The Best Places to Eat and Drink in Athens, Greece

In the past decade Athenian restaurant culture has upped its game. Along with the wonderful traditional family-owned tavernas serving local fare, Michelin-starred venues have been reinterpreting Greek favorites with creativity and aplomb to increasingly discerning crowds. Even Greek coffee (with grounds on the bottom of the cup) has branched out. Remember, dinner hour here is often 9-ish; and most of the year the action takes place outdoors under balmy skies.

Chatzigianni Mexi 2, Athina 115 28, Greece
Cookoovaya’s five chefs (Periklis Koskinas, Manos Zournatzis, Vaggelis Liakos, Spyros Liakos, Nikos Karathanos; all individual Athenian stars) have gotten together to celebrate “wise cuisine”—which is how they see Greek eating in general. This is Greek fare modernized but not unduly messed with; dishes are kept simple but are sublimely chosen and made with the freshest seasonal and local ingredients. Meals here are still designed to be eaten communally, as is usual in Greece, but it’s all done with an elegant twist. Fare from the wooden oven is especially amazing, like spinach pie, or, ah, moussaka (taken to a special level in the latter case). Be warned: the pretty, airy, Michelin-recommended restaurant can fill up fast. Fun fact: Cookoovaya means “owl” in Greek—the symbol of Athens and of wisdom.
Aiolou 48, Athina 105 60, Greece
Although the restaurant claims it’s “American” (the owner is from San Francisco), local Greeks are laying claim on this all-day hangout. Breakfasts and brunches—creamy Greek yogurt and pancakes—start the day, then around lunch, diners switch over to cheeseburgers and fries, Tandoori chicken, perfect Middle Eastern falafel, and even a couple of Thai dishes. The eclecticism magically works, as ingredients used are crazy-fresh and the atmosphere is low-key and friendly. The team of chefs is as international and colorful as the menu (and as the ceiling, too, which is decorated with multicolored umbrellas), and Mama Roux lies on a pedestrian-only street, which helps, too. As night falls, you may as well stay for dinner, and try the excellent beers on tap.
Veranzerou 5, Athina 106 77, Greece
I Kriti (Greek for “Crete”) has been serving some of Athens’ best Cretan cuisine long before the island’s hearty cuisine became fashionable in the mid-2000s. A charming, utterly unpretentious tavern tucked into a nondescript arcade passage near Omonia Square, Kriti serves fare that will leave you reeling with pleasure—dakos (barley bruschetta topped with grated tomato, crumbled myzithra cheese, olives, and pickled samphire), smoked Cretan pork, snails in garlic, Crete-made sausages, spicy cheese dip, and baked pies, all at excellent prices and with real Cretan hospitality (the owners don’t really speak English, but it doesn’t matter). Expect to wait for a table but then, once seated, to spend some time here. And don’t forget to wash each dish down with some Cretan raki, a strong grape distillate similar to grappa.
Keramikou 49, Athina 104 36, Greece
It’s always fun stumbling upon places the locals frequent. If you’re in Athens, venture beyond Monaistaraki/the Plaka and all the typical souvlaki joints to the Metaxourgeio neighborhood. Here, you’ll find Seychelles—described by Buzzfeed as “one of the 31 places you should eat around the world before you die.” Here, not only are the clientele and interior space hip, but the menu is fun and creative with simple but elevated dishes such as chickpeas with feta and mint, tomato and zucchini fritters, and a fantastic selection of cheeses from all over Greece. The pappardelle with kavourmas (cured pork) was jaw-droppingly delicious! Do yourself a favor, and make the trek out this way ... take the metro to Kerameikos, then walk or grab a cab for under five Euros. You’ll be glad you did. Ask about the daily specials and always book ahead (in warmer weather, ask for a table outside on Avdi Square).
Leof. Andrea Siggrou 107, Athina 117 45, Greece
Hytra serves nouvelle Greek cuisine at its finest, in a location inside the Onassis Cultural Centre (and, in the warmer months, atop it). The name “Hytra” comes from the ancient Greek word for a terra-cotta vase, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about this Michelin-starred restaurant: Chef Tassos Mantis reimagines Greek classics in his adventurous tasting menu (eight or fourteen courses, paired with Greek wines) or ambitious mains like milk-fed lamb served with quinoa and mastic yogurt. Incredible views and excellent service, too.
Kidathineon 41, Athina 105 58, Greece
With its walls of colorful glass bottles, this charming little bar can be elusive—nestled deep in downtown Athens, in the warren of streets that make up the Plaka. Day or night, Brettos (pronounced Vrettos in Greek) is frequented by locals and tourists alike—the oldest distillery in Athens. While you can opt for beer, wine, homemade moonshine, or perhaps a cocktail, you might kick yourself later for passing up the chance to have an ouzo, Greece’s signature anise-flavored liquor, in such a storied watering hole. Who knows where that first sip might lead?
7 Emmanouil Mpenaki
Taf Coffee started out as a family-owned coffee roastery in the 1990s then quickly moved beyond Greek brews to becoming Athens’ main source for international gourmet roasts. Owner Yannis Taloumis opened the doors to Taf Coffee (a sit-down café) in 2009 and the family’s brand been going strong ever since, recently expanding to Taf Points, a mini-espresso bar concept in Athens and points beyond. The café, at the edge of the funky Exarchia district, is a haven for coffee aficionados interested in a wide variety of brews made by international-award-winning baristas. (Yes, traditional Greek coffee is still on offer.)
Vasileos Georgiou A 3, Athina 105 64, Greece
Dining at the King George Hote’s seventh-floor Tudor Hall restaurant is not to be missed. The Acropolis is so close it feels as if you can reach out to touch it. Seeing the Parthenon lit up in the evening while you enjoy refined, well-balanced dishes such as smoked eggplant salad smashed tableside; scorpion fish with chard, fennel marmalade and saffron; and braised rabbit with smoked Metsovone cheese and plums, is truly unforgettable.

