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  • Whether they're dining at a neighbohood taverna or an elegant restaurant, Greeks take their time over food. The cuisine is delightfully uncomplicated and quite different from what's found in Greek or Cypriot restaurants abroad. Much of the cooking relies on simple seasonings of fresh meat and vegetables.

    For breakfast, Greeks rarely eat more than bakery-fresh tiropitas (flaky cheese-filled pastries) or bread. They eat lunch in late afternoon, generally between 2 and 4 pm, and dinner around 10 or 11 pm. To stave off hunger between meals, they enjoy snacking on souvlaki (garlic-marinated lamb kabobs—the best can be found at Tou Hassapi, near the corner of Nikis and Apolonos Streets)—or tiropitas bought from a street vendor (perhaps Zita, 11 Nikis St., between Othonos and Xenofondos).

    It's common for Greeks to make a lunch of mezedes, or hors d'oeuvres. Typical dishes include fried meatballs, squash balls, octopus, shrimp, squid, cheese, olives, stuffed grape leaves, tzatziki (garlicky yogurt and cucumbers), eggplant dip, small sausages and giant beans. You can find mezedes at an ouzeri (serving ouzo) or at a mezedopolio (serving locally produced wine or beer). A great place to eat mezedes is Cafe Avisinias (at the old antique market at Avisinias Square).

    If you're having a full meal, make sure it includes one of the following local specialties: moussaka (lamb and eggplant in bechamel sauce), kabobs, pastitsio (lamb or goat meat with macaroni and tomatoes), stifado (braised beef with onions), paithakia (grilled lamb or goat chops), melitzanosalata (eggplant salad), revithia soupa (chick pea soup), spanakopita (spinach pie), chtapodi (octopus salad) and tiropita (cheese pie). Don't leave Greece without trying baklava and other pastries made from filo dough, nuts and honey. Strong Greek coffee (similar to Turkish coffee—but don't tell that to the Greeks) is usually quite good.

    The traditional alcoholic drinks of Greece are quite distinctive and pack a strong punch. Ouzo, the popular aperitif, is flavored with anise and turns cloudy in your glass. Metaxa, the brandy, is graded in quality and priced according to stars, with three being the cheapest. Wines vary widely in taste and quality. Retsina, which acquires the flavor of resin from the casks in which it's stored, is an acquired taste (imagine a pine tree marinated in wine). Mavrodaphne is extremely sweet—it's more like a dessert wine.

    When selecting a restaurant, know that Estiatorion are the more expensive conventional restaurants; tavernas are informal, family-run establishments; psistaria offer mostly grilled meats; and psarotaverna specialize in seafood dishes.

    Below is a sampling of restaurants in town. Expect to pay within these general guidelines, based on the cost of dinner for one, not including drinks, tax or tip: $ = less than 2,500 dr; $$ = 2,500 dr-5,000 dr; $$$ = 5,001 dr-12,000 dr; and $$$$ = more than 12,000 dr.

    Favorite restaurants  | Local and regional specialties  | Asian  | Breakfast and brunch  | French  | Italian (including pizzerias)  | Vegetarian  | Additional experiences


    Archeon Gefsis—Its name means "ancient flavors." Located in a delightfully restored villa in the style of ancient Greece. Hellenic Greek cuisine is served without utensils, and in summer diners recline on pillows outdoors. Open for lunch; closed Sundays. $$. Most major credit cards. 22 Kodratou St., Karaiskaki Square, Athens. Phone 523-9661.

    Bajazzo—Chef Klaus Fioerbach prepares a new, creative menu almost every night. If it's available, try the marinated salmon and sea bass. Good atmosphere, style and service. Choose from three dining areas: The downstairs area has a homey feel, upstairs is classier, and the garden area is cozy and romantic. Monday-Saturday 8 pm-midnight. Reservations required. $$$$. Most major credit cards. 14 Anapafsios St., Athens. Phone 921-3013.

    Daphne's Restaurant—Frescoed walls, strolling musicians, and garden dining in this beautifully restored home where Hillary Clinton has been a guest. International and traditional Greek cuisine. Open from 8 pm, closed Sunday. $$$. No credit cards. 4 Lysikratous St., at the entrance to the Plaka across from Hadrian's Arch, Athens. Phone 322-7971.

