Vassilis Kallidis is a man of the city centre – that’s where he lives and that’s where he likes to hang out, constantly stumbling upon something new.
When we asked the popular chef to share with us his favourite and most flavoursome corners of Omonia, he unequivocally declared his love for long-time places like Stani and Lefteris Politis, and then took us for lunch and shopping at lesser-known stops he’s discovered while strolling around the square and its surroundings.
1. Zitsa: A meeting point since 1936
In the same spot since 1936, Zitsa has been a meeting point for decades for the capital’s Epirotes, who came here to chat with their neighbours or to pick up their foods from the village. Until the beginning of the 1980s, the café-ouzeri has even hosted clarinet “concerts,” with performances by masters of the genre such as Petroloukas Chalkias. Today you’ll go there to admire the authentic decor and sip a frosty beer, just two steps from Omonia Square.
2. At the Stoa for fish and coolness
Entering the cool arcade, the smell of garlic immediately hits, whetting your appetite. Between a barbershop and an old tailor’s shop, the tavern spreads its tables serving everything from fish in the pan to roast sheep. Go for the fried anchovies and cod, meatballs, grilled sardines or the live music that is usually played on Wednesdays.
Zitsa, 23 Veranzerou
Stoa, 24 Chalkokondyli
3. At Nostimo for mama’s moussaka
It’s not in one of the easiest parts of Omonia, but in this small and clean kitchen with its checked tablecloths and the two ladies who run the kitchen, you’ll eat good yuvarlakia and mummy’s moussaka, with coarsely chopped vegetables and just the right amount of olive oil.
4. Cleopatra: the best Arabic mini-market in Athens
The most up-to-date Arabic mini-market in Athens, apart from an impressive sign with the queen of ancient Egypt, has a bunch of hard-to-find products. Be sure to pick up spicy harissa for cooking, choose rice for pilaf and experiment with carob or pomegranate molasses. Also check out jars of garlicky stuffed eggplant, various kinds of pies and cardamom tea.
5. The historic liqueurs of the Polykala Distillery
The taste of innocence can be discovered in the liqueurs of the family-run Polykala distillery, with its beautiful name. Founded 125 years ago in Lixouri, the company now has its factory in Keratea, while the shop is located behind the Athens Town Hall, on the same street since 1904. Grandfather Polykalas used to be called “Mr. Très Bien.” He made his nickname his logo and put it on the bottles of drinks. Try sweet and sour plum liqueur Azen and the musky Nona’s Fioro, with sweet Muscat wine and apple geranium.
Nostimo, 51-53 Veranzerou
Cleopatra Mini Market, 13 Kratinou
Polykala Distillery, 7 Kleisthenous
6. Tsilihranou Bros: A very sweet stop
Hundreds of old-fashioned candies, neon lights, dried fruit and a liqueur or two. The Tsilihranou Brothers’ shop has all of the above, but what it specializes in is honey. They work with specific producers from all over the country and on their shelves, you’ll find, among other things, thyme honey from Kalymnos or Mani, strawberry tree honey from Evritania and the rare vanilla fir honey, with a pearly blonde colour.
7. Bread & Roses for value for money food
The kitchen started in 2015 as a cooperative of young people with a love for cooking, who wanted to offer quality and affordable food. Every morning they prepare the menu and then write it on the blackboard and post it on social media. Plenty of vegetarian options and all under ten euros – most closer to five.
Tsilihranou Bros, 24 Chalkokondyli
Bread & Roses, 64 Panepistimiou
8. At Kir’ Panagiotis’ ouzeri
No fish in summer, no bean soup when the weather gets cold, omelettes, meatballs in red pepper sauce – this is the kind of food and snacks that Mr Panagiotis from Vonitsa and his beautiful wife prepare. There is shade and coolness in the lodge, and there is also cold tsipouro.
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
Kir’ Panagiotis’ ouzeri, 12 Ag. Konstantinou