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 new gourmet 2mazi to the all time classic Virinis, the elegant Ideal or the cool Magemenos Avlos, great pride is taken in the specialties of each locale. Classy Hermion, Papadakis owned by chef Argyro Barbarigou famous for her TV cooking shows, Omorfo near Lycabettus, Yiantes in Exarchia, Vyzantino on Strefi, popular Oikeio in Kolonaki, 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.
10 Platanos Taverna
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)
Xristinas restaurant or mezedopoleio opened recently in the neighborhood of Ano Petralona, serving traditional Greek cuisine with a contemporary approach. The same concept is behind the attractive decor, which includes lace wall paper, wooden floors and ceilings. Chef Xristina Liagoumi creates traditional dishes with a modern twist, such as small cheese pies with handmade pastry, goats cheese, honey and sesame, stuffed potatoes with mince and cheese, with pepper sauce, pies with courgettes, aromatic herbs, and cheese mousse, fried eggs with smoked pork, tomatoes and potatoes, chicken burger with aromatic herbs and mustard sauce, just to mention a few. The drinks list includes several labels of Greek wine, beers, ouzo and sangria. The reasonable prices are a pleasant surprise. (211 4013574)
Omorfo in Kolonaki is a neighborhood favorite both for lunch and dinner, on the road leading up to Lycabettus hill. This small and intimate restaurant has a long history since 1936 when it operated as a cafe where politicians and intellectuals gathered to exchange views. From 1980 it evolved to a family owned restaurant specializing in genuine traditional Greek cuisine at very reasonable prices. The premises have often been used for filming on location of Greek films and the restaurant is still a favorite with the society and intellectual set. Top specialties are veal with zucchini in egg and lemon sauce, pastitsio (thick macaroni with besciamel sauce baked to a golden crust), and stuffed tomatoes. (210 7226830)
Oikeio (pronounced Ikio) is one of the most popular restaurants in Kolonaki, and it is usually necessary to book in advance. Based on the philosophy of high quality ingredients, and authentic Greek recipes prepared with attention to every detail, Oikeio has been awarded the Bib Gourmand prize by Michelin Guide for the best quality/price and also by the Greek Tourist Organization for the quality of the Greek cuisine. The menu is based exclusively on fresh ingredients, organic olive oil and local products and is renewed daily. This cozy and intimate locale attracts many Athenians and visitors, who feel at home in the tastefully decorated spaces. (210 7259216)
Elaia, which means olive tree in Greek, is located in one of the most beautiful spots of Plaka, in a three storey mansion, where every single detail has been attentively studied and the architecture is in complete harmony with the surroundings. During the summer months, dining on the terrace is a uniquely romantic experience, with an extensive view of the city, from the Acropolis to Lycabettus. At Elaia one can enjoy traditional flavors, many of which are based on cretan cuisine, such as small cheese pies, Sfakiot pitta with goat cheese, tender, tasty veal, and for dessert syrupy pastry with ekmek ice cream. (2103218734)
5 To Athinaikon
Athinaikon restaurant has a long and interesting history. It opened for the first time in 1932 as an ouzo restaurant and in 1985 moved to the pedestrian street of Themistokleous right in the center of Athens. Recently a second location opened on Mitropoleos street, close to Syntagma square. The new restaurant maintains all the favorite dishes which were successful over the years and the menu has been enriched with more interesting tastes. All the dishes are prepared exclusively with fresh, seasonal ingredients and the cuisine is Greek traditional. Popular specialties include meat dishes, seafood, fresh fish, a wide variety of appetizers and delicious desserts. Ancient remains under glass, inspired verses on the walls, sculptures and modern art make an attractive decor. The reasonable prices are a pleasant surprise. (210 3252688)
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 sweet frumenty from Parnonas mountain, the Grilled spotted grouper fillet (from Andros island) with steamed greens, olive oil and lemon, the Chickpeas puree with grilled smoked eel, and for dessert Iordanis bougatsa (savory cheese pastry) straight from Chania. For lunch, except for the a la carte menu, try the new specialties such as steamed spinach roots, tender piglet, baby artichokes or order your own special dishes beforehand (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)
1 Orizontes Lycavittou
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. (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.