    Deals—Located in the northern suburbs of Psychico, Deals is the reigning king of restaurant hip: cool people, cool music, cool decor and great food. Split into an upper and lower level with a large outdoor patio, Deals features dark mahogany tables, paneled floors and funky chandeliers that hang from large wooden ceiling beams. Light and airy yet warm and cozy, Deals provides an atmosphere that is chic without being pretentious. Worth sampling are the spinach and mushroom salad with tangy vinaigrette, stuffed tomatoes with tabbouleh and light yogurt sauce, chicken stuffed with cheese and dill, filet with Gorgonzola sauce and caramel cheesecake for dessert. Great service. Open daily 12:30 pm-2 am. $$$. Most major credit cards. 10 Vasiliou Dimitriou St., Neo Psychico, Athens. Phone 677-3183.

    La Strada—Still very popular after 15 years of service, La Strada has really made its mark among the multitude of Italian restaurants that have sprouted up around town in the last decade. Recently refurbished, the ambience provides classical elegance with a glass roof top. Accentuated by candlelight and soft music, the mood is set for romance or conversation. Familiar faces from politics, sports and television are often spotted here. Try the Salad la Strada, chicken with artichokes, pasta with crab and sun-dried tomatoes and the panna cotta with caramel sauce for dessert. La Strada offers a large selection of Italian wines and great cappuccino. Open daily 12:30 pm-1:30 am. $$$. Most major credit cards. 107 Ethniki Antistasios, Athens. Phone 671-0370.

    Palia Taverna—A charming, bustling restaurant. (Tables are set close enough that you can easily observe what your neighbors have ordered for dinner.) Guitarists stroll around taking requests for songs—if you request a serenade, be prepared to tip the singer 5,000 dr. Delicious traditional Greek food, such as "eggplant special" and roasted lamb. Monday-Saturday 8:30 pm-midnight (closed approximately 1-25 August). Closed Sundays. Call 323-2482 to make a reservation in the morning. $$$. Most major credit cards. 35 Markou Moussorou St., Mets area (close to the old Olympic Stadium), Athens. Phone 752-2396 or 701-7135.

    Royal Thai—Opulence comes to mind upon entering Royal Thai, an Asian-cuisine restaurant nestled in a quiet street of Kifissia suburb. As the name suggests, it truly is fit for a king. Adorned in golds and plush reds, an attentive staff in traditional Thai attire pampers the clientele from the moment they enter. Not to be missed is the Royal Thai banquet menu comprised of no less than seven courses. Appetizers include crispy vegetable rolls in plum sauce, giant shrimp, coconut and ginger soup, tender chicken satay in peanut sauce and sweet and sour shrimp. For dessert, try the cashew nut pie with hot chocolate sauce. Extensive wine list and excellent service. Open daily 7:30 pm-1 am. $$$. Most major credit cards. 12 Zirini, Athens. Phone 623-2323.

    Favorite restaurants  | Local and regional specialties  | Asian  | Breakfast and brunch  | French  | Italian (including pizzerias)  | Vegetarian  | Additional experiences


    Katarahtis—In English, Katarahtis means "The Waterfall," which is an apt description for this rebetadiko mezedopolio situated among waterfalls, plants and small streams. Dating back to 1914, Katarahtis features live traditional Greek rebetika music played on an instrument similar to a mandolin. Dance floors indoors and out. Seating indoors (air-conditioned) for 350 and the same number outside, with a management amenable to groups. Homemade specialties include mushroom bouyourdi, mussels miramare and prawns archipelagos. Prices are modest, and a flagon of wine costs only 900 dr. Open daily noon-midnight. $$$. No credit cards. 74 Constandinoupoleos and Omirou, Moshato, Athens. Phone 481-4271.

    Kipos Tis Edem—The name of these Lebanese restaurants translates in English to "The Garden of Eden," and their cozy, dark interior conveys a relaxed feeling with wood-beamed ceilings, white stucco walls and modest, central fireplace. Order the hummus (a standard favorite), tabbouleh (a cracked wheat and parsley salad), kibbeh, falafel (a must), Arabic saganaki, lahmahjun and the house wine. Both restaurants are open daily for lunch and dinner. The Glyfada location is open for lunch on Sundays and features belly dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. $$$. Most major credit cards. 12 N. Zervou St., Glyfada; phone 898-0754, and 19 Gini, Halandri; phone 685-3580. Athens.

