When you wander the streets of Athens or some other beautiful Greek city for hours, you’re definitely going to get hungry at one point. To make it easier for you to dine and wine in Greece here is some useful information about eating in Greece.
When should you eat in Greece
Most Greeks start their mornings by having an Ellinikos cafe for breakfast. Don’t worry, though this is a common custom in some European countries (e.g. France or Italy), you will be able to have a proper breakfast at your hotel, at a café or restaurant. In the Greek Island of Corfu, for example, I know for sure you’ll be able to order even an English breakfast!
Lunch is usually served during the afternoon siesta hours. They eat around 15.00, then rest in the shade during the rest of the hot hours. You can, however, have lunch anytime between 12.00 and 16.00, as those are the lunch hours at most restaurants.
As for dinner, Greeks normally dine late, after sunset. It can even be after 22.00, so you’ll see the streets and establishments busy till late at night. Restaurants usually serve dinner between 20.00 and 00.00.
In tourist places, you will find that you can be eating in Greece at any hour. While it’s easy to eat at a tourist restaurant if you’re starving, it’s sometimes best to wait and search for places where the locals seem to gather.
Types of Greek food establishments
Sometimes, when you’re looking to find a place for eating in Greece, it’s best to know from the name and maybe the outdoor signing what to expect, and not after you sat down and saw the menu. So here is a list of types of Greek food establishments to help you when you’re dining out:
The classic cuisine of a Greek Taverna is hot and/or cold appetizers (meze), and various sorts of dishes made with grilled or fried meat. In some places, there is no menu (even in Athens), and the waiters can either tell you or show you what you can eat that day.
This a Greek food establishment specialized in serving dishes based on local fish and seafood. Among the appetizers, you may find Kalamarakia and Okhtapodhi.
The fish is generally served grilled, with some lemon and some olive oil. You should try some Safridia or Xiphias!
On the menu of an Estiatorion, you’re going to find Greek food cooked with baked meat (e.g. Moussaka, Stifado, and Gemitsa). The dishes were prepared beforehand, and they are being warmed up before serving them to customers. You can also order fish and seafood dishes in an Estiatorion.
If you have a sweet tooth, you can also grab a dessert while eating in Greece at an estiatorion. Their sweet dishes usually consist of doughy cakes or fresh fruit.
In a Psistaria, they usually serve meat skewers and other meat-based dishes, like Souvlaki or Kokoretsi.
But if you’re vegetarian eating in Greece, don’t worry: you won’t go hungry in a Psistaria. They also serve the famous Horiatiki (Greek salad), Tzatziki, and Saganaki.
In such a Greek food establishment, you can find a larger meze offer, with more substantial servings. If you’re in a group, it’s great to order several plates to share and try a bit of everything. Thus, a simple meal can turn into a real feast!
Taking your food to go when eating in Greece
If you’re in a hurry or you just aren’t that hungry, you can have a lighter meal or a snack by finding something you can eat standing/on a bar stool or while walking.
You can go to a bakery and order yourself a Greek pie. Some great delicious ones to try are Tiropita and Spanakopita. Another option is to have a Pita Souvlaki or Pita Gyros. They’re the same as on a plate only smaller and wrapped in Pita (flat Greek bread).
Greek nights: Dinner and a show!
There are many taverns which offer live shows called “Greek nights”. During these, you get to try traditional Greek food and drinks, while listening to live Greek music.
After eating in Greece at a traditional night, there’s usually dancing involved, too. You’ll get to see some traditional Greek dances, learn a few steps (usually Syrtaki, like Zorba), and join in. It can get pretty wild: I ended up dancing on a table with my mother during my first Greek night experience!
Tipping at a Greek restaurant
It is customary to leave a 10% tip to the value of the bill when you’re eating in Greece.
Do watch out when eating in Greece during the weeks before Easter and Christmas: Greek food establishments may already include an 18% service fee for the waiters!
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