From Seafood Souvlaki to Vegan Pie: The Meatless Street Foods of Athens

Vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian treats abound on the Greek capital's street food scene all year round, but they take pride of place during the Lenten period preceding Easter.


Whether you’re avoiding certain foods from religious motivations (many Greeks give up meat, eggs and dairy in the run-up to Easter Sunday) or for other reasons, there are a plethora of choices available for those restricting their diet. From vegetables and greens, mushrooms, pulses and seafood to lovely ideas for desserts, there’s something for all tastes and budgets.

 

The Lenten street food menu features a number of different delicacies, some classic and some unexpected, with Greek or other ethnic influences. Many are lighter, although quite a few are downright indulgent. Nevertheless, all these seasonal treats meet Greek Lenten standards and can be found at spots scattered across the city. Let’s set out to find them!

 
 
 
 
 
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Savory pies with greens and xerotigana (fried dumplings with honey) … a la Grecque!

Chef Kostis Kostakis makes some of the most delicious vegan creations in Halandri. You’ll be spoilt for choice; there are savory potato, spinach and eggplant fyllo spirals, either fried or oven-baked, as well as savory mushroom pies and fennel pies. The ladenia (flatbread with tomato, olive oil and onion topping) from Kimolos is also a must. For low blood sugar levels, we recommend the sweet raisin pies, the xerotigana (fried dumplings with honey) or other sweets made especially for the fasting period. N.M.

65 Agias Paraskevis, Halandri, Τel. (+30) 211.012.2071

 
 
 
 
 
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Lahmatzoun with zaatar at Feyrouz

Often when I’m headed elsewhere, I go out of my way for these handmade, slow-matured sourdough pita wraps, layered with zaatar and filled with hummus and fresh salad with pomegranate dressing. The herb mixture is prepared by Eleni Feyrouz herself and includes a blend of spices and nuts – zaatar, with its lemon thyme vibesand sumac; walnut; almond; and much more. Its delicious herby aroma and crispy texture is simply addictive. Another vegan option is nazik bayildi, a version of imam bayildi made with chickpeas and lentils, nestled in a whole wheat pita that offers hints of wild cumin and dry coriander. The bayildi is usually served with yoghurt and smoked eggplant, but you can ask for the roasted eggplant dip without yoghurt if you’re fasting or looking for a vegan treat. A.S.

23 Karori & 2 Agathonos, Τel. (+30) 213.031.8060

 
 
 
 
 
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Falafel at Baba Ghanoush

While their falafel are rather dense and not ideal on their own, they’re great when added to a large pita with delicious trimmings. Hummus, politiki salad (Greek coleslaw), tahini, fresh coriander and spicy harissa are wrapped in a large white or whole grain pita together with the falafel. Add a generous portion of crispy, fresh cooked fries, and it’s ideal! N.D.

25 Empedokleous, Pangrati, Τel. (+30) 212.105.0351

 
 
 
 
 
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Calamari pita at Hoocut

A famous souvlaki place is not the first thing that comes to mind when you decide to give meat a break, but Spiros and Vagelis Liakos, Periklis Koskinas and Kleomenis Zournatzis have an alternative that’s just the ticket, with crispy calamari nestled in a homemade pita, topped with delicious taramosalata (fish roe spread), tomato, onion and parsley. This is the quintessential Greek street… meze! If you’re extra hungry, be sure to order a portion of the dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) on the side. A.S.

9 Agia Irini Square , Τel. (+30) 210.324.0026

 
 
 
 
 
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Savory eggplant and mushroom pies by Dimitra Gounaridi

The most delicious savory pies in Attica are made here, using the famed matsoverga fyllo pastry that’s fluffy, dotted with small bubbles, oil-free and incredibly crispy. The refined filling is delicious. You will find vegan savory pies with mushroom, wild greens, potato and eggplant, some of which are baked in larger trays rather than as individual items, but all of them are prepared fresh daily. N.M.

3-5 Evaggelikis Scholis, Nea Ionia, Τel. (+30) 210.271.2548

 
 
 
 
 
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The eggplant pocket at Vegan Vandal

A homemade Cypriot pocket-pita filled with juicy eggplant fritters, Florina pepper sauce and yoghurt, along with fresh herbs such as valerian, spearmint and parsley: at the Vegan Vandal, you might just find the ultimate sandwich experience. You should also try their Crispy Cauli Sandwich, with breaded cauliflower florets, pickled cucumber and vegetables. G.P.

