Cave-like tavernas and vine-shaded terraces create scenic backdrops for Greek Island food and local dishes on Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades islands.
The largest of the Cyclades, Naxos has long had a firm foodie following. Indeed, roving epicurean Anthony Bourdain spent ample time here in the breadbasket of the Cyclades, renowned for its fruit, vegetables and cheesemaking. While Naxos Town boasts the island’s best fine dining, classic restaurants showcasing the finest Naxos produce are found all over. Here are the very best.
In the whitewashed, leafy courtyard of what was once a monastery, off a tiny lane near Naxos Town’s port, Doukato is the place to go for inexpensive locavore-leaning cuisine. Much of the produce comes from owner Dimitris’ own estate, and he sources the other ingredients from farmers and fishermen he knows personally. Standout Naxian specialities include gouna (sun-dried mackerel), kalogeras (beef with aubergine and cheese), and seafood orzotto (an orzo-based risotto). It’s worth booking ahead in the evenings
Popular with locals and visitors, this classic mezedopolio (restaurant specialising in Greek finger food) is found in the island’s labyrinthine Chora (Naxos Town), near the northern entrance to the old town. Choose between the wood-and-stone, cave-like interior, or the tiny, vine-shaded terrace, and bring company to share the mezze platter and selection of Naxian cheeses. Looking for something more substantial? Follow the locals’ lead and order the slow-cooked veal with lemon sauce, while the filo pastry with feta, honey and black sesame is the top dessert.
In west Naxos, near the town of Kastraki, this family-run taverna is a destination in its own right. Sophia and Giannis Vassilas specialise in creative Naxian dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, including own-grown vegetables and catch of the day from local fishermen. Don’t miss Naxian cheese pie with figs, fried okra with yogurt sauce, or roast goat with island potatoes, all served beneath creeper-covered trellises. Wash it down with a Cretan craft beer or the homemade rosé. Book in advance.
Near Plateia Protodikeiou square in Naxos Town, this simple scattering of tables beneath dangling creepers is on the wallet-friendly end of the scale. Don’t pass it by just because there’s no sea view or old-town ambience here. Instead, join the locals as they tuck into generous portions of old-school Greek and island classics, such as roast pork with herbs and thick-cut Naxian potatoes, and pastitsio (layers of buttery macaroni and seasoned minced lamb).
There are fewer than 10 tables in this tiny alleyway in the shadow of Chora’s Venetian castle, so best to book ahead. The menu changes daily, depending on the availability of ingredients, with the two globetrotting French proprietresses cooking up eclectic cuisine, from Myanmar-style prawn and scallop curry to beef Bourguignon. Not sure which handpicked Greek or French wine to have with your meal? The friendly owners are happy to make recommendations.
Attached to its own butcher shop and run by the third generation of the same family, this rustic taverna has tremendous appeal for the carnivorously inclined. Understandably, the menu is very meat-heavy: specialities include slow-cooked goat in tomato sauce and dry-aged steaks and lamb chops – all simply presented and served with Naxian potatoes. Local cheeses and wine make for a rousing encore.
Going strong since 1983, this family-run taverna is found amid the whitewashed houses of the mountain village of Melanes in the rural heart of the island. The dining room overlooks a green valley, animals are raised on the family’s own farm, and you’re likely to rub shoulders with discerning locals who swear that the chicken cooked in red wine, rabbit stew, roasted squab and pasticcio are the best in Naxos. Homemade fruit liqueur makes for a potent ending.
Set in the shade of its namesake plane tree, in the mountain village of Apiranthos, known for its weaving and ceramics, this taverna is run by the descendants of refugees who migrated from Crete. The menu reflects this dual Cretan-Naxian heritage and promotes the best of local gastronomy. Grab a seat overlooking the valley and don’t leave without sampling platanos (grilled pork) with wild oregano and thyme, or the burgers filled with Naxian gruyère, accompanied by local potato fries.
Part of Faros hotel that overlooks the Alyko cedar forest, on Naxos’ southwest coast, this restaurant serves up an extensive menu of Naxian dishes – think slow-cooked rabbit with sage, seared octopus fresh off the grill, stuffed aubergines and courgettes. Everything is made from vegetables from the hotel’s own gardens, with fresh fish and seafood brought in daily too. Then there’s goat and lamb from the neighbouring farm, slow-cooked until falling off the bone. The terrace is ideal for romantic dates and sunset-watching; book ahead for dinner.
An ex-newspaper printing company turned elegant family-run restaurant – all set in a mansion – Typografio has much going for it. It has a superb location in the oldest part of Naxos Town, with spacious outdoor terraces with sea views and a succinct menu of reimagined Greek classics. You can’t go wrong with the white fish-roe salad with dill and caper leaves, chicken with Naxian gruyère and citrussy risotto, or the pulled pork with grilled zucchini. Dinner bookings are advised.