Culinary Capital: The 17 Best Restaurants in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is gaining popularity as one of Europe's most exciting culinary destinations. Here we explore its best eateries, as selected by top food magazine Gastronomos.


Duck

In the relatively sparsely populated industrial area of Pylaia, chef Ioanna Theodorakaki has created a cozy space, not unlike a country home, where you feel more like a family friend than a customer. There’s a small yard with a garden where she grows various vegetables and herbs, which she uses in a cuisine that’s difficult to characterize. You’ll find a variety of dishes, from mutton with eggplant to celery root soup with lobster or venison (from a farm in Xanthi) with white sauce and truffle. The kid goat in a nest of French fries was our favorite. They bake their own bread, have an extensive wine list, and the service is top notch.

INFO

3 Halkis, Pylaia

Tel. (+30) 2315.519.333

Extravaganza

This restaurant, which opened nine years ago, presents a creative menu and works with quality ingredients sourced through some key partnerships. The Chilli Factor organic farm at Neoi Epivates supplies seasonal vegetables, the meat comes from Arethousa, the feta cheese is from Halkidiki, the potatoes are from the village of Archangelos, the eels are from Messolongi, and a range of other products are sourced from Crete and Lesvos. We tried a number of filling dishes with a comfort-food feel, such as a generous Caesar salad sprinkled with fried kale; beef meatballs in a smoky tomato sauce, with feta and crispy onion; French fries with truffle oil and Parmesan cheese; and oven-baked honeyed pancetta. The small wine list is mostly Greek.

INFO

8 Episkopou Amvrosiou

Tel. (+30) 2310.529.791

Mourga

Mourga opened at a time when Thessaloniki’s gastronomic scene was beginning to come of age. This may be one of the reasons why this restaurant, although located away from the main bustle of the city, quickly became a foodie hot spot. The constantly changing menu does not play a particularly important role, since the emphasis is not so much on the recipes themselves but on the exclusively organic ingredients used in all the dishes. And Alexandros Barbounakis and Giannis Loukakis’ restaurant is still the most talked-about in Thessaloniki. Loukakis, the chef, does not like to fuss with the ingredients, which he holds in the highest regard, too much. Even when his dishes feature unlikely combinations, they manage to strike a balance between innovation and familiarity. We’ll never forget his prawns in a type of saganaki (fried cheese) with over-easy eggs, sheep’s cream and garlic paste. Unforgettable, too, was how, on another occasion, he excitedly offered us a bunch of fresh sorrel, completely raw, with just a light splash of vinaigrette.

INFO

12 Christopoulou

Tel. (+30) 2310.268.826

Iliopetra

Iliopetra offers heartwarming, truly delicious food in a welcoming atmosphere. Chef and owner Giorgos Zannakis has developed a very personal style of cooking. His menu changes not just seasonally but several times a week, and most ingredients are organic, sourced mainly from small producers. Grilled sea bass with leek and celeriac, rabbit stew with vegetables, and beef tongue with fried egg and spinach are just some of the dishes he prepares. His love for Asian cuisine frequently finds expression, creatively yet unpretentiously, in options such as duck with buckwheat noodles, sushi rice with sea bass and green beans, or baked bonito wrapped in rice leaves.

INFO

5 Aischylou

Tel. (+30) 2314.055.553

Nea Folia

This taverna, in the outskirts of Ano Poli, first opened in 1967. Under the guidance of head chefs George Chlouzas and Dimitris Pardalidis, Nea Folia, reminiscent of a traditional eatery, offers a wide selection of delicious little dishes, including many of the hot and spicy variety. Prepared from carefully selected ingredients, choices include a wonderful liver cooked with cabbage – the perfect wine appetizer – and kavourmas (a confit cut of meat with added spices) made from Xanthi beef, served with roasted kale and pomegranate sauce. The wine list features 30 Greek labels, many from small and lesser-known producers.

