity and respect to tradition. Alatsi has been repeatedly awarded for the high quality of cuisine and the excellent service. Definitely try the grilled free range chicken breast with tomato, cinnamon and homemade pasta , the white grouper in the oven with tomato, garlic, parsley and potato puree the fava beans from Feneos with smoked eel and for dessert "Esperina" with wheat, pomegranate seeds, roasted almonds and nuts. The delicious salads, dishes with fish or meat and other specialties are gluten free. You can also order your own tailor made menu without gluten, either adapting an existing dish or creating something specially for you. Their chef Vassiliki and her team of young cooks offer a delectable choice of the best seasonal vegetables and local produce that varies depending on the day. All the dishes are cooked with olive oil and the influence of Cretan cuisine is strong. (21 0721 0501)
Seventeen bar and restaurant is an establishment in itself and has a long and interesting history, since 1957, which has been described in one of the owner's books, and includes reminisces about visiting celebrities, political events in Greece and comments by foreign correspondents and journalists. Reputed to serve the best dry martini in Athens, Fotis Krikzoni¢s fame has reached the New York Times and has also been mentioned by Frank Sinatra. His inventive cocktails have been awarded and are now served in many other countries. The cuisine is based on traditional Greek dishes for lunch and an international menu for dinner. Later in the evening, piano music adds a pleasant note to the atmosphere. During the summer months Seventeen is open only for lunch. (210 3647049)
Lycabettus hill is the highest peak of Athens, overlooking the city and with a panoramic view. Considered one of the most romantic places, it offers a spectacular view which extends from the Acropolis to Piraeus. Orizontes restaurant, situated on this natural balcony, is one of the best restaurants in Athens, serving delicious Mediterranean cuisine in an elegant environment with discreet luxury. The menu draws inspiration from numerous Greek recipes using high quality, fresh ingredients, and is accompanied by a carefully selected wine list with Greek and international labels. Visitors to Orizontes appreciate the overall style and impeccable service, the welcoming atmosphere and the creative flavors. Orizontes can be reached either on foot, a ten minute walk from the Lycabettus theater, or by cable car from Aristippou street. (210 7227065)
About Nelly Paraskevopoulou
Born and bred in Athens, Nelly went on the move after finishing high school and spending some years working in textiles. For her, Italy was the next chapter. But, after 12 years, it was back to beloved Athens where she writes for magazines and her own shopping blog that illustrates her passion for discovering everything new in Athens, from fashion to food, but also searching for genuine tradition. Nelly finds that Athens is a wonderful place to live. It combines history, sunshine, a relaxed atmosphere. When she's not writing or surfing, Nelly keeps searching for new views of old places to photograph.
Read more about Nelly Paraskevopoulou here.