If you’re about to embark on a Mediterranean and Aegean Sea cruise with multiple stops in Greece aboard Celebrity, you probably already know that there’s far more to Greek food than mousaka and gyro.
Greek cuisine is considered to be the healthiest in the world with its strong reliance on locally sourced and just-picked-today fresh vegetables, seafood, and meats.
Eating and drinking is a way of life in Greece — a social event to be shared and savored. Local wines and olive oils are plentiful, and bread is still eaten at every meal. Although you’ll find each region has its specialties, some common culinary delights you can anticipate include:
- Lathera dishes are typically one or more vegetables, such as eggplant, green beans, okra, and tomatoes, cooked in an olive oil-based sauce that usually includes garlic. Vegetarians eat very well in Greece.
- Horiatiki is the authentic Greek salad. It usually contains quartered tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, green peppers, capers, olives, oregano, feta cheese, oil, and vinegar.
- Tzatziki is a refreshing cucumber, yogurt, garlic, and dill sauce.
- Melitzanosalata, or eggplant salad, is baked or grilled eggplant tossed in herbs, lemon, olive oil, garlic, and tomato served with chunks of crusty bread or pita wedges.
So where do the locals eat in Greece?
At the tavernas, of course. Most are small, unmarked, and relatively unknown to tourists. These family-run businesses specialize in the personal touch and are often found next to a fishing port. Everything served is exquisitely fresh, simple, and accompanied by plenty of lively conversation and local character. Here are some suggestions to add to your must-see list.
Although you won’t find signs pointing the way, locals can direct you to Diporto. Found in the center of Athens alongside a variety of specialized marketplaces, this subterranean tavern with a humble entrance has been operating since 1887.
You won’t find a menu, but you will find a half-dozen daily dishes built on the catch of the day and the freshest produce from the nearby markets. Your rustic peasant bread is placed directly on the paper tablecloth. Tear it with your hands, and dip it into the melt-in-your-mouth chickpea soup doused with olive oil. You might enjoy Greek salad, fried sardines, fried sausage, or fava bean soup as you sit at a small table surrounded by wine barrels.
Diporto’s home-style cooking is washed down with the house white wine infused with pine resin — the traditional Greek retsina. The owner will probably serve you himself, and you can soak up the local vibe while an accordion player serenades you.
This popular island relies almost solely on tourism, so it’s easy to find countless restaurants and bars jammed with tourists in Fira, the main town, and romantic Oia. But it’s possible to find family-run taverns near the smaller communities and beaches. Ask for Santorini tomatoes no matter where you go. These small cherry tomatoes are intensely delicious and make the best keftedes: deep-fried patties of Santorini tomatoes and onions covered in flour.
Kyria Niki’s, named for the owner-chef, is found on a main road that connect Fira and Karterados. The prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. You’ll find traditional, freshly cooked Greek cuisine in a buffet-style setting, a great house wine, and friendly, attentive service rumored to be the best on the island. Enjoy the octopus with macaroni, spanakorizo (spinach and rice), and gigantes plaki (baked lima beans).
Tsipouradiko is located on the main road to Fira and offers specialties like fried squid, grilled octopus with mashed fava beans, cod fillet with garlic dip, prawns in tomato sauce, lamb kleftiko, and homemade dessert paired with local liqueurs. The prices are very reasonable for Fira, the portions are huge, and this gem is off the beaten tourist path.
The largest of the Dodecanese islands, the locals here believe “food tastes better shared.” Order a plate of everything for the table, and sample away.
Taverna Koukos looks like a postcard-perfect white and blue traditional Greek house. This bakery, restaurant, and guesthouse overlooks Agia Theodoti beach and offers a second-story terrace from which to savor the authentic food and ocean views.
Sip a glass of locally made wine with your spinach and feta pie followed by a traditional Greek coffee and homemade pastry. The goat stew and burgers are just the ticket after a day on the beach.
Seek out the plentiful family-run tavernas on Mykonos, but be sure to save time for the lovely drive through peaceful farmlands that carries you up to secluded Fokos. Found on the beach on the island’s northeast side, Fokos offers an extensive menu, friendly and relaxed service, and authentic, fresh food grilled on the terrace overlooking the sea. Diners swear it serves the best fish on the island.
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