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 Olymbos Naousa in the city center, or Seychelles in Metaxourgeio. Addicted to healthy food? Makalo and Mama Tierra are ideal. Those seeking a rich and varied menu will prefer Agora Select close to the Hilton, whilst a favorite in the shopping district is Miniatoura. Try alternative street food at Etnico on Kolokotroni street and Italian specialties at Tuttitalia on Valaoritou pedestrian street. 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.
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)
Street Food philosophy meets the avant garde public in a new meeting point in downtown Athens at Etnico Alternative Street Cuisine restaurant. Tastes from India, Mexico and the Middle East, falafel, chimichangas and vegetable samosas, a large variety of savory and sweet tastes at the first street food with authentic ethnic style. All the vegetables are freshly cut, the meat is always fresh and all the dishes are prepared daily with excellent quality virgin olive oil and sunflower oil for frying. The natural fruit and vegetable juices are made on the spot with the vitamin bar method so as to maintain their nutritional value. At Etnico you will also find the best margaritas on the go and also white and red sangria. (21 1411 3880)
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)
Mama Tierra (Mother Earth in Spanish) is a new vegetarian and vegan restaurant in downtown Athens which serves quick, healthy meals all day. One of the main reasons for which Mama Tierra was created was to show the wide public the large variety of vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Chef and co-owner Polash Alam, with his experience and talent, proves this fact, finding inspiration from multiethnic cuisine and combining tastes from the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. Many of the ingredients are organic and from small local producers. At Mama Tierra you will discover that healthy and quality cuisine can be reasonably priced. (211 4114420)
Tuttitalia restaurant is situated on Valaoritou pedestrian street in the center of Athens and offers an authentic experience of Italian cuisine. In this warm, friendly and elegant space, the Italian chef prepares specialty dishes at trattoria prices. The kitchen is a taste laboratory where the most genuine recipes meet the best and most fresh ingredients, creating a high quality gourmet experience. At Tuttitalia you can taste one of the best pizzas in Athens, a wide variety of pasta accompanied with your favorite sauce which is prepared on the spot, cool salads, delicious risotto, meat dishes, calzone and homemade desserts. The prosecco and the selected Italian wines give the perfect finishing touch of true Italian style. (210 3389669)
Seychelles restaurant in the center of Athens, in the downtown neighborhood of Metaxourgeio is a pleasant surprise and became immediately popular on opening. The attraction of the place is not the exotic tastes as one would imagine judging from the name, but the easy and natural way in which difficult combinations are obtained, namely reasonable prices and excellent quality. The cuisine is gourmet and the atmosphere is casual. You can choose to sit at a table or at the bar, enjoy lunch or dinner. At Seychelles the menu is based on products from small, local producers which enhance the interesting and mainly classic tastes. Seychelles are a favorite hangout where you will feel welcome and will definitely want to return. Try the papardelle with jellied veal and the mushrooms with smoked pork. (21 1183 4789)
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)
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.