The most important tip I can give you on Greece local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Greece, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Greece
Greek cuisine is a blend of indigenous traditions and foreign influences. Neighboring Italy and Turkey have left a major impact on Greek cuisine, and there are shared dishes with both of these nations. The traditional Greek diet is very Merranean, espousing vegetables, herbs, and grains native to the Merranean biome.
Being a highly maritime nation, the Greeks incorporate plenty of seafood into their diet. The country is also a major producer and consumer of lamb; beef, pork, and especially chicken are also popular. Olive oil is a staple in Greek cooking, and lemon and tomatoes are common ingredients. Bread and wine are always served at the dinner table.
The cuisine in Greece can be radically different from what is offered in Greek restaurants around the world. Greek restaurants abroad tend to cater more to customer expectations rather than offer a truly authentic Greek dining experience. One example is the famous gyros (yee-ros), a common item on Greek menus outside Greece. While it is a popular fast-food item in Greece today, it is actually a relatively recent foreign import (adapted from the Turkish döner kebap) and is considered by Greeks as junk food.
It is never served in the home and is generally not found on the menus of non-fast-food restaurants. Eating out is Greece’s national pastime and a rewarding experience for visitors; however, not knowing where to go or what to do can dampen the experience.
In the past, restaurants that catered mostly to tourists were generally disappointing. Thankfully, the nation’s restaurant industry has grown in sophistication over the past decade, and it is now possible to find excellent restaurants in highly-touristed areas, particularly areas that are popular with Greek tourists as well. Thus, it remains a good idea to dine where Greeks dine (Go search them at the times greeks dine: 21:00-23:00).
The best restaurants will offer not only authentic traditional Greek cuisine (along with regional specialties) but Greece’s latest culinary trends as well. A good sign of authenticity is when you get a small free dessert when you ask for the bill. Bad signs are when desserts are listed on the menu, and also when the waiter is taking your plates away while you are still sitting at the table (traditionally everything is left on the table until the customer is gone, even if there is hardly any space left).
Restaurants serving international cuisine have also made a presence in the country, offering various options such as Chinese, French, Italian, and international contemporary. Vegetarian In Greece, vegetarianism never took off as a trend, and restaurants catering strictly to vegetarians are practically non-existent. However, Greeks traditionally eat less meat per capita than northern Europeans and North Americans, and there are countless vegetarian dishes in Greek cuisine. Greeks are meat and dairy eaters, but because such a large percentage of their diet consists of pulses, vegetables, greens and fruits, a vegan or vegetarian visitor will not have any difficulty in finding a huge variety of vegetarian food all over Greece.
The Porto Club travel agency offers a number of tours designed for vegetarians and vegans. Popular local dishes The traditional fast foods are gyros , “GHEER-ohs”, not “JIE-rohs” as in “gyroscope”), roast pork or chicken (and rarely beef) and fixings wrapped in a fried pita; souvlaki , “soov-LAH-kee”), grilled meat on a skewer; Greek dips such as tzatziki , made of strained yoghurt, olive oil, garlic and finely chopped cucumbers and dill or mint; and skordhalia , a garlic mashed potato dip which is usually served with deep fried salted cod.
With its extensive coastline and islands, Greece has excellent seafood. Try the grilled octopus and the achinosalata (sea-urchin eggs in lemon and olive oil). By law, frozen seafood must be marked as such on the menu.
Fresh fish, sold by the kilo, can be very expensive; if you’re watching your budget, be sure to ask how much your particular portion will cost before ordering it. Greek salad (called “country salad” locally, “HorIAtiki”), a mix of tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and onion all sliced plus some olives, and occasionally green bell pepper or other vegetables, usually garnished with oregano.
Traditionally it is dressed only with olive oil; vinegrette or lettuce are added only in the most tourist-oriented restaurants. Also consider: moussaka, a rich oven-baked dish of eggplant, minced meat, tomato and white sauce pastitsio, a variety of lasagna stifado, pieces of meat and onion in a wine and cinnamon stew spetzofai, braised sausage with pepper and tomatoes, a hearty dish originally from the Mt. Pelion region sahanaki, fried semi-hard cheese paidakia, grilled lamb chops, are also popular.
They tend to have a gamier taste and chewier texture than North American lamb chops, which you may or may not like Fried potatoes (often listed on menus as chips) are a naturalized Greek dish, found almost everywhere. They can be very good when freshly made and served still hot. Tzatziki is usually a good dip for them, though they are still good on their own. For dessert, ask for baklava, tissue-thin layers of pastry with honey and chopped nuts; or galaktoboureko, a custard pie similar to mille feuille. Other pastries are also worth tasting. Another must-try is yogort with honey: yoghurts in Greece are really different from what you used to see at Danone stores: to start with, genuine yoghurt in Greece is has 10% of fat. Fruit such as watermelon is also a common summertime treat.