Tudor Hall presents a modern and elegant take on Greek cuisine. The freshest seafood from local waters, beautiful cheeses and herbs, and Mediterranean flavors that just whisper “Greece.” Executive Chef Sotiris Evanelou and Chef de Cuisine Alexandros Koskinas, are two of the best chefs in Greece. Ask Head Sommelier Evangelos Psofidis to pair Greek wines with your courses to taste the nuances of both your food and the excellent wines.
Pentelis 5, Athina 105 57, Greece
The queue is long and you’ll have to eat standing up, but this spotless hole-in-the-wall does some of the best souvlaki in town. If you get antsy while you wait, be mindful of the multiple signs behind the counter saying: OXI AGXOS (NO STRESS). You won’t find frozen fries or garlicky tzatziki here. Just perfectly grilled pork skewers wrapped in a grease-free pita and garnished with sliced tomatoes, onions, parsley, a dollop of yogurt, and plenty of paprika. Don’t worry if you confuse it with the other Kostas souvlaki joint just off Agia Irini Square on Vassiliki Street, where the thing to order is pita bread stuffed with meatballs and spicy tomato sauce. Pull up a plastic chair and watch hipsters drink craft beer while you dribble tzatziki down your chin.
69 Kallidromiou
The large, leafy patio of this mezze restaurant in bohemian Exarchia was once the local schoolyard. Now cozy couples and animated gaggles of friends gather beneath the flowering bowers to enjoy some of the most honest and comforting food in town. Order as many dishes as you can fit on the table and share them all. Rather than traditional Greek fare, the menu is a tasty Mediterranean pick-and-mix. Try the cracked wheat salad with green apple, mint, and dried figs; meatballs seasoned with cinnamon and clove; and mini lamb kebabs. The high-ceilinged, well-lit classrooms make charming dining rooms in cooler weather. Service is unfailingly friendly and relaxed.

A school-turned-mezedopoleío serves delicious meze including bakalyaro (walnut-crusted fish fillets) and pita topped with yogurt and smoked eggplant. Bonus: a patio surrounded by bougainvillea.
34 Anastasiou Zinni
Located in the Koukaki neighborhood, rustic Fabrika tou Efrosinou is all about tradition and simplicity. Fine wines—many made by the chef’s wife—accompany savory pies, plump cracked wheat meatballs, and other seasonal dishes that nod to various regions in Greece.
Vrasida 11, Athina 161 21, Greece
Local ingredients take center stage at Vezené, a bistro in central Athens, where chef-owner Ari Vezené ages his own meats, sources the best seafood in Greece, and cooks 150 meals a day for people in need. This appeared in the January/February 2018 issue.
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