Greek cuisine, oh so delectable and rich. Easy to identify, impossible to define. When you hear someone speak of Greek food, your mind may conjure up images of fully formed dishes such as the family casserole Moussaka, party-friendly lamb and shrimp Souvlaki, grip to go Gyros, or any other number of commonly known Greek specialties. Any of these dishes will transport you to the Mediterranean coast or into the mountainous interior of Greece.
Finding the Best Restaurants in Athens
Or maybe you immediately think of the individual ingredients when you think if Greek cooking. When I say Greece you may think of olives, feta cheese, pitas, and filo dough. Mixing and matching the typical ingredients against improvisational classics, add in a dash of rigani (oregano to you and I) and you create a wonderful Greek masterpiece that will fill your heart as well as your belly.
Greek cooking is a great example of things being more than the sum of their parts which is why it is so recognizable when you have it, but so difficult to set within a regimented boundary. Yaya may have added a new spice to the ageless recipe, or changed out an ingredient that wasn’t readily available to her, and now it is carved in stone as a “true” Greek dish. The islanders tend to enjoy more fish while those that live in the rugged terrain have more meaty dishes. Or to split the regions up even further, maybe your family comes from Crete, where many of the common Cretan ingredients just aren’t available in the rest of the country and are sold in shops as a specialty. Much like someone living in Chicago might be able to find a store that sells grits, but that’s not an Illinois norm, it came up from the south.
Exploring a Greek menu is like exploring the countryside while seated at the table. The distinct aromatic flavors and a wide variation in local palettes make for an exciting adventure every time you sit down to a meal in Greece. Athens is situated right in the heart of the country with the rocky mainland to its north filled with European and Balkan influences, the fertile peninsula Peloponnese to its south, and the more than 6000 islands immersed in the seas around it, Athens finds itself at the center of all Greek cultures and we can benefit from this confluence of flavors by visiting many different kinds of restaurants in a single visit, or even by experiencing wildly different tastes of Grecian foods from distant parts of the country between noon and evening.
Greek food is as diverse as the ancient nation itself, which is to say that there is something for everyone when you are looking for something to eat in the capitol of Athens. One thing is for certain; if you’re dining in Athens and you are willing to try any new foods or take the suggestions of your new native resident friends, you will come away from a Greek table with a new appreciation for the beauty and taste of good food.
Why not begin our restaurant reviews at the top? Orizontes sits 900 feet in the air atop Lycabettus Hill, the highest peak in the capitol. From your table you will dine on fine fare while looking out over Athens from above, much as the gods of Olympus must have done. If you book an early seating and catch the sunset (sunset is still considered early for common Greek dinner), you will catch the illumination of the Acropolis.
A wide selection of soups, salads, appetizers, and pastas fill your menu and for entrees, they have fabulous chicken, pork, veal, and lamb but you must try the seafood. Kitchen standards of Bream, Croaker, Sea bass, and Prawns are presented in lovely arrangements and worth the taste however the Aegean fish of the day is a special draw when you know the catch is as fresh as however long it took to bring it from the shore to your table.
Patrons of Orizontes suggest that the cost of the food is a little high compared to the quality of food you get, but that the view more than compensates for any variance. Far from being over priced, the most common comment is that the food is high quality, but not top tier and it is obvious that you are paying for the atmosphere. And that atmosphere is enforced with a dress code. Proper attire is required, tourists in shorts and sandals will not be admitted. For the price you are paying, you don’t want a wet bathing suit and Crocs to impede on the breathtaking view.
Down closer to the action is Strofi Athenian Restaurant. Rather than viewing the Acropolis from afar, why not dine in its very shadow. Wide and tall windows ensure a beautiful view if seated indoors, and plenty of outdoor seating on the terrace will have you a mere stone’s throw from the ancient building as you sip your wine and enjoy the splendor.
The menu reads like a thick tome, plenty of options to choose from, all of them grand adventures in Greek cuisine. Page after page of hot and cold appetizers, salads, cheese plates, all to get you started. The entree list continues to tempt you with a variety of open grilled options, fresh seafood, and specialties from around Greece’s many cultural pockets including a superb goat dish from Folegandros and a veal sofrito dish native to the island of Corfu.