 
 
 
 
 
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INFO

4 Aristomenous

Tel. (+30) 2310.960.383

Maitr & Margarita

This cozy bistro, created by proponents of Thessaloniki’s new cuisine scene, quickly found its place among the city’s culinary gems. In their new welcoming space, they’ve developed their own distinct style of cooking: local ingredients highlighted in modern dishes, sometimes with elements of fusion cuisine, other times with northern Greek or Mediterranean influences. They do a delicious fresh tuna tataki, served with roasted cauliflower and pear cream. The grilled pork neck with Greek coffee glaze is accompanied by quince purée, while the octopus with boukovo (crushed red pepper flakes) comes with celery-root gnocchi and green apple. The carefully selected wines are not necessarily the best known but they admirably represent particular varieties and wine-making styles and really complement the food.

INFO

3 Frangon

Tel. (+30) 2314.007.586

Diagonios

Diagonios is a grill house offering made-to-order dishes. It has the feel of a city restaurant and stellar service; here, the role of waiter is more vocation than avocation. They welcome you, take your coat, and suggest a table that best suits you. “Our customers, many of whom were first brought here in a pram by their parents, now come with their own children,” says Dimitris Liaskas, who has been working here for over 20 years. I usually order soutzoukakia (elongated meatballs) and gyros. There are other meat options, but these two are exceptional.

To create the gyros, 50 kilograms of raw meat are seasoned with salt, pepper and onion, skewered on a vertical rotisserie, cooked and then sliced according to the customer’s preference: juicy, crispy or charred. The soutzoukakia, too, are handmade. They mix 40 kilograms of ground meat with other ingredients to create meatballs that are not particularly spicy, all on a daily basis. No matter how many you eat, your stomach never feels heavy. The delicious round-cut french fries and the Russian salad are always freshly made, too – just like their dips. There’s a wide selection of bottled wines that pair perfectly with the taverna-style fare. I come here often, both for the excellent food and genuine warmth, and for an experience that makes me feel like an aristocrat.

 
 
 
 
 
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INFO

2 Fanarioton Square

Tel. (+30) 2310.260.958

Clochard

In a pleasant space, in the corner of Mitropoleos Street, sits this fine restaurant, now gleaming. With mirrors, just the right lighting, a large glass wine display case and fine art de la table, it looks more luxurious than ever. The same goes for its food. The classic Greek dishes, for which it has been known for decades, well-cooked as always, are still on the menu but they’re in the minority. Clochard’s new culinary era features many raw dishes, including octopus carpaccio with chickpea mousse, bottarga and pickled mushroom; sea bream carpaccio with sea fennel and lime; and wagyu picanha nigiri. I tried a line-caught cod, prepared using a Greek recipe from Istanbul, with a lemon sauce and caviar. The fish was perfectly cooked, juicy and tasting of the sea.

The moussaka, one of their most popular dishes, is made with slow-cooked cheeks and, instead of béchamel sauce, a foamy Metsovone cheese mousse. Their wine list will leave you spoiled for choice: on offer are over 600 labels from all over the world, including many magnums and three-liter bottles from the most famous vineyards of France, Italy and Spain, plus about 30 options by the glass. Clochard is also recommended for those business lunches where great food might help you close that important deal.

INFO

10 Komninon

Tel. (+30) 2310.239.805

Olympos Naoussa

On the night we ate there, our waiter for the evening was the well-groomed Apostolos, who came to the table in his smart uniform and introduced himself. (In the restaurant’s early days, each table had a dedicated waiter who ensured everyone enjoyed their meal. Happily, this lovely tradition has been preserved.) A few minutes later, he brought some spinach purée, a favorite at Olympos Naoussa since the 1960s. The restoration and reopening of this historic restaurant was a major venture launched by the Tor Hotel Group in cooperation with Grivalia Hospitality; Grivalia is behind the On Residence hotel, on the ground floor of which the restaurant is housed. Another significant challenge has been taken up by head chef Dimitris Tasioulas who, tweaking techniques and form, has creatively reimagined some classic recipes such as stuffed vine leaves, now served with lemon-egg foam and lemon pearls. This is creative Greek cuisine, with a very interesting and reasonably priced wine list full of options in terms of varieties. The service is excellent and the surroundings are elegant.

