The business of reviving the Thessaloniki food scene is being carried out mainly among friends. Τalented young people with culinary know-how, a shared enthusiasm and fresh ideas gleaned from travel pin-pointed what was missing from the restaurant map and brought a breath of fresh air to a city that loves its food.
Our story begins in the Ladadika District in 2012, with the opening of Sebriko. Today, under new ownership, the restaurant still showcases Greek products, putting the emphasis on meze, among which the spicy soutzouk sausage and the fava split-pea paste are favorites. Its signature dish is the rib-eye, usually done medium-well, while other good selections include the chicken with eggplant puree, an alternative version of the Anatolian hunkiar beyendi (usually prepared with veal).
Extravaganza, the creation of three friends who met while doing their military service, has been in operation for three years now, in an arcade near the Roman Agora. The owners took over an abandoned space, introduced a simple yet stylish decorative theme and opened a bar-restaurant where they create new recipes, such as the burger made with beef kavourma (slow-roasted meat) that they prepare themselves. You should also try the graviera goat cheese in an almond crust, served with chili marmalade. The wine list is small, but reasonably priced and of good quality.
EXTRAVAGANZA | 29A Stoa Ptolemaion & Amvrosiou, Ano Poli • Tel. (+30) 2310.529.791
IGGLIS | 32 Irodoutou, Kastra • Tel. (+30) 2313.011.967
MAITR & MARGARITA | 2 Verias, Kastra • Tel. (+30) 2314.007.586
NEA FOLIA | 4 Aristomenous • Tel. (+30) 2310.960.383
RADIKAL | 61 Polydorou Stergiou • Tel. (+30) 2310.202.007
REDIVIVA CUCINA POVERA | 70 Alexandras Papadopoulou, Tsinari • Tel. (+30) 2313.067.400
SEBRIKO | 2 Frangon, Ladadika • Tel. (+30) 2310.557.513
In 2015, in an old warehouse on Verias Street, another city lane that had fallen in disuse, three friends from the northeastern town of Komotini created Maitr & Margarita. They have been making magic here ever since, offering crispy filo pies stuffed with lamb mince and kefir (fermented milk solids); a risotto-style dish made with wheat and oxtail, dry anthotyro cheese and white truffle; and tangy Messinian sfela cheese fried in a crust of Komotini chickpeas and served with a honey-raisin sauce – all excellent dishes to go with your wine. The wine list itself contains labels from small producers.
Radikal in Ano Poli is the epitome of team work. A dozen partners, each talented in his or her own way, came together and opened this elegant restaurant in a quiet and leafy neighborhood near Kastra. A dining hall decorated mostly in white tones, a separate area for private functions of up to 12 people and a gorgeous glass-walled wine room in the basement all work to create a memorable setting. The menu can be described as neo-Mediterranean, but without any single specific country dominating. The dishes include sautéed liver in a grape sauce; oxtail served with fried gnocchi and a cream cheese sauce; and Japanese-inspired pork pancetta kebabs. All of the wines here can be ordered by the glass.
Also in Ano Poli, in an old café with a courtyard in the Tsinari neighborhood, the experienced cooperative behind Rediviva Cucina Povera has created a completely unpretentious eatery that draws you right in – thanks in part to the amazing aromas wafting from the kitchen – and keeps you coming back with its wonderful “ad-lib” dishes, made with fresh ingredients (many picked from the group’s own garden). Fresh wild mushrooms are fried or pickled, and wild legumes, seasonal fruits and vegetables are made into pies, marmalades and chutneys (some of which are also available for purchase). Try as many meze as possible, including one or two of the dishes of the day, but be sure not to miss the sun-dried fish or the hahles pasta from the island of Lesvos, served with feta cheese.
Igglis in Kastra, with a history dating back almost 100 years, has been an instrumental force on the Thessaloniki food scene for decades and, as such,w does not belong to the new generation of restaurants. However, the current owners have endowed the menu with a wonderful mix of retro and “right now,” marrying traditional Greek techniques (such as cooking stews in clay pots) to the food spirit of the East, using old recipes and ingredients that have fallen out of fashion but infusing all their dishes with inspiration and freshness. If the weather is fine, look for a table under the vine-covered pergola outside.
Over the years, Folia (now known as Nea Folia, or “New Nest”), has evolved from a kafeneio/cheap wine boozery into a real gem. The food is rich northern Greek fare with exciting touches, like the mustard leaves, anise and ginger that go into the classic lemon pork, or the tarragon and raspberry vinegar in the rabbit stew. Try the beef sausage stew with leeks, celeriac and dried fruits, and d0n’t miss some of the amazing cheeses from other parts of Greece – the melicholoro and kaskavali from Lesvos, the xinotyri from Ios or the fennel-scented cheese from Andros. Dessert is on the house.
Talented young people with culinary know-how, a shared enthusiasm and fresh ideas pinpointed what was missing and brought a breath of fresh air to a city that loves its food.