Again, the clientele describe this restaurant as high quality but more expensive than expected for the food. This is certainly presented as a fine dining establishment and you will pay premium prices for the food which will be superb, but you are paying for the experience and the view. Seated beneath the walls of the Parthenon, looking up into the Acropolis while enjoying a meal is well worth the cost. It is highly recommended to reserve the terrace seating as it gives you an all encompassing view.
If this isn’t your first trip to Greece, give the Funky Gourmet a try, it takes traditional Greek and stands it on its head to give you a new perspective on the flavors and styles of what you have come to to expect from Greek cuisine. Freshly updated menu and with the entire restaurant being relocating to the central of Athens in the Hilton in 2020, you will get a fresh experience every time you visit.
The two executive chefs are native Athenians who have traveled the world and experimented in culinary creations abroad before bringing their expertise home and opening one of the more innovative restaurants available in Greece. We advise this restaurant for the traveler who is looking to experience new and interesting creations without boundaries. You’ll get that famous Greek food, but it may be served in a highly unusual and creative way. Don’t expect the usual pita and tzatziki, you’ll get the modern molecular equivalent and no doubt served in some uncommon way.
You’re getting the best of both worlds with a visit to the Funky Gourmet. The highly experimental and cutting edge food-play you can expect from artsy restaurants, but all while maintaining a love and reverence for the tastes, flavors, and love of Greek and Mediterranean foods. You’ll pay a bit above prime for this meal but the experience will prove to be worth it.
Slightly less experimental but still producing new innovations on Greek flavors is Hytra. Elevated above street level, this dual level restaurant is on the 6th and 7th floor and within sight of the Acropolis. From this great view of the Parthenon your dining experience will steep in vibrant views of the ancient blending with the modern city, much like Hytra’s two distinct menus.
The Hytra menu has offerings of the finest gourmet foods to grant you the fine dining experience you can expect as evening falls and the city lights up with its warmth and hospitality. Individual entrees or one of the multiple 14 course pairing experiences, prepare for a night on excellence when you visit Hytra.
The Hytra Apla menu is suited for more casual dining, fine fare without the trappings of fine dining. Traditional Greek dishes alongside international standards as plain as mac & cheese and hot dogs. The availability of “ordinary” food may be a blessing for the dining party that has a picky eater amongst them.
Spending lots of money while abroad is always where you choose to spend it. Hytra can give you the fine dining experience without breaking the budget wide open. The dual menus allow you to pick and choose which experience you wish to enjoy, the Apla menu is substantially less costly and still full of great food.
Southeast of Athens central is the fine dining spot of Spondi. World renown and on every list of world class restaurants, Spondi lives up to its reputation. Worth getting out of the tourist circles and seeing some of Athens’ side streets to come across such a great dining adventure.
Spondi also offers dual menus for those that may have differing tastes. The A La Carte menu has fantastic choices for those not looking for a full meal. The chocolate orange Foie Gras is not to be missed and the rest of the options will instill the same feelings of “must share”.
The “discovery” menu has more traditional fine dining offerings. Caviar and Pigeon sit alongside Crab and Sea Bass with the menu changing seasonally to reflect the freshest ingredients. This blend of French and Greek cuisine brings you a magnificent dining experience that will sit as a crowing moment of your Greek holiday.
The Two Star Michelin rating may scare away casual diners but the restaurant staff will wow you with their outstanding service and attentiveness. When you sit down to a fine dining meal you know it may be an expensive expenditure but Spondi sits right in that middle ground where you don’t have to shell out exorbitant prices and yet still gain that fantastic fine dining event.
Hotel Grande Bretagne Roof Garden Restaurant
Commonly referred to as the GB Roof Garden, this restaurant sits atop the luxury hotel and the rooftop views of Athens’ sites will astonish and amaze as you enjoy fine dining in full view of the historic relics. Looking to the south will reveal the National Gardens, and the Parthenon just to the west will capture the sunset behind it in fantasy and fascination.
The Lunch menu is the best of fine dining in a casual atmosphere. Enjoy the warm breeze while tasting culinary creations of traditional Greek fare with today’s modern flair. Wood fire ovens and grills create Mediterranean pizzas as well as fine steaks.
As evening falls and the dinner menu rolls out, the mood becomes more formal and a dress code is enforced to create the fine dining experience. Carefully tailored dishes blend exotic Greek flavors with fresh food to grant you the evening of fine food with fantastic views.
