Five local food writers from Culinary Backstreets, the international travel site for foodies, present a guidebook to the best authentic food in Athens. It’s the newest addition to CB’s series “An Eater’s Guide to the City”, and it’s chock full of restaurant tips, stories, and guides for shopping and ordering. In total, it contains more than 70 restaurants, delis, and shops. A lot, if you’re just in town for a week, but on the other hand: enough to make you want to stay longer.
It’s also not that many if you consider the abundance of restaurants there is in the city, and how many of those one should probably avoid. Doriti, one of the five authors, says she finds the restaurants by simply walking around Athens and constantly trying new places. Part of the job is discovering that some places are not worth a visit at all, but on good days, it means enjoying quality food and talking to interesting people.
Those that ended up in the book are a selection of her and her co-authors’ favorites, of which they have many more. But Culinary Backstreets, and the Athens guidebook, is about much more than just separating the good restaurants from the bad.
“Our whole philosophy is about supporting small businesses; we want to acknowledge restaurants that have been around for a very long time, or small family-owned joints and street vendors that need a boost,” she says. “It’s not just about the gastronomy, but also about the history behind the food, interesting stories, and helping people.” As a result, all the restaurants presented are low-budget options.
The book is separated into five sections; four of them contain reviews of the authors’ favorite restaurants in different areas of the city, and the last one, called Specials, presents Greek food culture by category: “Grill Talk” guides you to the best souvlaki places, “Chop Shops” to the best lamb chops, and “Green Scene” to the best garden restaurants, to name a few of the categories.
There are also guides on how and where to shop for products like Greek herbs, feta cheese, and olive oil. “A pillar of Greek culture and cuisine that’s older than the Parthenon, feta accounts for 40% of cheese sales in this cheese-mad country.”
There is even a glossary at the end, containing good-to-know words and phrases for picking restaurants and ordering food in Greece. “Learning while drooling” would have been a fitting cover tagline.
While this guide book is clearly aimed at Athens newcomers and tourists, there are many observations and fun facts even for us locals, and we actually found ourselves dog-earing several pages of restaurant recommendations. Tomorrow, I’m trying page 58.