1. Ilios: Fish delicacies by the Libyan Sea
A family taverna in Sfakia Loutro in a heavenly resort along the southern coast of Chania. Here, you will find fish (fished by the owners themselves, Nikos and George Androulakakis), meat, stews, soup and fisherman’s pasta (with shrimp and seafood). Wine is served by the jug, but local labels are on offer too. All this can be enjoyed by the blue waters of the Libyan Sea. Accessible by Sfakia by boat. (Routes: www.anendyk.gr)
• INFO: Loutro Sfakion, Tel. (+30) 28250.91.460, Cost: about €12 per person (without drinks), Open from 7:30 am until late at night.
2. Patrelantonis: Incredibly fresh sea urchins and cuttlefish with fennel
A classic fish taverna ‒ perfectly fried calamari, fresh fish, sea urchins still smelling of the sea, shrimp pasta etc., but traditional dishes too ‒ kalitsounia, dakos, cuttlefish with fennel, all on the lively beach of Marathi in Souda Bay. Elegantly decorated with white wooden tables and blue chairs. They have a wine list with plenty of labels
• INFO: Marathi, Akrotiri, Tel. (+30) 28210.63.337, Open from morning for ouzo or coffee until late in the evening, Cost: around €20 per person (without drinks).
3. Captain Fidias: Everyone here knows about fish
Captain Fidias’ four sons fish every day with their two caiques for the seafood and fish served by the tavern under huge trees on Sfinari beach. Choose from what Mrs Ariadne, the wife of the captain, suggests, and she’ll take care of the rest.
The tavern has been in operation since 1976 and is famous for its sun-dried octopus, fish, fish soup, crayfish, lobsters, squid, shrimp and everything else that the sea has to offer. The wine served by the jugful is their own. When the west wind doesn’t blow, the beach, 60 km west of Chania, is ideal for a swim with deep water, sand or pebble shores. You can also, however, swim in Phalasarna and come here for a meal.
• INFO: Sfinari Kissamos, Tel. (+30) 28220.41.107, Cost: around €20 per person (with salad, a main dish and a side dish without drinks), but depends on your selection of fish. Open from the morning.
4. Plakures: Cretan cuisine with a twist
The Plakures Hotel & Restaurant, which is run by the Vagionakis-Kramer family, is a place where you can try Greek cuisine with some special touches. The boureki and handmade tagliatelle with tomatoes and mushrooms are delicious, as are the vegetable risotto and the classic lamb in red sauce. Five labels of white and four of red wine are on offer, plus wine by the jug (red, white and rosé).
As for the nearby beach, it needs no introduction: Phalasarna is one of the most beautiful in the world, with cool, clear, blue water, fine sand and a lot of people. Thankfully, it’s quite large. The restaurant is just a few meters from the sea on the other side of the beach road.
• INFO: Phalasarna, Kissamos, Tel. (+30) 28220.41.581, Open for lunch and dinner, Cost: €15-20 per person (without drinks)
5. Chrysostomos: A canteen with treasures
You’ll need a boat from Sfakia or Palaiochora (or, if you like trekking, the E4 path will take you there) to get to the Chrysostomos canteen, but it is 100% worth it. The flavors are great ‒ if you’ve eaten at the eponymous restaurant under the same owners in Chania, you’ll understand why. Where to start from? The bread is their own, kneaded and baked in a wood oven, lamb or goat braised or roasted in the oven with potatoes, boureki, amazing briam, salad with wild chicory and anthotyro cheese etc. It’s no coincidence that in 2013, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported it as one of the 10 best beach canteens in Europe. Wine by the jug or bottled. Marmara beach and the tavern are four nautical miles from Sfakia (10-20 minutes depending on the boat) and one nautical mile from Loutro.
• INFO: Marmara Beach, Sfakia, Tel. (+30) 282577.22.99, Open morning, noon and evening, Cost: €10-15 per person (without drinks).
6. Sto Scholeio: Simone’s specialities
The school in Anidri closed in 1970 and for the last 20 years, in its place a kafeneio now operates, run by Christos Vardoulakis and his wife Simone Bosch. Sitting in the shade of a 300-year-old olive tree, overlooking the gorge of Anidri and the Libyan Sea, you might have to wait a little while because it’s often busy, but it’s worth it for Simone’s dishes which change daily. Tarts (with eggplant and gruyere with figs, blue cheese, walnuts, etc.) and chicken fillet with feta sauce, vegetarian moussaka, cheese pies with tyromalama cheese, vegetarian papoutsakia with celery root, zucchini flowers etc. The wine is primarily served by the jug. The kafeneio is just 10 minutes’ drive from the beach of Anidri and 4 km from Paleochora.
• INFO: Anidri, Selino, Tel. (+30) 28230.83.001, Cost: €13-15 per person (without drinks), Open 9.30 in the morning for coffee until late in the evening.
7. Aghia Fotia: Braised rabbit and fish of the day
A few kilometers from the village of Kerames, on the road to Keramiani Gialia. All kinds of traditional casserole dishes are cooked here: braised rabbit, lamb in lemon, etc., and you will find fish of the day too. The tables are few but service is quick and the desserts are homemade.
• INFO: Aghia Fotini, Tel. (+30) 6937.124.600, Open from the morning, Cost: about €15-16 per person.
8. Ligres Beach: Homemade breakfast and cooked dishes
South of the village of Kerames, you will find the small guest house “Ligres Beach” with only 10 rooms, named after the nearby beach. Michalis fishes and his mother in the kitchen takes care of the cooking. She wasn’t a professional cook ‒ she took it up for the sake of the taverna, so whatever you try will have a homemade character. Moussaka, okra with chicken, braised beef and pork with beans are served on a daily basis. There is also breakfast: omelets, eggs, yogurt with honey and homemade jam made from fresh fruit.
