The Greek capital is becoming a foodie’s paradise, with a new generation of restaurants (and restaurant-goers) riding a wave of newfound creativity.
I’m a Greek foodie. My symptoms include red eyes from hours of scanning food blogs and Instagram, a strange interest in cutlery and traditional ceramic bowls, and a constant hunger that makes it impossible to stay at my target weight. My family members view me with a mixture of puzzlement and pity, not to mention frustration when I make them watch their food go cold as I photograph it from every conceivable angle.
The Greek food renaissance is an interesting phenomenon. It arrived at a strange time, when one would expect the troubled economy to lead to a decrease in gastronomical and cultural risk taking in general. Yet despite the crisis, (or perhaps even because of it), precisely the opposite seems to have happened, with the industry embracing creativity, diversity, and new marketing tools. All things that have helped spark the interest of not just food enthusiasts, but what I would call the first foodie generation in Greece. And while it is certainly not limited to Athens, the city is at its epicenter.
Us foodies will try it all. Whether it’s reinvented versions of traditional dishes like a stuffed tomato turned risotto at the roof garden of Electra Palace, international cuisine we’re unused to, like Japanese and Lebanese, or playful mashups defying easy categorisation at Estrella, we will taste it, and we will capture and we will upload it.
The most frequently photographed meals in Athens are street food. Perhaps a direct result of the half-empty pockets of the average foodie, but I also think it’s because there is so much to photograph lately. The options for an on-the-go meal are countless.
Aside from the beloved souvlaki, there is new interest for international offerings amongst the Athenians, and restaurateurs have responded by opening a myriad of new fast food eateries all over the city. I recommend quesadillas at Mama Roux, noodles at Street Wok, lamajoun at Feyrouz, burgers at Μπαρ Μπεε Κιου (Bar-be-cue), “Indian souvlaki” at Mirch, and falafel at Falafellas.
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Chef and food blogger Dimitris Koparanis once told me, while talking about his viral “bougatsan“ dish (a mashup between a Greek “bougatsa” pastry and a croissant), that every dish he makes has a story, but not every story is perceivable to those who enjoy it.
For a dish to become foodie bait, the story has to be obvious. I think part of that story now, attachable to every single inventive recipe and restaurant, is Greece, in crisis, managing to do something new and creative. It sparks willingness to support them; making the foodie culture just a little less superficial. Or at least that’s what I tell my family…
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