Foodie Essentials

Any cook worth his or her salt knows that food is all about what you build it with.
In Athens, you can still find shops that live for the ABCs of flavor.


Despite the signs of urban decline that are so pronounced in the area around Omonia Square, a number of establishments are defying the crisis and keeping alive traditions that are at risk of being lost in today’s steamroller of mass production. Any foodie would be remiss not to tour these historical gastronomic gems that have withstood the test of time and go back to the basics of cooking.

A good starting point would be Stani, a dairy dating from 1931, a time when fresh produce and other products were delivered to the city’s neighborhoods by donkey-drawn carts. Stani makes and serves fresh yoghurt, butter and kaymak, as well as traditional sweets that have remained unchanged for almost a century. Close by is another legend, the loukouma-maker Ktistakis, founded in 1912 in Hania, Crete. Loukoumades are fried dough balls or rings that are usually doused in honey, with a sprinkling of cinnamon and walnuts – a simple treat that has been made in Greece for hundreds of years. At Ktistakis’, however, a closely-guarded family recipe captures the honey inside the crispy fried balls so that it escapes in a burst of sweet pleasure at the first bite.

“ Foodies would be remiss not to tour the historical gastronomic gems around Omonia Square that have withstood the test of time and go back to the basics of cooking. ”

INFO

Stani:10 Marika Kotopouli Omonia, 
Tel.: (+30) 210.523.3637
Ktistakis: 59 Socratous, 
Tel.: (+30) 210.524.0891
Mokka Specialty: Coffee 44 Athinas, 
Tel.: (+30) 210.321.6892
BaHar: 31 Evripidou, 
Tel.: (+30) 210.321.7225

Skip the coffee there, because Mokka, one of the oldest coffee roasters of Athens, is nearby at 44 Athinas Street. Established in 1922, it serves different blends of exquisite Greek coffee – referred to as “Turkish coffee” until the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, at which point, for political reasons, the Greeks, who consume twice as much of the stuff as Turks, decided to rename their coffee “Greek.” Now in the hands of the fourth generation, Mokka was one of the first coffee stores to import specialty coffees and micro lots.

Around the corner from Mokka is Evripidou Street, host to an array of spice stores and charcuteries (delicatessans) that carry us back to the time of Ottoman-era bazaars. On Saturday there is usually an amazingly long line of customers waiting to be served at Bahar, probably the finest spice store in Athens, with a 75-year history. You don’t really have to wait, though, as the street is filled with the pungent aromas of several such stores, all of which offer products of excellent quality.

Evripidou is also well known for its “pastourmadika,” a local equivalent of charcuteries. Two arch-rival pastourma-makers and sellers, Miran and Arapian, both with roots in Armenia and both established in 1922, stand side-by-side, fiercely competing for customers’ attention. If you call Miran in advance, you can reserve the tasting-table at the back of the shop. Bring your own glasses, wine and some fresh bread from the bakery across the street, and enjoy an impromptu taste expedition into Greece’s finest cheeses and cured meats.

If you want something more substantial, have lunch or dinner at the Karamanlidika tou Fani, a charcuterie-restaurant inspired by similar eateries that flourished in Byzantine times.

If the whole thing seems a bit daunting, book a walk with Culinary Backstreets, a knowledgeable group of local foodies [www.culinarybackstreets.com]

INFO

Miran: 45 Evripidou, 
   Tel.: (+30) 210.321.7187
Arapian: 41 Evripidou, 
   Τel.: (+30) 210.321.7238 
Karamanlidika tou Fani: 1 Socratous, 
   Tel.: (+30) 210.325.4184


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