INFO

5 Nikis

Tel. (+30) 2310.275.715

Dangara

In northern Greece, “dangara” is slang for “having a great time,” and this is precisely what happens at this small restaurant next to the Rotunda. At the heart of their cuisine are ingredients and recipes from Macedonia. Their new menu features dishes that are slightly more technically demanding, along with more vegetarian options than they’d previously offered. The recipes continue to be mostly northern, with a focus on hearty Macedonian cuisine with modern touches. Their delicious kebabs, made with a mix of three types of ground meat, are served with a coleslaw-style salad; the mushroom orzo is prepared with kefalotyri goat’s cheese from Vlasti (or without it for vegans); and the beef tongue with a Greek coffee rub comes with pickled cauliflower. One recent addition to the menu is sout makalo, the signature dish of Florina, which consists of meatballs in a white sauce.

INFO

26 Armenopoulou

Tel. (+30) 2310.204.452

Charoupi

Acclaimed chef Manolis Papoutsakis has been crafting refined Cretan cuisine at Charoupi since 2016. He finds culinary expression through simplicity, and each of his dishes is a celebration of fine ingredients. On the menu you’ll find more than 10 carefully selected cheeses from his beloved island, including anthotyro, 24-month graviera, xygalo and galomyzithra. Without trying to recapture Crete completely, he prepares food that has captivated Thessalonians, which is why they wholeheartedly recommend Charoupi to visitors. Now considered classic dishes, the gooey egg yolks with staka cream, the minty warm cheese freshly made from goat’s milk, the fried kalitsounia (small cheese pies) and the gamopilafo (a rice dish traditionally prepared for weddings), are all cooked by Papoutsakis as if he were in his own home. And if you’ve managed to save some room, you can enjoy a piece of galaktoboureko (semolina custard dessert) with staka butter and rose water ice cream.

INFO

4 Doxis

Tel. (+30) 698.852.626

Salonica

The restaurant of the Makedonia Palace Hotel is the place to enjoy the festive “Sunday dinner” prepared by the team of noted chef Sotiris Evangelou. Amazing youvarlakia (meatball soup), spit-roasted lamb beneath a pile of crispy fried potatoes (served at Sunday lunchtime), patsas (tripe soup), honeyed venison with chestnuts and quince, orzo and fricassée dishes… all are sublime. The menu is geared to the season and the availability of ingredients provided by nature. The skills and talent of the chef, the exemplary service, the sea views, the extensive selection of wines, and the Thessaloniki-sized desserts all combine to give Salonica a clear advantage on the city’s restaurant scene.

INFO

Makedonia Palace Hotel, 2 Megalou Alexandrou

Tel. (+30) 2310.897.176

Stou Mitsou

Mitsos’ place could be straight out of a book by Emile Zola, where it might perhaps even have taken up an entire chapter had the French novelist lived in 21st-century Thessaloniki. He might even have written another masterpiece like Le Ventre de Paris (1873), but this time set in the Kapani Market instead of Les Halles, the enormous central market of 19th-century Paris. And in that volume he might have mentioned the traditional Thessaloniki café of Mitsos, tucked away in a corner of busy Vlali Street, the road which runs through the city’s oldest marketplace. Across the way, there’s an olive vendor, next to it a small shop selling souvenirs, and next to that, another simple café with an old wood-fired oven, an establishment which only remains in operation because Mitsos took it over shortly before it closed for good.

The café, now in the capable hands of Dimitris Pantzartzidis, has become a popular haven serving delicious food; Pantzartzidis takes full advantage of his location inside the market and cooks with whatever fresh, reasonably priced ingredients are available from the surrounding stalls. In addition to the herbs, fish and meat, which he buys from vendors early in the morning, he uses his own oil and olives from the family grove at Varda in Ilia, and serves fresh bread, leavened with chickpea yeast, baked brown in the wood-fired oven. Among the dishes are red mullet, so fresh and golden-fried that the skin crackles when you bite into it but with soft, juicy flesh; marinated anchovies whose backbones are fried and served alongside them; amazing chickpeas, slow-cooked from the previous day on the stove; cheeses from Andros, Ios and Kefalonia; fresh greens; and much more!

