The Top Thing to Eat: Athens

Written: The Top Thing Staff | June 29, 2023

1. Keftedes

Greek keftedes are a delightful blend of ground beef and lamb, seasoned with aromatic herbs like oregano and mint, creating an authentic burst of flavor that encapsulates the essence of Greek cuisine. These tender meatballs are often served as a popular appetizer or main dish in Athens.

The use of both beef and lamb in the meat mixture adds depth to the flavor profile, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The incorporation of traditional herbs not only enhances the taste but also contributes to the cultural significance of this beloved dish.

Keftedes are commonly accompanied by tzatziki sauce for dipping, adding a creamy and refreshing element that perfectly complements the savory richness of the meatballs. This classic pairing showcases how Greek cuisine masterfully balances different flavors to create a harmonious dining experience with dishes and honey.

When visiting Athens, trying keftedes is essential for fully immersing oneself in the local food culture. Whether enjoyed as an appetizer at a taverna or incorporated into a larger meal, these flavorful meatballs offer an authentic taste of Greece that should not be missed.

2. Fava

Fava is a creamy yellow split pea puree, often seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice. It’s commonly served as a dip or spread with bread or as a side dish in Greek cuisine.

This delectable appetizer showcases the rich flavors of Greece, offering a delightful blend of earthy peas complemented by the tangy notes of fresh lemon and the smooth richness of olive oil.

The versatility of fava makes it an ideal choice for both vegans and non-vegans alike, providing a nutritious option that can be enjoyed in various ways. Its popularity extends beyond local taverns to high-end restaurants, where chefs elevate its presentation while maintaining its authentic taste.

When visiting Athens, indulging in fava provides not just a gastronomic experience but also an immersion into the heart of Greek culinary tradition. The simplicity yet robustness of this dish encapsulates the essence of Mediterranean flavors and showcases the artistry behind creating memorable dining experiences.

3. Briam

Briam is a traditional Greek dish consisting of roasted vegetables such as zucchini, potatoes, and tomatoes. These vegetables are seasoned with garlic, oregano, and olive oil to create rich Mediterranean flavors. This combination offers a light yet satisfying taste that appeals to both vegetarians and meat-eaters.

In Greece, Briam is often enjoyed as a standalone vegetarian main course or served as a delectable side dish alongside other traditional Greek dishes. The use of fresh ingredients and the careful seasoning make it an essential part of Greek cuisine.

The simplicity of Briam’s preparation allows the natural flavors of the vegetables to shine through while offering a healthy option for those seeking nutritious meals. Its popularity in Greece has made it one of the must-try dishes when visiting Athens or any authentic Greek restaurant around the world.

This flavorful medley provides an excellent example of how simple ingredients can be combined in a way that highlights their natural goodness. As such, Briam represents not only delicious food but also showcases the essence of Mediterranean cooking at its best.

4. Tzatziki

Tzatziki is a refreshing yogurt-based sauce that combines the flavors of cucumber, garlic, and dill. It’s commonly served as a condiment for gyros or souvlaki, adding a burst of tangy freshness to these savory Greek dishes. Tzatziki can also be enjoyed as a dip for pita bread, offering a cool contrast to the warm and rich flavors of traditional Greek cuisine.

The creamy texture and subtle flavors make tzatziki an ideal accompaniment to grilled meats and vegetables. Its versatility allows it to complement various dishes while providing a cooling effect on the palate. In Greece, this beloved condiment is often used not only in traditional recipes but also as part of modern culinary creations.

Moreover, tzatziki aligns with the Mediterranean diet’s emphasis on using fresh ingredients such as yogurt and cucumbers – both known for their health benefits. Yogurt provides probiotics beneficial for gut health while cucumbers offer hydration and essential nutrients like vitamin K.

When visiting Athens, indulging in authentic tzatziki provides a true taste of Greek culture and gastronomy. Whether at local tavernas or upscale restaurants, experiencing this iconic dish adds depth to one’s exploration of Athenian cuisine.

5. Dolmades

Dolmades are grape leaves filled with a delectable blend of rice, pine nuts, and aromatic herbs. This combination offers a unique mix of flavors that is both refreshing and savory.

Typically served cold, dolmades are commonly enjoyed as an appetizer or as part of a meze platter in Greek cuisine. Their versatility allows them to be paired with various other dishes or simply savored on their own.

The addition of a squeeze of lemon enhances the taste profile, adding a zesty tang that complements the earthy notes from the grape leaves and the richness from the filling.

Dolmades can be found in many traditional Greek restaurants across Athens, offering locals and tourists alike an authentic taste of Mediterranean flavors.

6. Greek Salad

A classic Greek salad is a delightful combination of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, olives, and creamy feta cheese. This iconic dish captures the essence of Mediterranean cuisine with its vibrant colors and flavors.

Dressed simply with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with aromatic oregano, the salad offers an authentic taste that reflects the use of fresh ingredients in Greek cooking. The use of these fresh vegetables not only enhances the visual appeal but also contributes to the overall health benefits of this dish.