For breakfast, head to local bakeries (fourno) and try fresh tiropita, cheese pie; spanakopita, spinach pie; or bougatsa, custard filled pie, or even a “”horiatiko psomi”, a traditional, crusty village type bread that is a household staple, and very tasty on its own too. All are delicious and popular among Greeks for quick breakfast eats.
Each bakery does own rendition and you are never disappointed. Go to the next Kafeneion with them and have it there with a Greek coffee to be local. A popular drink is a frappe made with instant Nescafe, water, sugar , and sometimes milk.
It is frothed and served over ice. Cover fee It’s common to charge a cover fee in cafes officially (i.e. stating it in a receipt), such as 0.30 to 2 per person, but if it’s tending towards 2 you should really consider eating somewhere else. Just-in-time For things such as bread and fresh orange juice, the just-in-time principle is often used: bread or oranges are purchased by the cafe right after the first order is taken. So don’t be surprised if your waiter returns to the cafe with a bag of oranges after accepting your order. And this is how fresh bread is guaranteed in most places.
Fast food McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have made a significant presence in Greece over the past 15 years. However, they face strong competition from the popular local chains. Goody’s is the most popular fast-food chain in the country, offering a large variety of fast food meals, with numerous outlets throughout the country. A more recent chain is Everest which specializes in hand-held snacks. Flocafé is gaining popularity through its coffee and dessert items. There are also many independently-owned fast food businesses that offer typical fast food items, such as gyros. Many of these small businesses tend to be open late at night, and are popular with younger crowds on their way home from a night out.
What to Drink in Greece
Those wishing to partake of alcoholic beverages in Greece would be well advised to stick to the traditional domestic Greek products discussed below, which are freely available, mostly cheap by European standards, and usually of good quality. For non-local drinks avoid places that mainly cater to young, foreign tourists (such as all-inclusive resorts in party islands) as drinks there will, more often than not, be mixed with ingredients (thus, giving them the appellation “bomba” )that will make you feel sorry the following morning. Stick to decent places that cater mainly to Greeks.
Water A glass of water is traditionally served with any drink you order; one glass for each drink, especially with any form of coffee. Sometimes you even get a glass of water first and then get asked what you want to drink. Sometimes you might as well get a bottle instead of just a glass.
In touristy areas you might have to ask for a glass of water if you want one. If you don’t get water with a coffee you just stepped into a tourist-trap. Also, if you did not explicitly ask for a bottle instead of a glass, and they try to charge you for it you should refuse.
Tap water in most places a traveler would go today is drinkable; if in doubt, ask your hotel. But often though technically drinkable it doesn’t taste very good, especially on some small islands (as it is imported in and heavily chlorinated), and many travelers, like many Greeks, prefer to stick to bottled water. By law, water prices in shops must remain within acceptable limits (50 eurocents for 1/2 litre), making it much cheaper than in Anglosphere nations.
Wines To be able to purchase alcohol in Greece you must be 17, but there is no legal drinking age. IDing is infrequent, especially in venues that sell food. (many independent fast food outlets will serve alcohol) Greece, an ancient wine producing country, offers a wide variety of local wines, from indigenous and imported grape varieties, including fortified and even sparkling wines. Greek wines are generally not available on the international market, as production is relatively small, costs are quite high and little remains for export.
However, in the past decade Greek wines have won many international prizes, with the rise of a new generation of wineries. Exports are rising as well. Wine (Krasi: / oenos: is most Greeks’ drink of choice. Almost every taverna has “barrel wine,” usually local, which is usually of good quality and a bargain (6-8 EUR per kilo, but check this before ordering when you are in a touristy area!). If they have it, try also the Imiglyko (Half-Sweet) red, even if sweet wine is usually not your preferred thing, it is diffrent from anything you know.
Retsina is a “resonated wine” with a strong, distinctive taste that can take some getting used to; the flavor comes from pine resin, which was once employed as a sealant for wine flasks and bottles. The most well-known and cheap-n-dirty is “Kourtaki Retsina”, as well as “Malamatina”. Bottled wines have gotten increasingly more expensive; some that the beginner may find worth trying are whites from Santorini and reds from Naoussa and Drama.
Local producers include: Boutari (regions: Peloponnese, Crete, Goumenissa, Santorini, Naoussa). Skouras (region of Peloponnese). Good selection found in several tourist shops in Nafplion. Mercouri Estate (region of Peloponnese). Gentilini (region of Kefalonia). Recommended by Dorling Kindesley’s Eyewitness Travel Guides: Greek Islands, 2001; region of Santorini: Canava Argyros. Volcan Wines . Also, a Volcan Wine Museum. Santo Wines. region of Crete: Peza Union Sitia Agricultural Cooperatives Union Creta Olympias Winery Minos Wines.
