The port city of Piraeus is one of the areas of metropolitan Athens that maintains its authenticity and old-fashioned ambiance. In the narrow streets of Drapetsona and the charming quarters of Piraiki, Kaminia, and the Keratsini Fish Market, we find tavernas that have been forgotten by time and offer their patrons hearty, no-frills dishes that will make your mouth water.
Vasilis Taverna: Next to the Fish Market
Next to it is the Fish Market with the auction hall. Right in front of it, tugboats, trawlers, and trucks come and go. In the industrial zone of the Keratsini Fish Market, where you least expect it, there is Vasilis Taverna, also known as “The Canteen.” It is, in fact, a tiny, two by three meters canteen, which expanded into an outdoor dining area with nylon tents and became a popular hangout that attracts patrons from all around the city. Apart from its unique setting, it offers a few simple seafood dishes. We prefer its fried small fish that perfectly match a fresh salad and a cold beer. -G.P.
Keratsini Fish Market, Tel. (+30) 210.432.7213
Capetanios: A Hidden Gem
For over 40 years, this family-owned taverna has specialized in perfecting the art of grilled fish. The decor is as nautical inspired as it gets, featuring ropes, nets, anchors, seashells, scale models of sailing ships, and even life vests. First, you’ll make your pick from the catch of the day, which they’ll weigh on a mechanical scale before sending to the grill. The scorpionfish we had was a velvety delight, the shrimp perfectly juicy, their home-made pickles paired ideally with the marinated octopus, and the French fries were spot-on crispy. In all, it’s well worth trying this place, a hidden gem in a dead-end street of Lefka in Kaminia. -G.P.
4 Tenedou, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.420.6539
Ormos Aphroditis (Venus Bay): Tastes of Crete
In 1981, Kostas Antonodimitrakis opened this ouzeri (taverna serving ouzo and assorted meze plates) in Piraiki, one of the city’s most attractive seaside neighborhoods. Every day since then, he’s been offering his customers delicacies from his homeland, Crete, along with fresh seafood and small fish. He uses Cretan mizithra cheese in his Greek salad, and the olives and olive oil come from his village, Kalyvia, in Monofatsi, southern Irakleio. You can also find apaki (smoked pork, marinated in vinegar and spices) that is brought from Crete and, of course, boubouristi snails, cooked with plenty of oregano, salt and vinegar, and tsikoudia (a pomace brandy) from the family distillery. Trademark seafood dishes include grilled calamari and shrimp, while fresh fish are delivered almost daily by Michalis, a local fisherman, docking on the little bay right below the taverna. -M.P.
288 Akti Themistokleous, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 695.513.7739
Akri: Stuffed Vine Leaves from Kasos
Overlooking the rocks of Piraiki, this fish taverna is named after a neighborhood in the village of Aghia Marina on the island of Kasos, where the owners and the cook come from. Don’t miss the famous tiny Kasos stuffed vine leaves and the makarounes with sitaka (a type of pasta with creamy cheese made from sheep’s and goat’s milk). Also excellent are the seafood dishes, such as mussels and small Symi shrimp. -M.P.
298 Akti Themistokleous, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.418.0110
To Eidikon: A Century-Old Grocery
In the early 1920s, Aristidis Papakonstantinou opened “To Eidikon” in Aghia Sofia, near Drapetsona. It was a grocery store with a few tables where neighbors would taste his own homemade wine, cheese from the dairy he owned with his brothers in Gardiki, near Trikala in Central Greece, olives, sardines, and whatever came out of the pan of his wife. By the late 1960s, his son Apostolos had taken over, and now another Aristidis, the grandson, is in charge. The place operates mainly as a taverna, although the neighbors still drop by to buy cheese or canned food. The interior has been left intact and boasts old grocery fridges, colorful stacks of tins, antiques, and a whole bunch of Instagram-friendly stuff. -M.P.
38 Psaron and Salaminos, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.461.2674
To Koutouki Tou Antoni: The Genuine Article!
The large barrels at the entrance, the courtyard with the small tables, and the eclectic collection of old decorative items set the tone in this charming establishment that screams authenticity. The owner, Mr. Antonis, is an excellent host, a man who puts love and passion into every dish on the menu. The food is all about simple flavors and hand-picked quality ingredients. Fried and grilled delicacies are the main protagonists here. The fava bean purée is served with plenty of coarsely chopped onions and parsley, the feta cheese is aged in barrels, the French fries are fresh, and the boiled salad is made of vegetables and greens in season. As for the main courses, you’ll find both surf and turf options: fresh small fish, tope and cod, calamari, and whatever else is the catch of the day, delicious burger, country sausages, stir-fried pork, and juicy steak. For dessert, the tahini halva is a must. -M.P.
26 Argyrokastro, Tel. (+30) 210.492.4338
Zahos Taverna: Foodie Heaven
This rustic haunt for discerning foodies boasts the friendliest service, unpretentious taverna ambiance, and delicious, value-for-money food. Here you can have huge portions of excellent, fresh crayfish and fried calamari, juicy oven-roasted angler, boiled vegetables and greens, fava bean purée, and hand-cut French fries. Thomas, the owner, serves his customers with professionalism and great courtesy. At the same time, the kitchen is reigned by female cooks, and everything that comes from their hands is exquisite. At the end of the meal, you’ll be treated to a delicious dessert: red apples from Zagora, cut into slices and topped with a spoonful of homemade sour cherry preserve. -Μ.P.