Served as a refreshing side dish or even as a light meal on its own, the Greek salad embodies simplicity and wholesomeness. Its versatility makes it an ideal choice for those seeking a healthy option while exploring Athens’ culinary offerings.

The abundance of salads in Greece also extends beyond just this traditional mix; incorporating elements like fresh fish into some variations provides diverse options for those looking to explore different flavors within this category.

7. Gyro

Gyros are a beloved street food in Athens, consisting of thinly sliced gyro meat, typically lamb or chicken, wrapped in warm pita bread. This delicious handheld meal is often topped with fresh tomatoes, onions, and creamy tzatziki sauce.

The convenience of gyros makes them a popular choice for locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re on the move or taking a leisurely stroll through the city, grabbing a gyro from one of the many vendors near metro stations provides a quick and satisfying dining experience.

A testament to its popularity is that there are over 3,000 establishments selling gyros across Greece. The versatility of this dish also allows for variations based on regional preferences. For instance, some areas may use pork instead of lamb or chicken as the primary meat in their gyros.

In addition to being delicious and convenient, gyros offer an authentic taste of Greek cuisine that’s deeply rooted in tradition. The blend of flavors and textures creates a memorable culinary experience for anyone visiting Athens.

8. Souvlaki

Souvlaki consists of skewers of grilled meat, typically pork or chicken, seasoned with a blend of herbs and lemon juice. This popular Greek street food is served with pita bread and often accompanied by tzatziki sauce and vegetables, offering a delightful burst of Mediterranean flavors in every bite.

A culinary adventure in Athens would be incomplete without savoring this beloved fast food option. It’s an ideal meal for those seeking a quick yet satisfying taste of authentic Greek cuisine while exploring the city’s bustling streets.

Visitors can indulge in souvlaki at local restaurants or even from vendors at the central market, immersing themselves in the vibrant culinary experience that Athens has to offer. The aroma of succulent meat grilling over an open oven along with the tantalizing scent of warm pita bread creates an unforgettable dining experience.

Whether enjoyed as a quick lunch or part of a leisurely dinner, souvlaki represents one of Greece’s most famous foods. Pair it with ouzo for an even more authentic taste sensation.

9. Spanakopita

Spanakopita is a delightful Greek dish consisting of flaky phyllo pastry filled with spinach, feta cheese, and herbs. The combination of these ingredients creates a flavorful and savory treat that is baked to golden perfection.

This popular dish can be enjoyed as an appetizer or as a light meal, making it versatile for various dining occasions. Its rich flavors and satisfying texture make it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

In Athens, spanakopita is commonly served alongside other traditional Greek dishes such as kalamata olives, pita bread, and cheese pies. The blend of spinach and feta cheese encased in crispy filo pastry reflects the culinary heritage of the city.

The use of fresh ingredients like spinach, onions, bell peppers enhances the nutritional value of spanakopita while adding depth to its taste profile. This classic Greek dish captures the essence of Athenian cuisine through its simple yet delicious composition.

10. Moussaka

Moussaka is a layered casserole that showcases the rich flavors of Greek cuisine. It typically consists of eggplant, minced meat (often beef or lamb), and creamy béchamel sauce, creating a harmonious blend of textures and tastes. The dish is then baked to perfection, resulting in a hearty and comforting meal that has become an iconic culinary creation in Greece.

This beloved dish offers a delightful combination of savory ingredients with a touch of indulgent creaminess from the béchamel sauce. The layers of eggplant add earthy notes while the seasoned minced meat provides depth and richness to every bite.

Moussaka’s popularity extends beyond Greece, making it a sought-after item on international menus and among food enthusiasts worldwide. Its versatility allows for variations in recipes, adapting to different cultural preferences while still retaining its essence.

When visiting Athens, trying moussaka is an essential part of experiencing the local gastronomy at its finest. Whether enjoyed as street food or at traditional tavernas, this classic Greek dish promises to tantalize taste buds with its robust flavors.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Keftedes?

Keftedes are traditional Greek meatballs made with ground beef or lamb, mixed with herbs and spices, then fried to perfection. They are often served as an appetizer or part of a meze platter.

Where can I find the best Gyro in Athens?

For an authentic Gyro experience in Athens, head to Monastiraki or Psiri area where you’ll find numerous local eateries serving up delicious and freshly-made Gyros. Look for places where locals line up – that’s usually a good sign!

Is Tzatziki suitable for vegetarians?

Yes, Tzatziki is vegetarian-friendly! This creamy yogurt-based dip is typically made with cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, and dill. It’s commonly enjoyed as a dip with pita bread or paired with grilled vegetables.

How is Moussaka typically served in Athens?

Moussaka is often served as a hearty main dish in Athens. It consists of layers of eggplant, minced meat (usually lamb), and béchamel sauce baked to golden perfection. You can find it at traditional tavernas throughout the city.

Can I get Spanakopita gluten-free in Athens?

While traditional Spanakopita contains phyllo dough which has gluten, some modern bakeries and restaurants offer gluten-free versions using alternative pastry options like rice paper or gluten-free filo dough. It’s always best to ask the staff about their ingredients when dining out.