• INFO: Ligres, Tel. (+30) 6974.234.509, Open from the morning, Cost: about €15-16 per person with drink.
9. I Kantina Tou Manoli: Roasted meat under the shade of a carob tree
“Depending on the mood we wake up in, that’s how we cook.” With these words Manolis lets visitors know that the food they find has been made with gusto: roasted lamb, pork, briam and stuffed vegetables, baked lamb and thick-cut, perfectly fried potatoes. The seafood depends on what the sea turns out. The usual starters, Greek salad, dakos, fava and cold beers. The wine and raki are from from Chania. Service is very friendly, with a bright smile and a good heart. Tables and chairs are set out under the cafe under the thick shade of the carob tree. At sunset the sky turns purple over the crystal waters.
• INFO: Peristeres Beach, Tel. (+30) 6937.554.059, Open from 8:30 am, Cost: €15 per person with drinks
10. Saradari: Cretan ceviche
Creative seafood overlooking turquoise waters. Here, you will eat ceviche made from fish of the day, marinated anchovies with wild chicory, mushroom burger with portobello mushrooms instead of bread, shrimp, cuttlefish and octopus, and other Mediterranean dishes with local materials to give them an interesting twist. They also have a great wine list. Booking is essential.
• INFO: Limanakia Hersonissos, Tel. (+30) 28970.25.375, Open from morning, Cost €25-30 per person with wine.
11. Stavros: Everything by hand
You can reach Maridaki either via a bumpy ride along a 15 km. dirt road, by walking for 30 minutes down a steep path from Tsoutsouras, or by a short boat ride from the port of Tsoutsouras. At the taverna, dishes of the day are on offer, prepared by Vasso, Stavros’ wife. Stuffed vegetables and zucchini flowers, lamb and roast pork. Wine by the jug, cheese and ice cream which they make themselves.
• INFO: Maridaki, No phone, Open from morning, Cost: €15 per person with drinks
12. Pelagos: Just fish
A fish tavern on the sandy beach of Katalyki. No frills, just fresh fish every day. Try the fish soup, lobster spaghetti, grilled squid and a few appetizers. Six labels of bottled wine are on offer from the local vineyard. Wine by the jug is also available.
• INFO: Kokkinos Pirgos, Timpaki, Tel. (+30) 28920.53.394, Open from 12.00, Cost: €15-17 per person
13. Giorgos: Their own fish, seasonal dishes
The mother, Anna, heads the kitchen, the father and grandfather of the family are fishermen and bring in various seafood. On the menu you will find many stews, casseroles and meat dishes. Cheese from Zaro, wine from wineries in Heraklio: five labels of bottled wine, but the wine by the jug from the Strataridaki winery is the bestseller of the shop. Round off the meal with ice cream and fruit on the house, along with ice cold raki.
• INFO: Kalamaki, Tel. (+30) 28920.45.311, Open from 10 am, Cost: about €15 per person.
14. Hiona Seafood: Special seafood soup
This tavern offers some great options for seafood of the highest calibre with its specialty being a rich seafood soup. White seabream, pan-fried mullet and fish with red sauce. Wine by the jug or labels from Cretan wineries.
• INFO: Hiona Beach, Sitia, Tel. (+30) 28430.61.228, Open from morning, Cost: €20-25 per person for fish.
15. Kalliotzina: Cottage cheese and and zucchini blossoms
The story of Kalliotzinas of the Kalliontzi family started 60 years ago, when a small cafe opened in Koutsouras and served fishermen. The tavern has been in operation since the 80s and the kitchen is now headed by the daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters of Kalliotzinas. Homemade food leads the way. Xygalo cheese, dolmades and stuffed zucchini flowers, briam, okra, stuffed vegetables the way they make them on the island, beef stifado and tender oven-roasted pork. Trees provide a nice freshness, benches circle the tables and at night, live music often keeps things going.
• INFO: Koutsouras, Makrigialos, Sitia, Tel. (+30) 28430.51.207, Open from 12.00, Cost: about €16 per person with drinks.
16. Elia: Zucchini flowers with coarse salt and stuffed vegetables in the pan
Fanis Eikosipentakis has owned the tavern “Peperia” in Pefki, in south Lasithi, for 20 years. His mother, Eudoxia, a famous cook, works wonders in the kitchen. Makrys Gialos beach is located 7 kilometers away, where for the past three years they have been running Elia taverna, offering traditional cuisine. Here, you will eat wild greens with lamb, stuffed vine leaves and blossoms stuffed with rice and coarse salt, and with feta and fresh mint. Fish of the day, regional meats and seasonal vegetables. The house wine is organic, by Toplou Monastery, and there are 18 choices of labels from local wineries.
• INFO: Makrys Gialos, Tel. (+30) 28430.51.910, Open from the morning, Cost: about €16 per person
17. ‘Sophia’: Masters in grilling
Sophia is the wife of the tavern owner, George Petrakis. She’s an expert in grilling and has been responsible for the grilled dishes of the tavern for 25 years. The mother of George is an ace at stews. You will find exquisite casseroles and dishes in tomato sauce, local meats and many wild greens. Wine by the jug comes from Toplou Monastery and Archanes, and choices in bottled wine come from Crete and the rest of Greece. Complimentary fruit from their own garden is offered at the end of the meal.
• INFO: Kato Zakros, Mochlos, Tel. (+30) 28430.94.554, Open from morning, Cost: about €17 per person, with drinks.