Lyrarakis Wines Douloufakis Wines Michalakis Winery Tsantali Beer Even if beer (bira: is consumed all around the country, don’t come to Greece for the beer. The only local varieties widely available are Mythos, Vergina, Alpha, Fix. Basically, all are the same, a refreshing 5° lager. Fix launched a stout, “Dark Fix”, and Vergina, launced Vergina Red, but don’t expect to find them everywhere. Besides, Greeks drink mostly Northern European beers produced under license in Greece like Heineken and Amstel.
Heineken is affectionately known as “green”; order it by saying “Mia Prasini.” Some pubs within major cities also provide with draft Irish, Czech and German beers. Lately there is a tremendous increase in the number of high quality but pricier microbrewery firms, which are locally produced, including new organic beers. These includes excellent microbreweries like Craft, (the first one), Piraiki Zythopoiia (organic produced), Septem Microbrewery, Neda Beer.
Many of them have limited distribution in bars, even though you can find some of them in Super Markets, but if you find one its worth trying. Liquor A bottle of ouzo The most famous indigenous Greek liquor is ouzo , an anise-flavored strong spirit (37.5%), which is transparent by itself but turns milky white when mixed with water (ouzo effect). Mainlanders do not drink ouzo with ice, but tourists and Greek islanders generally do. A 200 mL bottle can be under 2 in supermarkets and rarely goes above 8 even in expensive restaurants. Mytilene (Lesbos) is particularly famous for its ouzo.
A few to try are “Mini” and “Number 12,” two of the most popular made in a middle-of-the-road style, “Sans Rival,” one of the most strongly anise-flavored ones, “Arvanitis,” much lighter, and the potent “Barba Yianni” and “Aphrodite,” more expensive and much appreciated by connoisseurs. Raki or tsikoudia is the Greek equivalent of the Italian grappa, produced by boiling the remains of the grapes after the wine has been squeezed off.
It is quite strong (35-40% of alcohol) and in the summer months it is served cold. It costs very little when one buys it in supermarkets or village stores. The raki producing process has become a male event, as usually men are gathering to produce the raki and get drunk by constantly trying the raki as it comes out warm from the distillery. One raki distillery in working order is exhibited in Ippikos Omilos Irakleiou in Heraklion, but they can be found in most large villages. In northern Greece it is also called tsipouro .
In Crete, raki is traditionally considered an after-dinner drink and is often served with fruit as dessert. Coffee Coffee (kafes: is an important part of Greek culture. The country is littered with kafetéries (kafetéria singular) which are cafes that serve as popular hangouts for Greeks, especially among the under-35s.
They tend to be pretty trendy -yet relaxed- and serve a variety of beverages from coffee, to wine, beer, spirits, as well as snacks, desserts, and ice cream. In the pleasant months of spring, summer, and fall, all kafetéries provide outdoor tables/seating and they are busiest with customers in the late afternoon and evening hours.
Several kafetéries also double as bars towards the evening. Kafeneia (coffee houses) are ubiquitous, found even in the smallest village, where they traditionally served a function similar to that of the village pub in Ireland. Their clientele tends to be overwhelmingly men over 50, however everyone is welcome, male or female, young or old, Greek or foreigner; and you will be treated extremely courteously. However, if you’re not interested in cultural immersion to this extent, you may find the kafeneia pretty boring.
Traditionally, coffee is prepared with the grounds left in. It is actually a somewhat lighter version of Turkish coffee but in Greece it’s only known as Greek coffee – “ellinikós kafés” or simply “ellinikós.” Despite being slightly lighter than the original Turkish coffee, it remains a thick, strong black coffee, served in a small cup either sweetened or unsweetened. If you don’t specify, the coffee is usually served moderately sweet. Greek coffee traditionally was made by boiling the grounds and water on a stove in a special small pot called a “briki”.
During the hot summer months, the most popular coffee at the kafetéries is frappé : shaken iced instant coffee. This is actually an original Greek coffee and can be really refreshing, ordered with or without milk, sweetened or unsweetened. Coffee can also be made espresso-style, French press (mainly at hotels), and with modern filter technology. The latter is sometimes known as : gallikos (“French”) which can lead to some confusion with the press method. It is best to ask for : filtrou, which refers unambiguously to filter coffee. It is best not to ask for black coffee, as it is unlikely that anyone will understand what you are asking for. Espresso freddo or cappuccino freddo are also gaining popularity. Espresso fredo is simply espresso + ice (no milk or foam); cappuccino freddo may be served from mousse containers, not prepared just-in-time; be careful to check. Iced tea In mass-sector taverns and cafe, iced tea typically means instant; ask twice if you prefer real brewed ice tea.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend Please add and comment.