Get Your Fork Out: A Guide to the Athens Restaurant Scene

Athens is more alive than ever, thanks to its vibrant food scene. These restaurants are the perfect starting points for discovering it.


By Nena Dimitriou & Paulina Björk Kapsalis

Myriad new restaurants and eateries have helped Athens’ city center to blossom in spite of the economic crisis. Classic tavernas – quintessential symbols of the Athenian food culture with their great atmosphere, hearty stews and walls lined with wine barrels – remain the dominant force.

But today they are joined by restaurants of modern Greek cuisine, where talented cooks are reinventing the genre; by street food joints, with souvlaki being the unrivaled star; and by a large variety of other choices that prove that Athenians love to eat and to explore new cuisines. An ethnic food district has formed around Syntagma Square, to cater to adventurous Greeks and the millions of tourists who flock to the city all year round.

Neighborhoods around the outskirts of the city center, like Koukaki and Pangrati, are becoming increasingly popular as new restaurants and trendy cafés serving great brunch set up shop. Athens also has a few Michelin-starred restaurants, which are quite affordable considering the quality of the food they serve, and the latest trend is wine bars specializing in Greek selections.

What, apart from all this, makes Athens special as a food destination? Well, for a start, you can find a table after hours at even the fanciest restaurant, have value-for-money fresh fish right by the sea, and enjoy traditional recipes at tavernas that have been around for more than half a century.

Even if you’re part of the 72-hour crowd choosing Athens for a short city break, it’s all so accessible that you’ll be able to get a pretty good idea of what’s on offer.

Our suggestion: start with the traditional tavernas and the upscale restaurants serving contemporary versions of classic Greek dishes. Below are some of our favorites.

ATHIRI 

Housed in a charming neoclassical building with a green garden in the Kerameikos neighborhood, award-winning Athiri showcases Greek ingredients in unexpected and contemporary ways. Sourcing both traditional and new products from all over the country, chef Alexandros Kardasis prepares dishes that just can’t be found at other upscale restaurants.

COOKOOVAYA

The result of a collaboration between five talented chefs, Cookoovaya serves reinvented Greek cuisine alongside classic dishes such as Greek salad, fresh fish with seasonal vegetables, and savory pies baked in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven.

info

Athiri: 15 Plateon, Keramikos, Tel. (+30) 210.346.2983

Cookoovaya: 2A Hatziyianni Mexi, Tel. (+30) 210.723.5005

DIPORTO

This basement taverna might just be the oldest one in Athens. The atmosphere here is unbeatable; the place has barely changed since it opened, making it a favorite spot for romantics and history buffs alike. The food is still cooked the same way, and the wine is still poured straight from the large barrels. Try the chickpea soup, the boiled greens and the whitebait. 

FABRICA TOU EFROSINOU 

After eating here, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the owner once studied theology. Efrosynos (the restaurant’s name means “The Workshop of Efrosynos”) is the patron saint of cooks, and many recipes in this retro-chic modern taverna with its unique décor are inspired by the cuisine of the monastic community of Mt Athos. The easy atmosphere of this place and the food it serves have earned this eatery many believers. 

info

Diporto: 9 Sokratous and Theatrou, Omonia, Tel. (+30) 210.321.1463

Fabrica tou Efrosinou: 34 Anastasiou Zinni, Koukaki, Tel. (+30) 210.924.6354

HYTRA

Located on the 6th floor of the Onassis Cultural Center, Michelin-starred Hytra is perfect for those who love fine dining. Tasos Mantis’ dishes are highly contemporary, both in execution and presentation. The food is inspired by Greek recipes, but the emphasis on appearance means each dish is a work of art, too. Organized by their taste profile, the wine list features over 100 domestic and international wines. 

Kritikos

This family-run taverna, located in the middle of nowhere in Kantza, is famous for serving excellent cuts of meat, perfectly grilled over charcoal.  It’s a carnivore’s paradise. Try the steak, burgers, and ribs (the whole rack of ribs is a must order). The menu includes various traditional Greek meze dishes such as tzatziki and fried zucchini, but be sure not to over-order on the starters because you’ll want to leave plenty of room for the main attraction.

info

Hytra: 107 Syngrou Avenue, Tel. (+30) 210.331.6767

Kritikos: 49 Aiolou, Kantza-Pallini, Tel. (+30) 210.665.9061

OIKONOMOU

This neighborhood taverna in Petralona offers little in terms of décor but plenty in authenticity and flavor. Serving traditional rustic foods such as soups and casseroles that remind locals of the food their grandmothers used to make, it’s a popular choice among families on the weekends.

PAPAIOANNOU

This seaside restaurant is a perfect place to enjoy the classic seafood you’ve come to associate with Greece. The sea urchin, the red mullet or the catch of the day, prepared on the grill, are all recommended. Pair your food with a nice Greek white from the extensive wine list.

info

Oikonomou: 41 Troon & Kydantidon, Petralona, Tel. (+30) 210.346.7555

Papaioannou: 42 Akti Koumoundourou, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.422.5059

SEYCHELLES 

This taverna, which has a great vibe and sources excellent ingredients, offers delicious no-frills food in a lively setting. With tables on the main square of Metaxourgio, it’s the perfect easy-dining setting for those warm evenings in the city.

TRAVOLTA 

Brothers Spyros and Vangelis Liakos collaborate with fishermen from Halkida and Kalymnos, among other places, to serve innovative seafood and fish-based meze such as red mullet tartare and fava (yellow split-pea dip) with smoked eel. The high point of the menu is the skewer with shrimp and squid, served with squid ink and olive oil. 

info

Seychelles: 49 Kerameikou, Metaxourgio, Tel. (+30) 211.183.4789

Travolta: 33 Aghiou Pavlou, Peristeri, Tel. (+30) 210.571.9222

TRIANTAFYLLO TIS NOSTIMIAS

Situated in an arcade full of old goldsmith workshops, this simple eatery has just a handful of tables. Locals come here for ouzo and meze. Try some small grilled fish, herb stuffed sardines, fava (yellow split pea) with onion, and fried saganaki cheese.

TUDOR HALL 

Featuring neoclassical décor and an amazing view of the city center and the Acropolis, Tudor Hall serves modern Greek cuisine. Inspired by the food of his home island of Corfu, chef de cuisine Alexandros Koskinas puts emphasis on quality seasonal ingredients to create dishes such as grilled calamari and handmade pasta. The dessert menu by French pastry chefs Arnaud Larher and Evgenios Vardakastanis is just as impressive.

VAROULKO

Lefteris Lazarou is Greece’s most famous seafood chef. At his Michelin-starred Varoulko in Mikrolimano, he cooks innovative fish and seafood recipes together with chef Giannis Parikos. Enjoy dishes such as dolmadakia (stuffed vine leaf rolls) filled with cuttlefish risotto, and other gastronomic delights. Dessert is an absolute must. 

info

Triadafyllou tis Nostimias: 22 Lekka, Syntagma, Tel. (+30) 210.322.7298

Tudor Hall: 3 Vasileos Georgiou I, Syntagma Square, Tel. (+30) 210.333.0265

Varoulko: 52 Akti Koumoundourou, Tel. (+30) 210.522.8400


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