The Best Local Restaurants on Crete, Greece

Spinalonga, Crete | ©Robert Linsdell/ Flickr
Spinalonga, Crete | ©Robert Linsdell/ Flickr
Photo of Lucy Thackray
30 September 2021

Discover the best places to sample delicious local Cretan cuisine on your next visit to this stunning Greek island.

If you’re a foodie who’s only going to one Greek island in your lifetime, make it Crete. This is the home of Greek cuisine – both cutting-edge and farm-to-table – with the cream of the country’s produce and a culture of ambitious young chefs championing slick city rooftops and rural destination-dining spots. You’ll find dishes far more diverse and inventive than the usual home cooking available across the rest of the country – light, nutty cheeses, wine-simmered snails and broth-thickened rice bowls. Detour to one of these restaurants for the best bites.

Parasties

Restaurant, Greek, $$$
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This super-trendy venue, in Heraklion, has chunky wooden beams, brown paper on the tabletops and hefty slabs of grilled meat served on thick chopping boards. The vibe is farmhouse kitchen-meets-butcher’s shop, but the slick service makes it a great choice for a last-night-in-town dinner, complete with a splurge on the ample wine list. Buttery white fish comes with flame-grilled red peppers and courgette, while superfood salads cater to the more health-conscious. Order modestly, as portions are huge.

Lemonokipos

Restaurant, Wine Seller, Greek, $$$
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With a name meaning “lemon tree garden”, this restaurant in historic, architecture-rich Rethymno is just as refreshing as it sounds. You’ll sit out on a leafy patio where the trees glow with frosted-glass lanterns, and tables are topped with aromatic pots of herbs. Start with the simple organic tomato salad and you’re onto a winner. Food is light, zesty and authentically Cretan – ask your host Emilio for his tips, but a glass of Greek sparkling wine is a must.

Salis Restaurant

Restaurant, Wine Bar, Greek, $$$
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This restaurant’s chatter-filled patio is right on the waterfront on Chania’s romantic old Venetian port, with prim white boats tied metres away. Inside it’s cavernous, decorated with abstract murals and walls of wine bottles – outside, you can watch the light dim over the harbour while devouring generous plates of ouzo-tinged prawn pasta and seared tuna belly. Take the opportunity to chat through the wine list with knowledgeable staff – the owners put a lot of love into pairing their selection with the food on offer.

Pelagos

Restaurant, Greek, $$$
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Griechenland, Kreta, Agios Nikolaos, Restaurant Pelagos, Stratigou Koraka 10
© Hackenberg-Photo-Cologne / Alamy Stock Photo
In east-coast Agios Nikolaos – with a postcard-ready backdrop of pastel mansion buildings and a breezy waterfront – this low-key spot has a romantic patio strung with wicker lanterns. Thick palm trees guard the door, and the quaint stone steps are artfully scattered with potted herbs and geraniums, making for a homespun, bohemian feel. As for the cuisine, juicy tendrils of slow-cooked octopus top mounds of creamy fava-bean puree, and light vegetable fritters have swirls of Greek yoghurt to dip into. Great for a dinner à deux after strolling this magical seaside town.

AVLI

Restaurant, Mediterranean, Greek, Contemporary
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One of the top end Greek restaurants in Rethymnon, the Avli is without doubt a great eating experience for all visitors.
© Peter Wheeler / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re stopping by Rethymno, a dinner in one of its beautiful old Venetian villas is a must – this dazzler has curving, cave-like ceilings and a luscious patio bursting with glossy orange trees, fat palms and potted ferns. It’s luxurious but rustic feeling – meaty stews are topped with edible flowers, meze bites overflow from pretty ceramics, while a lengthy wine list champions modern Greek wineries. Best of all? You can kip at the attached boutique hotel, and swim in the mosaic-tiled rooftop pool.

Peskesi

Restaurant, Greek, $$$
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Griechenland, Kreta, Heraklion, Restaurant Peskesi
© Hackenberg-Photo-Cologne / Alamy Stock Photo
You may have heard of the “Cretan diet” – supposedly the key to a long life – via farm-fresh olive oil, plenty of vegetables and grains. You certainly will have after dinner at Peskesi, an earthy spot in Heraklion with hulking stone walls and wood beams, plus distressed barrels and urns. It’s fashionable but obsessed with tradition – try the slow-cooked goat with yoghurt, heaped on greaseproof paper, or the foukaki (sauteed pork doused in lemon with pitas).

Tholos Restaurant

Restaurant, Greek, $$$
Map View

Of the many atmospheric courtyards and patios in the northwestern port of Chania, Tholos has the best setting – it’s behind the city cathedral, spread over several tiers and decorated with soft-glow lamps and potted plants. Share Greek classics, from moussaka to stuffed peppers, with only a low murmur from the terrace in the background. Complimentary raki shots send you on your way with a slight buzz after a night of hearty Cretan dishes.

Karnagio

Restaurant, Greek, $$$
Map View

This restaurant, on the lakefront in Agios Nikolaos, makes the most of Crete’s lovely produce – fish, olive oil, sea salt and honey – selected from the immediate province of Lasithi. Chillies and herbs hung from the pergola signal that this is no stuffy city joint, while the affordable menu romps through Cretan dakos (a barley rusk topped with tomatoes and feta), seafood pastas and sizzling meat skewers – all served with a smile and among a fun local crowd.

Not sorted your stay yet? Choose from the best luxury or best beach hotels in Crete, now bookable through Culture Trip. Explore more of what Greece’s biggest island has to offer by checking out its beaches and must-see sites, and the best bars in the island’s capital, Heraklion.

This article is an update of one originally by Alexandra Brannigan.

These recommendations were updated on September 30, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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