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10 Must Try Greek Specialties In Athens

Picture of Maria Kostala
Maria Kostala
Updated: 3 March 2017
Whether you prefer fine-dining or experiencing the vibrant flavors of local tavernas, Athens has something to offer every taste. While there are so many unique Greek specialties, the following 10 are particularly delicious. We’ve also included a selection of the best restaurants to try these dishes.

Horiatiki Salata – Greek Salad

Bright red tomatoes, refreshing cucumbers, shallots adding spiciness, and the obvious Greek olives, sprung with extra virgin Greek olive oil and a large piece of creamy feta cheese on top, seasoned with salt, pepper, and oregano. In some places they may add capers, which adds a sour touch, similar to the effect of vinegar. Light, mouthwatering and traditional!

Where to eat it:

Mpakalotaverna

Mpakalotaverna is a small, rustic tavern serving traditional mezze, as well as main dishes. Enjoy a generously sized lunch or dinner while listening to melodic Greek tunes. The Greek salad comes highly recommended, as is the saganaki drizzled with squeezed lemon.The restaurant doesn’t take reservations.

 

2 – 8 Thoukididou Steet, Chalandri, Greece

 

Saganaki

This is an appetizer for cheese lovers! Yellow, hard cheese (one of many kinds, such as kasseri or gruyere) is fried in a specific way that creates a crunchy crust. When you bite into saganaki, the melted cheese inside will fill you with ecstasy. Tip: Sprinkle fresh lemon juice on it.

 

 Fava | Courtesy of Vlassis Restaurant
Fava | Courtesy of Vlassis Restaurant

Fava

Its origin? Santorini Island. It is a creamy starter you may (or must?) spread on your bread. On first sight, you’ll think you’re eating hummus. However, It has a unique flavor and is made using fava, the Greek term for yellow split peas (not broad beans, which are commonly known as fava beans, as well). Fava comes in many shades, with the most common being a sunny yellow. It is drizzled with olive oil and onions and is vegan friendly.

Where to eat it:

Vlassis Restaurant

Vlassis specializes in traditional Greek cuisine of the highest quality and presents each of its dishes beautifully. Either try the lavish dish of the day or pick one of the flavorful appetizers, hot dishes, fresh salads, or irresistible desserts. Fava is one of the many spreads Vlassis Restaurant prepares, and you have to try it.

 

15 Maiandrou Street, Athens, Greece +30 210 6463060, +30 210 7256335

 

Tomatokeftedes – Tomato Balls

Greeks eat many kinds of fritters: cheeseballs, zucchini balls, meatballs, potato balls, grass balls. But, tomato balls are sweet, soft, and full of herbs and, of course, lycopene. Usually served with yogurt sauce, this specialty, originating in Santorini, is definitely one you should savor.

 

Moussaka

Moussaka, though not exclusively a Greek dish, is famously associated with the cuisine of Greece. A marriage of eggplant and potatoes in some recipes, with minced meat on bottom and an indulgent serving of béchamel on top, this dish is baked to perfection in the oven. It is definitely a tasty specialty, occasionally suffused with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Moussaka can be quite heavy, so it is best consumed as your main meal of the day.

 

Pastitsio

Pastitsio is similar to moussaka in that it is cooked as a casserole and is an all around, crowd-pleasing specialty. This dish consists of minced meat layered with pasta and a tomato-based sauce and is usually topped with béchamel. It is baked in the oven until a slightly crisp surface appears. Pastitsio is creamy, rich in flavor and textures, and undoubtedly a staple in the menus of Greek mothers and giagiás.

 

Spanakopita – Spinach Pie

The translation of spanakopita is ‘spinach pie,’ an authentic and fresh pastry full of vitamins and goodness. Spanakopita is a filo pastry filled with spinach, different kinds of herbs and cheeses (mainly spicy feta cheese), spring onions, eggs (to bind the ingredients), and olive oil. The flaky crust makes this is a messy dish to eat, but it is wholeheartedly worth the crumb-filled chaos!

 

Gemista

Gemista simply means ‘stuffed.’ Different variations exists in Greek cooking, such as stuffed tomatoes, zucchinis, and bell peppers filled with rice, herbs, spices, pine seeds, and tomato sauce. Each gemista dish is baked in the oven and served with crispy potatoes, as well as drizzled with olive oil and any leftover tomato sauce. In some restaurants, it may be accompanied with Greek yogurt on the side.

 

 

Aegean soup | Courtesy of Hotel Grande Bretagne Roof Garden
Aegean soup | Courtesy of Hotel Grande Bretagne Roof Garden

Fish Soup

Depending on the season, different types of fish are added to this healthy soup, which always offers a fresh, rich, and flavorful taste of the sea. It is obviously a great choice for seafood lovers, a light specialty prepared with vegetables and a strong dose of lemon.

Where to eat it:

Hotel Grande Bretagne Roof Garden Restaurant & Bar

At the elegant roof garden of the Hotel Grande Bretagne, there is a luxury restaurant. Offering a panoramic view of Athens from Mt. Lycabettus (pronounced likavitos) to the Acropolis, this restaurant offers an assortment of gourmet specialties with Mediterranean aromas and modern touches to traditional recipes. One its most vibrant dishes is the Aegean soup, full of fish and enriched with a smooth and decadent tomato sauce.

 

Constitution Square, Athens, Greece +30 21 03330000

Briam

Briam is a roasted and tasty selection of simple Mediterranean ingredients. Namely, seasonal vegetables such as eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, shallots, carrots, and garlic mixed with herbs and topped with a fresh & vibrant tomato sauce. It is mostly considered a summer dish, combining many special flavors. You should enjoy this dish with a block of salty feta cheese and crunchy bread.

Where to eat it:

The Acropolis Museum Restaurant

On the second floor of the Acropolis Museum, with a breathtaking view of the Acropolis, this amazing restaurant offers an array of salads, starters, snacks, main dishes, and sweet courses based on local specialties. Enjoy a version of briam with baked eggplants, tomato sauce, and gruyere. There’s also a children’s menu.

 

15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens, Greece +30 210 9000915