37 Komotinis, Kaminia, Tel. (+30) 210.481.3325
Katsogiannos: The Oldest Taverna in Drapetsona
This taverna initially functioned as a dairy store. The owner, Grigoris Katsogiannos, used to sell milk, butter, and other dairy products, as well as grape-must jelly. The place evolved into a grocery/eatery and eventually became a typical taverna. It has a retro, old-world vibe, with its terrazzo floor, old photos framed on the walls, and advertising posters from decades past. There’s even a well-preserved wooden refrigerator from the 1930s that still works! The store may have a long history and a great atmosphere, but the food is the thing that keeps us coming back, time and time again. The meatballs with ouzo are a dream, crispy and delicious, with fresh fries on the side. The mustard and chili-flakes pork stir-fry is juicy and perfectly spicy. The lamb pluck and the veal liver melt in the mouth. Lamb chops are the most delicious ones we have ever tasted in Athens, and they pair ideally with the homemade eggplant salad. -M.P.
15 Aghiou Panteleimonos, Drapetsona, Tel. (+30) 210.461.3209
Zoodohos Pigi Taverna: Family Heritage
The story begins with two brothers and continues with two more. Before World War II, Kostas and Grigoris Lambrou opened their grocery store in Kaminia. It was destroyed during one of the bombings of Piraeus. Still, they rebuilt it and dedicated it to the nearby church Panaghia Zoodohos Pigi (The Mother of God, the Life-giving Spring). Decades later, Kostas and Alexandros Tsotsis, the third generation of the family, took over, combining their grandmother Maria’s recipes with their own, thus creating a bridge between the present and the past. Recommended dishes include fava bean puree, meatballs in fresh tomato sauce, pappardelle with chicken, beef in red sauce, delicious liver and kebab. -A.S.
77 Katsouli, Kaminia, Tel. (+30) 210.481.4438
Margaro: Standing the Test of Time
Before Ms. Margaro, from Ano Mera on Mykonos, set up her taverna next to the entrance of the Hellenic Naval Academy at the end of Hatzikyriakou Avenue in the 1940s, it was a grocery store. Then her son took over, and now, several decades later, the third generation of the family is in command. The place offers three dishes all in all, and apparently, it is more than enough: Greek salad, fried shrimp or crayfish, and crispy fried surmullets or red mullets, with plenty of coarse salt. -A.S.
126 Hatzikyriakou Avenue, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.451.4226
Bacchus: Overlooked Gem
This is a neighborhood taverna on a small square of Piraeus, known almost exclusively to the locals (not even the rest of Piraeus). Its grill master lovingly and expertly cooks each and every piece of meat, handling the embers like a maestro. The menu includes an impressive selection of delicacies; we single out the ribs, which are finely cut, delicate and succulent. The small burgers are also delicious. Of course, if kokoretsi (grilled lamb intestines wrapped around seasoned offal) is on the menu the day you visit, you must absolutely try it. -C.T.
22 Megalou Alexandrou, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.422.2173
Skylodimos: More than a Grocery
Started as a grocery store in 1908 by someone with the family name Voulgaris, by the end of the 1950s it had been taken over by Nikos Skylodimos. He installed barrels of wine for friends and neighbors to come and enjoy and started serving meze dishes, too. Today, the place is owned by his son Philippos (which is why it’s also known as Philippos’ Grocery). It remains an old-fashioned grocery/eatery, reminiscent of black-and-white Greek films. Here, you can buy anything from fruits and vegetables to brooms and other household essentials or just sit for lunch or dinner. There are only ten tables, the most popular ones by the counter-refrigerator; they are usually occupied by old regulars who drop by for a Greek coffee or tsipouro (a pomace brandy) during the day. The no-frills menu features things like meatballs, fried small fish, chickpea soup with lemon, and fried eggs with fries. -C.T.
16 Deligiorgi and Skylitsi, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 694.505.9328
Psarokastella: A Family Affair
If someone doesn’t tell you the exact location of this place, you won’t find it by chance. But once you eat here, you’re sure to return for more. In this small, family-owned fish taverna in Kaminia, Maria is the cook, Kostas, her husband, brings in the best fresh raw ingredients from the market, while their two children, Nestoras and Konstantinos, are in charge of the service. It is worth noting that Maria comes from a Greek family of fishermen who came to Chios from Cesme. Her cousins still own fishing boats and supply the taverna with fresh fish. Specialties include the prawns served in a thin, slightly sour sauce seasoned with fenugreek, octopus stewed in semi-sweet wine, and zaketia (small sole fish). -G.P.
19 Skra, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.422.2237
To Yperokeanion (The Ocean Liner): Pure Nostalgia
Even though the framed pictures of the ocean liners hanging on the walls are reminiscent of the transatlantic voyages of the Greek emigrants in the early to mid-20th century, the only journey you’ll embark on here is a culinary one. For starters, try the grilled sardines with tomato on toasted bread and marinated fish, then ladenia (Greek flatbread pizza), fried Thessaloniki mussels, seafood orzo or cuttlefish grilled with tahini, and fried or grilled fish. As for the finale, kaimak ice cream. -A.S.
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
48 Marias Hatzikyriakou, Tel. (+30) 210.418.0030