15 Amynta, Pangrati, Τel. (+30) 210.721.4003

 
 
 
 
 
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The soups at Tuk Tuk

This is street food from the country of street food. The Thai delicacy Tom Yan Goong that you’ll find at Tuk Tuk is identical to that sold at the Hua Hin night market: a spicy soup with shrimp, lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal and coriander. It’s extra aromatic and, with a fiery aftertaste, it takes time for the burn to subside. Having come all the way here, make sure you don’t leave without chef Babis Askeridis’ bestseller – a delicious Pad Thai, as original as it gets. N.D.

40 Veikou, Koukaki, Τel. (+30) 211.405.1947

 
 
 
 
 
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Sweet or savory loukoumades (deep-fried honey balls) at Keenkies

Loukoumades carbonara, or loukoumades pastitsio, perhaps? Keenkies is there for the times we are in desperate need of indulgent, yet still plant-based, food. Since loukoumades are already a de facto vegan option, the creators behind these interesting choices in Exarchia have ensured that all the accompaniments are also free from animal products. In addition to the aforementioned savory surprises, they also serve generous portions of sweet loukoumades, with plant-based hazelnut and salted caramel cream with agave syrup, tahini and walnuts, or with bitter chocolate, peanut butter and cookies. Everything is served to go in a handy little box. G.P.

56 Themistokleous, Exarchia, Τel. (+30) 210.381.5278

Tahini pies at Rita’s Cookies

The woman known for the best kourabiedes (shortbread cookies with powdered sugar) in the city also offers vegan tahini pies all year around; delicious, nutritious and filling, they’re finger-licking good! Made on the premises from the finest ingredients, handcrafted and truly artisanal-looking, they’ll completely satisfy your sugar cravings without any guilt attached. N.M.

40 Domokou, Palia Kokkinia, Τel. (+30) 210.491.2323

 
 
 
 
 
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Vietnamese rice crêpes at Dao

The vegetarian versions of the transparent, fresh rice-paper rolls feature tofu, thin vermicelli noodles, vegetables, fresh coriander and spearmint and are a burst of freshness. Relatively mild in flavor, they are delightful when dipped in the thick peanut sauce. But if I were to choose a single dish at this minute Vietnamese restaurant on Sarri Street, it would be the soft, steamed rice-paper crêpes known as banh cuon. Sweet and spicy, filled with shrimp and mushrooms and served with sweet soy sauce, they are truly exquisite. A tofu version is also available. A.S.

36 Sarri, Psyrri, Τel. (+30) 210.322.2641

 
 
 
 
 
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Cauliflower grain bowl at Local Green

There are many different nutritious and tasty food items at this little “green” place on Perikleous, but I find the grain bowls are always a great option for lunch. Whether I’m taking a stroll around the city center or on a brief break from work, I usually go for the cauliflower grain bowl, which they have been serving since they first opened. Roasted with herbs and served with red cabbage, beetroot, mesclun, almonds, raisins, bulgur wheat and a vinaigrette made with aged balsamic vinegar, this bowl is rich in nutrients and singular flavors. A.S.

30-32 Perikleous, Athens, Τel. (+30) 210.321.4500

 
 
 
 
 
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The Υοgi burger at Smash’ n Bun

All of the regular burgers that are smashed on the special presses to achieve the crispy exterior and juicy interior are charming in their own right. Those who are fasting for Lent, however, cannot complain about what they’re missing, since this is the ideal time to try vegan burgers. The Yogi burger is made with an almond milk vegan bun instead of the regular potato bun, a “Beyond Meat” patty (uncanningly similar to real meat), pickles, homemade ketchup and vegan garlic mayonnaise. Animal protein isn’t needed here; this burger is delicious as is. Don’t forget to add a side order of sweet potato fries. A.S.

48 Patriarchou Ioakim, Kolonaki, Τel. (+30) 210.724.9802

Potato pirozhki from Rossiko Piroski

 

The first batch is always ready early in the morning, and more and more get made as the day unfolds. The crust is divinely crispy, and the dough is deliciously bready. The potato pirozhki with dill is the epitome of comfort food, and my favorite all year around. You can try the classic Russian version with cabbage and mushrooms or the one with peas, but there are also sweet delicacies on offer – scrumptious pirozhki with strawberry or raspberry jam. N.M

140 Acharnon, Agios Panteleimonas, Τel. (+30) 213.004.3076

Restaurant prices and menus were accurate at the time of printing, but may be subject to change.

The features we write and the products we recommend at Gastronomos are the personal choices of writers. They do not serve any commercial purpose and nor do they generate any revenue from advertising.

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



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