Lunch in Athens: It's an Occasion to Relax
By Nelly Paraskevopoulou
Athens Local Expert
Athens offers a choice of restaurants for lunch which can vary from the very reasonably priced to slightly more expensive, with menus which satisfy any preference. Want to taste something new? try the nouvelle cuisine of Tzitzikas and Mermigkas or Mono close to Syntagma. Prefer to stick to traditional Greek cuisine ? opt for Ideal close to Omonoia, Filippou in Kolonaki or Olymbos Naousa in the city center. Addicted to healthy food? Makalo and The Grocery are ideal. Those seeking a rich and varied menu will prefer Agora Select close to the Hilton and Athinaikon, whilst a favorite in the shopping district is Miniatoura. The easiest to access neighborhoods are the center from Syntagma to Omonoia, Kolonaki and Plaka, which can be reached on foot if you are staying in downtown Athens. Be prepared to spend some time at the restaurant, meals are a ritual in Greece and are enjoyed in a restful atmosphere, tasting every bite, trying different plates, asking the waiter for advice on what to choose. You will notice that the locals, even in a big city like Athens, always welcome this pleasant break in a busy day.
10 Olymbos Naousa
Easy to access, very near Syntagma, this historic restaurant opened in Thessaloniki in 1927 and more recently in Athens, where it is a favorite with shop owners and people who work close by, especially for lunch. The simple, delicious tastes are always popular and the prices are reasonable. In the summer months enjoy your lunch under the cool awning. Home made Greek traditional cooking, with specialties like schnitzel with chips or rice, stuffed tomatoes and zucchini, moussakas, tasty appetizers, fresh salads, excellent spinach with rice, chick peas, and for dessert dont miss the creamy yoghurt with quince jam. (210 3216149)
Ideal in the centre of Athens an all time classic restaurant with a long history, going back ninety years. One of the many family run businesses in Athens, which maintains the same standards and quality over time. Ideals specialties have faithful admirers and the clientele includes many daily customers, professionals working in the nearby university and Council of State, visitors from all over Greece and tourists. Ideal is closely connected with the recent history of Greece, and many important political meetings have taken place there. The menu includes all the favorite Greek specialties, prepared with special attention and accompanied by the best Greek wines. The friendly atmosphere, the vintage decor, the excellent service, and the reasonable prices make this restaurant an attractive choice. Groups touring the center of Athens often stop for lunch at this excellent restaurant close to Omonia square. (210 3303000)
8 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)
Miniatoura, which means miniature, is a small, cozy restaurant in downtown Athens, very close to the shopping district, favorite hangout both for passersby, shop owners in the area, groups and families. Since 2002 when they first opened, this popular restaurant has always given great importance to supporting local products and using authentic traditional recipes, adapted to contemporary taste. The menu changes every day, with dishes which depend on the season. Some of the specialties are fresh salads, tabbouleh, spicy sausages, chick peas with caramelized onions and peppers, various seafood, regional tastes from different areas of Greece. The long list of appetizers is the best introduction to a satisfying meal. (210 3233459)
Filippou in Kolonaki is full of memories for many Athenians who used to go there as children and continue now as adults, remaining faithful to the authentic cuisine. The restaurant has an interesting history, starting in 1923 when the grandfather of the actual owner opened a winery which later became a tavern and was awarded for his wine in 1935. The restaurant has been on the same premises since 1968 and is now run by the third generation of the family. The menu is based on traditional plates like moussakas, pastitsio, stuffed zucchini with egg and lemon sauce, simple but tasty. Returning customers swear the tastes and smells take them back to childhood. High quality products, reasonable prices and a welcoming atmosphere are the main features of this neighborhood meeting point, famous throughout Athens. Groups visiting Lycabettus hill prefer to have lunch or dinner at Filippou, which is on the way. (210 7216390)
5 The Grocery
