Greek Dishes Every Traveller Needs To Try, And Where To Find Them In Athens

DRINKS

Espresso Freddo
Everywhere you go, you’ll see Greeks drinking what looks like iced coffee. But it’s not just coffee and ice – the liquid is whipped up so it’s light and fluffy and has some texture, then the ice is added. Espresso Freddo is just black coffee, while Cappuccino Freddo is coffee whipped with milk. You’ll always be asked what sweetness you want your coffee, and you can choose none, medium, or a lot.

Orange juice
Not exactly mindblowing, but there are little machines in some train stations selling orange juice for a Euro. The fresh Greek oranges are squeezed right in front of you, and it’s so sweet and delicious.

Cherry juice
If you see a popper of cherry juice sold anywhere, buy it on the spot. It’s DELICIOUS, the perfect balance of sweet and sour. 

SNACKS and STARTERS

Nuts
These don’t need much explanation but I need to shout out to Greece’s pistachios. HOLY HELL these things are good. So creamy, somehow? And so much flavour. Also a lot of stalls sell peanuts coated in honey and sesame, which became one of my favourite snacks. There are nut vendors in a lot of places around the city, but we got great prices from a guy outside the central market.

Feta
You know what feta is. But you haven’t lived ’til you’ve eaten it in Greece. Try it in a Greek salad, or head to Kapatza, a cheese shop where we got samples of the best feta I’ve ever tried.

Tzaziki
A dip of yoghurt, cucumber, and garlic. It’s great with bread and also with meatballs. 

Tirokafteri
This is a spicy cheese “dip” that is more solid and chunky than most other dips you’ll get. It’s feta mixed with chilli, garlic, and olive oil, and it’s so good on bread. We had some on meatballs as well, which I highly recommend. We tried it at Avli and it was DELISH.

Koulouri
Usually eaten as breakfast on the go, this is a baked ring of dough coated in sesame seeds. It’s lighter than a bagel, but has the same semi-sweet flavour. You can find vendor carts dotted around the streets of Athens. Keep an eye out near metro and train stations. This one pictured is quite thick and doughy, you can also get thinner, crispier ones.

I also accidentally bought one which was covered in baked honey and sesame seeds, now that was DELICIOUS.

Saganaki
This fried cheese tastes a lot like halloumi, and has that squeaky vibe as well. It’s served in a sheet, often with lemon and black sesame seeds.

Dolamadkia
Vine leaves are stuffed with rice and spices, and sometimes ground meat, then served drizzled (ok, drowned) in olive oil and lemon.

MEALS

Spanakopita
A spinach and feta pie that is made with a delicious flaky pastry and spices that make it taste so fresh. We had some straight out of the oven at this place that I can’t translate and it was like heaven.

Moussaka
This quintessentially Greek dish is one of my favourites. It’s oven baked ground beef and eggplant layers, topped with a fluffy bechamel sauce. I don’t know what spices make it taste so rich, or how they get that sauce so fluffy, but it’s a must-try when you’re in Greece. I had it at Bandiera.

Souvlaki/Gyros/Pita
Ok I was very confused about these dishes before I visited Greece – usually in Australia they’re kinda interchangeable and all tend to mean the same thing. (At least for me, I don’t get much exposure to greek food tbh.)

Souvlaki just means meat cooked on a skewer. If you order souvlaki at a cafe you’ll probably get a plate of meat, salad, chips and maybe a pita on the side. Gyros is pork on a spit, shaved off and served with sauces and pita (what we normally just call a kebab in Australia). If something is called Pita on the menu, especially at a takeaway joint, it’ll probably be served wrapped in pita bread.

Kalamaki is an Athenian souvlaki, and if you order a kalamaki pita it’ll be meat, tomato sauce, salad, and chips in a pita. I got this from Kosta and holy shit it was the best meal I had in Athens. Also we got seriously good souvlaki plates from O Thanasis.

Kalamaki Pita

Yemitsa
A plate of yemitsa will usually be a pepper and a tomato, hollowed out and stuffed with rice, herbs, and sometimes meat. It’s a really simple, homestyle meal, but really delivers on flavour. It’s also usually drowning in olive oil. Apparently it’s really good at Avli, though I tried it in a town north of Athens, Kalabaka.

Yemitsa with potatoes and about a litre of oil

Pastourma Pie
Pastourma is a type of cured beef that you find in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. This pie is pretty simple: Greek cheese (usually sheep’s) and pastourma are rolled in flaky dough and lightly fried. It’s so good straight out of the oven and the cheese and meat have enough flavour that you don’t need to add anything. We found it on the menu at Avli and it was amazing.

Keftedes
These are Greek meatballs, lightly fried and often served with lemon, pita, or tzaziki. They’re made with herbs like parsley, and onion and garlic, so they’re super flavourful. We also tried them at Avli.

Greek salad, keftedes (meatballs), tirokafteri (cheese dip)

Kolokithokeftedes
You might just find this on the menu under “zucchini fritters” as that’s basically what they are! They’re light and crispy, and served as an appetizer or side with tzaziki. We also had these at Avli.

DESSERTS

Loukoumades
These are essentially small fried balls of dough, kinda like doughnut balls. Traditionally, they’re topped with honey and cinnamon or icing sugar, though there are Instagram-friendly places that serve them with ice cream, chocolate sauce, or fruit. We got ours from Lukumades, which has heaps of different flavour options, including balls with different fillings.

Bougatsa
If you like custard, this is the dessert for you. It’s flaky layers of pastry filled with sweet semolina custard, and dusted with icing sugar. It’s incredible when it’s warm fresh out of the oven. The best place to try it in Athens is from here.

Baklava
Surely you’ve heard of baklava. This incredibly sweet dessert made from nuts and pastry is baked in huge sheets then cut small. Traditionally, it’s made with walnuts or pistachios then drenched in honey, though you can get different flavour varieties in some places. We tried chocolate baklava which was incredible – it tasted like fudge cake. Ta Serbetia has really delicious baked goods and coffee, but if you want to try small slices, Karaköy Güllüoglu is the place to go. We got an assortment of all different flavours to try.

Kandaifi
A very close relative of baklava, this is made with shredded pastry and filled with chopped nuts then covered in sweet syrup. We had some as a complimentary dessert at Bandiera, then picked up some the next night at Karaköy Güllüoglu for a picnic. 

Spoon Sweets
This is something I’ve never seen or heard of before. It’s syrupy fruit, served in a dish and eaten with a spoon. The most popular flavour is sour cherry but you can also find apple, lemon, pear, and orange. It’s really good with coffee, to cut through the bitterness. We tried some sour cherry at Mokka, with traditional Greek coffee.

Have you tried a Greek dish that I haven’t listed here? Let me know in the comments, I’m always keen to find new foods!

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