INFO

11 Vlali, Kapani Market

Tel. (+30) 2315.515.504

Poster

From the team behind the highly successful Beetroot design group, which has created a lively cultural hub in the old Ismail Pasha Inn, this new restaurant in the Frangomachalas neighborhood is the talk of the town. Poster has wonderful lighting, a metal curtain framing the open kitchen, an inviting bar and a dining area with just a few tables, though more will probably be added outside in summer. The cuisine of talented young chef Vasilis Chamam is difficult to describe in just a few words. Neither Mediterranean nor international, it reflects his own personal style. The creative culinary expression of his life experiences is there on the menu in dishes with delicious juices, fresh herbs and special ingredients, such as naan bread, Pontian xygali butter and Jordanian jameed made from sheep’s and goat’s milk. His sauces are a delight, particularly the sriracha, which he makes himself with coffee and a thick umami XO.

Our table had mutton with herbal oil, petimezi (grape molasses) and jameed; a lovely tiradito with red mullet in tiger’s milk with hazelnut; a tasty bread, his own, with fermented butter and honey, which had us licking our fingers; and a traditional Palestinian dishmusakhan – with chicken, sumac, small pita breads, caramelized onions and yogurt. The wine list, curated by winemaker Chloe Chatzivaryti, features mainly minimal intervention labels.

INFO

2 Paikou & 6 Syngrou

Tel. (+30) 2310.547.384

+Trofi

The ingredients selected by chef and co-owner Giannis Loukakis for +Trofi (pronounced “Syntrofi”) are so good that I could eat them as they are, completely raw. You can imagine then how these ingredients are transformed in the hands of this talented chef, who cooks with his head and his heart in eaqual parts. From the flour and cheese products to the meat and extra virgin olive oil, everything is organic, except the fish, which are sourced exclusively from the open sea. Having fully embraced a zero-waste philosophy, the chef ensures the ingredients are completely used up; even the stalks and peels contribute to the preparation of the food and enhance its flavor. On the wine list, you’ll find only gently vinified biodynamic wines, carefully selected by co-owner Alexandros Barbounakis. The menu changes almost daily.

INFO

7 Doxis

Tel. (+30) 2310.540.260

Just like mother made it

The best-known restaurants in Thessaloniki have always been what’s known as “mageiria,” or home-style eateries, such as Krikelas, Tifanis and Gigilinis. Although most of the old ones have closed, there are others that have adopted a more modern approach in catering to those customers who prefer home-style cooking. Ta Olympia (10 Mitropoliti Chrysostomou Smyrnis, Tel. (+30) 2310.220.710, open Mon-Sat, 10:00-20:00) was founded by siblings Veta and Giorgos Korantzis in 1976. Veta, who previously worked at another legendary eatery in the city, Pites Vlasti, has hands of gold. She has been lauded by everyone – inclduing journalists, lawyers and doctors – who’s had the good fortune to taste her food. Every day, the kitchen prepares around 30 dishes, from tzigerosarmades (lamb liver with rice in caul) to chickpea soups, meat and tomato stews, and many traditional recipes of the city, including pork with cabbage, celery and leek. The desserts are equally good, with ashure (“Noah’s pudding”) perhaps being the standout.

Another great mageirio is To Mikraki (2 Proxenou Koromila, Tel. (+30) 2310.270.517, open Mon-Sat, 12:00-18:00), which was launched as a small luncheonette by Antonis from Pelion and Chryssoula from Drama in 1981. It used to serve coffee, toasted sandwiches, tsipouro and small plates; Chryssoula also prepared food here for her sons Giorgos and Avraam. The sons now feed their own children with food from the eatery – there are 25 different dishes to choose from. Today, with the help of three assistants, Chryssoula cooks the entire repertoire of Greek cuisine: everything from beef and orzo casserole dishes or peas with artichokes to pastitsio, moussaka, all kinds of soups (fish, meat and chicken), roast pork, meat patties, some pasta dishes, and two fish options: sole or sea bream.



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