When Greece and street food are mentioned in the same question, the answer is always souvlaki. Undoubtedly, the pita-wrapped delicacy with its myriad contemporary variations is the quintessential Greek street food, but it’s by no means the only available option in Athens.
Whether you’re craving seafood or sweets, here are the best places to get a quick bite in the city centre while you’re busy discovering the joys of the Greek capital.
The celebrated, delicious and nutrient-rich souvlaki will fill you up and keep you going for just a couple of euros, and it’s sold virtually everywhere in the city. The quality offered in most places is usually more than satisfactory, so trying to compile a list of the best wouldn’t make much sense – just try your nearest souvlaki joint.
However, two souvlaki establishments have acquired legendary status among the city’s residents and visitors alike, and that’s because they truly stand apart from the rest – coincidentally, they also have the same name. Kostas on Agias Irinis Square tops his renowned souvlaki with a trademark (secret recipe) red spicy sauce, which has had loyal fans since 1984.
The other Kostas (located at Pentelis 5) has for the past 10 years kept the tradition of his grandfather, who made his world-famous souvlaki since 1950 a few streets away in Plaka. Don’t expect tzatziki here, either: Kostas uses plain yoghurt with a touch of parsley instead, and shuts the place as soon as his morning supplies run out.
Aside from souvlaki, tyropita (cheese pie) is a very popular Greek snack. Arguably the best old-fashioned tyropita in Athens – along with other traditional pies – can be bought in Ariston (at Voulis 10), a bakery operating since 1910. Finally, the ultimate and cheapest Greek street food, the humble yet nutritious koulouri (a bagel covered in sesame seeds), is available from street vendors everywhere. The earlier in the morning you buy it, the fresher and crunchier it'll be.
If international delicacies are more up your street, downtown Athens abounds in exotic smells and flavours from every corner of the world. Etnico is the place to go if you can’t make up your mind, as you’ll have a choice of Mexican, Asian, Indian and Arabic food, all under the same roof at surprisingly decent quality for a non-specialised eatery.
Feyrouz, a lovely family business, offers the best lahmatzoun in town. It’s the city’s top Middle Eastern street-bite supplier, together with tiny Falafellas, where all kinds and sizes of falafels are prepared daily. Street Wok is an excellent Asian place, where everything is prepared in front of you and enjoyed just outside on the benches of the pedestrian Aiolou Street.
For curries and generally spicy, tasty Indian fare, Mirch is the top choice. This is where you’ll also find a wide selection of international beers at very reasonable prices. If you crave genuine, handmade pirozhki of every kind, as well as other Russian delicacies, pick one of the two Kalinka Malinka branches in the city centre.
Finally, if you think you’ve tasted it all or you’re after truly exotic and distant cuisines, the city’s restless street-food scene won’t disappoint you: just pop into Los Loros for genuine Colombian and Venezuelan treats, or head to Poké for a taste of Hawaiian sushi, no less.
Fried dough topped with honey and cinnamon, known as loukoumadhes, is a sweet delight that generations of Greek children have absolutely adored. In this namesake shop you’ll taste top-quality, authentic loukoumadhes as well as modern variations, prepared on demand. Equally finger-licking, old-school loukoumadhes are served in Krinos (at Aiolou 87), the city’s first patisserie operating since 1923. The hall has a wonderful retro atmosphere but if you prefer not to stay, grab a bougatsa (cream pie) on the go – this is Krinos’ other speciality and one of the most mouth-watering things you’ll taste while in Athens.
Visit Amandine for bagels with imaginative and absolutely scrumptious fillings, but if you want the genuine stuff, head to Montagu (named after the British nobleman and alleged inventor of the sandwich). A place with such a weighty name can only provide top-notch sandwiches, accompanied by perfect coffee and delicious juices. Pie Works in Kolonaki serves a large and flavoursome variety of classic and not-so-classic pies, prepared daily, while Johnie Hot Dog – as you can guess – specialises in a hundred versions of the same hangover cure (it also stays open until the early hours, which is always helpful).
Zisis is a modern version of a typical ouzerie, where you can sit at a table and enjoy your ouzo or its twin spirit, tsipouro, accompanied by a selection of fresh seafood – but if you’re in a hurry or you’d rather keep moving, just get a takeaway (served in their signature paper cones). For a more traditional experience try Fish café, an authentic chippy of the kind you’ll rarely find in Britain any more. It’s part of a wider complex including a hostel, a sports bar and a launderette, all catering to young visitors just a few metres from the Acropolis Museum.
Vegetarian and vegan food
If you thought that souvlaki wasn’t for vegans, you were right – until recently. Amanita Grill turns the common belief on its head by replacing meat with mushrooms and introducing the first-ever worthwhile vegan souvlaki, appropriately, in the alternative neighbourhood of Exarhia. Vegan Nation and Mama Tierra are also excellent choices, offering lots of creative and appetising meatless options.
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