The Grocery on central Skoufa street in Kolonaki opened in 2014 and is designed by architects Andreas Kourkoulas and Maria Kokkinou, in a style which combines industrial with nostalgic elements, reminiscent of an old fashioned grocery. The art deco tiles give the space a unique character. The cuisine is Greek, with some ethnic dishes and is based on quality local ingredients, such as aromatic herbs, greens, cheese from small producers which give the dishes a simple, essential taste, keeping to tradition. The Grocery is open all day with coffees, juices and breakfast in the morning, is a popular spot for lunch, and in the evening hours the highlights include original cocktails, selected local wine, ouzo, distillates, and beers. (210 3623541)
Tzitzikas and Mermigkas is on central Mitropoleos street, just a few paces from Syntagma and very close to all the major attractions in Athens. Relaxed and casual atmosphere, inventive cuisine and interesting selections from all over Greece are the main features. Some of the favorite starters are Tzitzikas salad with ten different vegetables, homemade Mermigas smalls pies with cheese and aromatic herbs, traditional meatballs with mint and fries, and the vegetable millefeuille with grilled cheese and basil sauce. The main course includes meat dishes with a twist, like the chicken with masticha, and depending on the season also fresh fish. The free wifi, the lively atmosphere and the creative tastes make this place a favorite with the young crowd. (210 3247607)
Makalo initially owed its name to a specialty of Northern Greece, a sauce similar to bechamel with garlic, parsley and sweet paprika, which usually accompanies meatballs, fish, eggs and cheese. However the word also means surprise or miracle in some African dialects. The menu is based on value for money dishes prepared with seasonal products and respect for each ingredient. Simple, contemporary dishes with affordable and good quality selections of beer, wine and cocktails based on the principle of food matching and homemade drinks. Some delicious dishes are lahmanjoun with veal mince, in pitta bread with yoghurt and tomato, pesto of grilled pepper with tagliatelle, feta cheese and almonds, salmon fillet with courgettes sauteed in wine, lemon and fennel. Vegetarians will also find many tasty dishes to their liking. Easy to access, very close to Syntagma square and Plaka, Makalo is open all day for coffee, lunch and dinner. Customers will find several gluten free dishes such as salmon fillet with sauteed zucchini, veal with beetroot, a variety of salads and dishes which can be prepared on the spot following your preferences. (697 942 0877)
Mono in Plaka, very close to the Athens Cathedral, is a gastronomic reference point in town, with chef and owner Vasilis Vasileiou and his team creating original and delicious dishes. The space has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with a stained glass lit ceiling and a cozy internal courtyard built in stone, ideal for the colder season. The summer 2015 menu includes delicious dishes such as marinated anchovies in raspberry vinegar and luisa, pickled strawberries and star shaped moss seaweed; salad with kale, lolo rosso, grilled chicken, blueberries, sweet and sour onions, walnuts and white balsamic vinaigrette with Mavrodafni and tonka bean; seared sea bream fillet, traditional crusted wheat from Crete with okra and tomato and mastiha lime sauce and for dessert fluffy meringue, cream anglaise with peach, Muscat of Patra's Rio syrup and pine kernels. Choose amongst 110 labels from the renewed wine list, mainly from local producers, also served by the glass. Gluten free choices on the menu include salmon tartare, veal liver, salad with watermelon, avocado and tuna, salad with lettuce, onion and fish, tuna, salmon and veal for main dishes. (2103226711)
1 Agora Select
Agora Select is a classic all day meeting point at Ilissia, with emphasis on carefully selected fresh and local products offered in abundant portions as well as affordable prices. The menu includes many choices and is based on Greek cuisine with Mediterranean and international influences. It is complemented by a variety of dishes of the day as well as fresh fish and seafood to choose from, different for every day of the week. Diners can enjoy their meal in the elegant room of the restaurant or outside in the beautiful garden. The extensive wine list of Greek vintages as well as the impeccable service add to the pluses. (210 7252252)
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.