10 Affordable Eateries in the Heart of Downtown Athens (Map Included)

Gastronomos editor and Athens local, Georgia Papastamou, shares some of her favorite haunts where you can enjoy delicious, affordable food in the city center.


People say that the heart of downtown Athens has everything. Well, based on my experience of living in the center, I can’t say that I entirely agree. I mean, aside from the excellent street, and the fact that there are many more “gastronomic” choices available now, the majority of busy eateries in the center are a bit soulless, serving high-priced food that is, unfortunately, not very good food.

 

For people who find themselves in Syntagma Square, Omonoia Square or the neighboring areas and want to try delicious, affordable dishes, the question of where to eat can be daunting. That said, from my personal experience, I can recommend some eateries that appeal to everyone’s taste and wallet:

Lesbos in Exarchia (38 Emmanouil Benaki, Exarchia, Tel. (+30) 210.381.4525). When it first opened its doors in 1970, it was a favorite haunt of Lesbos islanders who had migrated to Athens. It was a type of kafenio – ouzeri and post office (this is where Lesbians would go to pick up parcels that their friends and family would send them from their native island) that also functioned as an unofficial employment office (someone knew someone who knew someone else and so on and so forth). Today, the restaurant enjoys a larger clientele. Customers go there for its cured and marinated products, its Ladotyri cheese from the town of Polychnito, Lesvos, its cuttlefish, its fried striped red mullet and especially its delicious fried zucchinis with their hard, golden crust.

 
 
 
 
 
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Another popular eatery in Exarchia is Lontza tis Geitonias (76 Charilaou Trikoupi, Exarchia, Athens, Tel. (+30) 210.361.2334) a friendly, modern fast-food restaurant where strangers easily start up discussions enjoying simple dishes, such as meatballs with French fries, fried eggs or kakavia (a Greek fish soup). Just a short distance away you’ll find Athinaikon (2 Themistokleous, Omonoia Square, Tel. (+30) 210.383.8485), with its famous fish soup and its quaint, polite service.

 
 
 
 
 
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At Poncho (10 Aghios Georgios Karytsi Square, Athens, Tel. (+30) 210.331.7538) the tacos are so delicious that you can’t help but order them two by two. Simple but delicious, they’re served on a paper plate with a lot of freshly-squeezed lime and enjoyed with a cold beer. At the back of this small taco shop at Aghios Georgios Karytsi Square, Poncho Alvarez – the shop’s owner – gets up early every morning to prepare fresh corn tortillas that he presses and kneads himself.

 
 
 
 
 
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Closer to Syntagma Square, tucked inside a galleria, you will find Triantafyllos (22 Lekka, Syntagma Square, Tel. (+30) 210.322.7298), an eatery that serves fresh small fish and a variety of delicious salads, such as boiled vegetables, horta (wild greens) and black-eyed peas.

On the opposite side of the street, Granello (18 Perikleous, Syntagma Square, Tel. (+30) 210.322.6542) serves Neapolitan pizzas that are made with natural leaven and baked in a wood-fired oven. It only has 3 or 4 tables that are set out on the sidewalk, and it’s convenient when you want to have a quick chat and enjoy an even faster thin-crust pizza.

In Psyrri, Nikitas (19 Aghion Anargyron, Psyrri, Tel. (+30) 210.325.2591), in contrast to many of the area’s other eateries, doesn’t have a touristy feel. It has been run by the same family since 1967, serving fresh ladera (foods cooked with an olive oil base) and grilled dishes every day. I recommend the meatballs (if you ask, they will serve them with a hot pepper sliced in thick strips) and kontosouvli (spit-roasted large chunks of marinated pork).

 
 
 
 
 
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Making our way up to Kolonaki, we try to find a place in the sun at the historic kafeneio Dexameni that is situated on a sloping footpath (Dexameni Square, Kolonaki, Tel. (+30) 210.722.4609). If the weather is good, all you need are the simple, tasty meze that they prepare with a lot of care (French fries with eggs, dakos, grilled halloumi cheese, legume salad and small, juicy meatballs).

 
 
 
 
 
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In Mets, at the end of our walks we usually wind up hungry at Olympion (9 Anapafseos, Mets, Tel. (+30) 210.924.4388), a lively eatery that is popular among the locals. Some of its must-try dishes are chickpeas with eggplants, giourvalakia (a dish consisting of balls of ground meat, rice, and seasonings, cooked in a pot, in water or meat broth) and – my personal favorite – old-school chicken schnitzel.

Finally, if we don’t mind being a little crammed, we can always find a stool or seat at Tuk Tuk (40 Veikou, Koukaki, Tel. (+30) 211.405.1947). Surrounded by lanterns, Buddha statues, plastic plants and golden cat figurines that never stop waving, we watch the chefs do their magic in the open kitchen as they prepare noodle dishes and bowls with aromatic curries and check (again) what the cost of a air ticket to Thailand is!

This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.



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