“One thing that strikes you about Greece is the sheer number of cafés. Anywhere in the country, at any hour of the day, you’re sure to find a crowded café, with patrons either sitting inside or at a sunny outdoor terrace. It may not be the first thing you think of, but a visit to the café is a very important part of daily life in Greece. If, during our travels, we find we need a pick-me-up, it will almost always be possible, with less than five minutes’ walk, to find a café (kafenio), a pastry shop (zaharoplastio), a bakery (artopolio), a tiropitatiko (a sort of snack-shop selling cheese pies), a buffet, a gas station shop or a corner store, where we can buy a cup of good coffee either to drink there or to take away.
If we sit down at a café table, the first thing the waiter will do is bring us as many glasses of water as there are people in our party. Or, if there are more than three or four of us, they will instead bring a pitcher of water and empty glasses. You can also request bottled water, of course, but you have to pay for it (€.50 for half a liter). If you finish your water or empty the pitcher, you can request more water, though in my experience the waiters attentively refill glasses whenever the water seems to be running low. Coffees arrive within a few minutes of placing an order – Greek waiters don’t like to keep patrons waiting – and it is generally accompanied by a few biscuits or slices of sponge cake.”
“Greeks go to restaurants more to have fun and relax than to sate their hunger. In tavernas, you can choose from a selection of roast meats, single dishes, fish, and salads. Generally, various dishes and salads are ordered at once, then placed in the middle of the table, and everyone shares.
Most meals are accompanied by wine or retsina, which is a local wine flavored with pine resin. At the end of the meal, the taverna usually offers its guests some free cake or ice cream.
A psarotaverna is a sub-category of taverna, specializing in fish and seafood. These are most common on the coast, and in places popular with tourists.
A souvlatzidikio, meanwhile, specializes in that well-known dish souvlaki (Greek kebabs cooked over an open grill), along with other meat dishes, such as fried ribs, fried chicken breast, meatballs, as well as French fries and various salads. Feta cheese can also be ordered as an accompaniment to meat dishes, and every meal comes with pita and/or bread. These are generally smaller than regular tavernas, but very popular, and like kebab shops elsewhere, people often buy their food to take out or else order home delivery. Cheaper, friendlier, faster, and in a way more traditional than standard tavernas.
The Greek pizzeria is something totally unique. Popular among Greeks, since it differs from their traditional cuisine, this is in effect a very relaxed restaurant, where you can order a range of popular pasta dishes in addition to pizza. In most places, the more popular gouda cheese is used to top the pizza, in place of the more traditional mozzarella. Salads are often ordered alongside pizzas. You might occasionally find individual pizza slices on sale in a bakery, but for the most part, when it comes to pizza or pasta, Greeks prefer to go to restaurant pizzerias.” (2016)
“We knew, of course, that Greek cuisine does not begin and end with the kebab, but we became so enamored with this local staple that we didn’t really feel like trying anything else. Once we ate at the Calypso Bar, which has a really authentic seaside atmosphere. Two young girls were working there, both of whom were very professional and spoke excellent English. The kebabs only cost a few euros, and in both large and small servings you can choose between a range of meat fillings. The taste is unbeatable. Nestled within a lightly toasted pita, the mouth-watering chunks of lean meat are properly seasoned and grilled to perfection.
Tommy is hard to please when it comes to meat, but even he was blown away by the experience, and so we ordered the same thing almost everywhere. Once or twice, just for a change, I ordered souvlaki in the Souvlaki Bar (original, I know) but I quickly decided that while it was certainly excellent, the Greek kebab or gyros was still my favorite. We’re Hungarian, and I saw that the waitress was a bit alarmed when she couldn’t place our nationality – apparently, she couldn’t speak English. With a bit of effort, we managed to translate the German menu, but in the end, we didn’t really need it.
The food was delicious, in any case, just as it had been the day before in the Beach Bar. If memory serves, we ate gyros in five different restaurants and tavernas, and all were top-notch. It’s impossible to compare the prices with a similar meal back home since in Greece the price always includes fries. More importantly, the meat is moist and tender and seasoned not with tzatziki but with the juice from its own cooking. There’s also the version, which I like less, in which the meat comes already packed inside the pita, for take-away. Meanwhile, our takeaway from the trip was that if you want real gyros, it’s got to be Greece!” (2019)