Pricey food is to be expected as such a fine establishment. You can expect to shell out some money for this meal but the food is well worth the cost and the views can’t be beat. When you want to top your Grecian vacation with an impressive meal, visit the top floor of the Grande Bretagne, you will treasure the entire experience.
If you’re looking for authentic Greek dishes, you want to go to Manas Kouzina-Kouzina. Translating to “Mama’s Kitchen” kitchen, the father and son who run this restaurant are offering traditional Greek dishes, and not the trendy tourist fare. Located on a pedestrian street in the heart of Athens, you may walk by this open door and smell the fantastic herbs and spices luring you in.
Nothing in this restaurant is available out of season, nothing beyond the borders of Greece is on the menu. This dining establishment is working to reestablish the traditional Greek meals of our mothers and is activly shunning the trends of modern times invading Greek culture. If you want a Coca-Cola, go elsewhere. If you want Greek food and drink served as traditionally as possible, have a seat and enjoy the staples of what your Greek grandmothers might have cooked up for you decades ago.
Currently undergoing a renovation, Manas Kouzina-Kouzina is looking to improve your experience by adding additional seating and expanding its menu. Currently offering counter service options that will feel as though you just ate a meal in someone’s Athenian home, you won’t come away hungry, or broke. The menu here is full of great food at exceptionally low prices.
This neighborhood bar is more than you’d expect from its gruff exterior. Withstanding the changing neighborhood styles, a devastating fire, and countless attempts to shut it down, this resilient local tavern sits in the middle of it all with tourist attractions all around. Gritty atmosphere may keep away the trendy types, but if you’re open to seeing, hearing and tasting Greek life away from the well worn tour guides, come down to the Tavern Klimataria.
Genuine is one of the first words that will come to mind when you enter this rustic space. The feel of a Greek tavern hasn’t been recreated, it has been preserved. Traditional Greek fare is available alongside more modern Greek favorites. Lamb, stuffed peppers, and pies like burek and tomato. The food is much better than the expected “bar food”, you get great Greek food in an authentic atmosphere.
The real draw of Tavern Klimataria is the entire package of great food and local music. The bar has an open stage where local musicians come and play their songs for your enjoyment. From traditional folk to modern rock, you can get a feel for what daily life is like as a local and it won’t empty your wallet. The prices are fair to low and you get entertainment as you dine in the authentic Greek tavern.
Acropolis Museum Restaurant
One may not think of the local museum cafeteria as one of the best restaurants in any city, but the Acropolis Museum Restaurant is an exception to this belief. Perched atop the museum, the restaurant has full glass walls showing a crystal clear observation deck for breathtaking panoramic vistas of Athens and the Acropolis.
This is no rudimentary cafeteria. This full restaurant is dedicated to serving you a taste of Athens in every bite. Specialty breakfasts, event brunches, a-la-carte lunches and full immersion fine dining dinner, the Acropolis Museum Restaurant can give you the Greek experience from around the nation without ever having to leave your table. Flavors from the mountain villages and the island retreats come together for a meld of the best of Greek food right there before you.
If you are short on time or the means to make an exaggerated exploration of the many cultural corners Greece has to offer, coming to the Acropolis Museum Restaurant may be your best bet to be able to taste dishes from around the country without breaking the bank. Prices are suitable to ordinary dining out and if you have evening reservations you will get the fine dining experience without the fine dining cost.
North of the tourist areas but still within walking distance of all the sites you came to see is an old basement restaurant that you may slip past without even realizing it was there. Diporto is for the traveler that wants to experience Greek food as the Greeks would. If you’re looking for fine dining or modern experiments with food, go elsewhere. If you looking for hearty soups and working class fare, you come to Diporto.
First and foremost, you better be in the mood for a true Greek experience. You will be seated at large common tables where the patrons sit together and share the stories of their day at the local tavern. Food is served without fanfare or decoration and you will savor every single bite. The ever-changing menu reflects what is seasonally available and what is locally fresh. When you dine at Diporto you are dining among the Greek citizenry and eating the foods that they eat every day. If you’re ready to ditch the trendy spots and taste a bit of true Greek, Diporto is open for you.
Matching the working class food is the menu’s prices. Many of the dishes served are large enough to serve two people and the cost is exactly what you’d expect from a local joint with no fancy frills. You can eat your fill of Mediterranean flavors and smile when you pay the inexpensive bill.