    Maidanos—Traditional Greek mezedopolio with two separate eating areas. Inside, the taverna resembles the setting for a 1960s Greek film while the music recalls favorites of that same era. Outside, the mood is mellower, and tables separated by plants encourage privacy. Maindanos fillets and Corfu frigadelia (bird livers wrapped in cheese suets) are among the spicy delicacies on the menu. Open every evening 9 pm-2 am. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. 49 Pendelis, Nea Smirni, Athens. Phone 938-0688.

    Naeathes—Known for its exquisite ahinosalata (sea-urchin salad), the Naeathes menu is full of delectable delights with 72 different mezedakia (tasty appetizers) to choose from. Its sumptuous cuisine is matched by a cool and relaxing atmosphere: The seating area is situated beneath pergolas and among plants, and soft music plays discreetly. The costly prices reflect the quality and novelty of the food. Prices jump a level in winter. Open every night and Sunday for lunch. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. 74 Vasileos Pavlou, Plateia Imias, Voula, Athens. Phone 899-0197.

    Socrates' Prison Taverna—Close to the Acropolis, with loads of atmosphere and great food. Specialties include lamb and potatoes with mushrooms, beef with vegetables, and pork with red cabbage. Outdoor tables. Monday-Saturday 7 pm-2 am (closed holidays and the month of August). No reservations. $$$. Visa accepted. 20 Mitsaion St., Makriyianni, Athens. Phone 922-3434.

    Spyros—To satisfy that craving for a hearty, home-cooked meal, Spyros Taverna in Kifissia is the place to go. The traditional Greek cuisine Spyros offers is outstanding and far from the ordinary fare in Athens. Every dish—goat with oil and oregano, rooster in red sauce—is a specialty, prepared with only the freshest and finest ingredients. Open year round with seating inside or outside in the garden. Closed Sunday. No reservations. $$-$$$. No credit cards. 17 Ethnikou Stratou, Kefalari-Kifissia, Athens. Phone 801-7869.

    Xynos—A typical Greek taverna in the Plaka and an ideal resting place after a walk through old Athens. Traditional dishes include lamb cooked in lemon sauce with baby lettuce. Guitar music, wine from the barrel. Monday-Friday 8 pm-12:30 am. Call for reservations. $$-$$$. No credit cards. 4 Aghia Geronda, Plaka, Athens. Phone 322-1065.

    Favorite restaurants  | Local and regional specialties  | Asian  | Breakfast and brunch  | French  | Italian (including pizzerias)  | Vegetarian  | Additional experiences


    Far East—One of the best Asian restaurants in Athens, with freshly cooked food (satay beef, sweet and sour pork, shrimp curry) and comfortable, elegant surroundings. Excellent service. Daily 12:30 pm-1 am. $$$. Most major credit cards. 7 Stadiou St., Syntagma Square, phone 323-4996; locations with evening hours only in Glyfada, phone 894-0500, and in Kifissia, phone 623-3140.

    Kona Kai—Lush vegetation, soft lighting and the soothing sounds of water fountains make you feel as if you've been transported to the South Pacific. Japanese chefs provide entertainment as they display their skills at the teppanyaki tables. All dishes are superbly presented and sinfully delicious. Kona Kai is always busy; reservations are a must. $$$$. Most major credit cards. Open 8:30 pm-1 am, closed on Sundays. Located inside the deluxe Ledra-Marriott Hotel, 115 Syngrou Ave., phone 934-7711.

    Viet-Nam—A Vietnamese restaurant serving top-quality food in a relaxed and warm environment. Perhaps a 20-minute drive from the city center, this restaurant isn't in a high-traffic area, and prices are very reasonable. Daily 7 pm-12:30 am (closed in August). Reservations required. $$. Visa and MasterCard. 91 Achileos St., Amfithea, phone 981-8029.

    White Elephant-Voyage—Located in the northern suburbs of Athens, this luxurious Polynesian restaurant often attracts society's elite. It remains popular for its intimate atmosphere and fusion cuisine. A relatively small number of tables makes reservations necessary. $$$. Most major credit cards. Open daily 12:30-2 pm and 8 pm-1 am. 34 Kolokotroni, Kefalari, phone 801-8560.

    Favorite restaurants  | Local and regional specialties  | Asian  | Breakfast and brunch  | French  | Italian (including pizzerias)  | Vegetarian  | Additional experiences


    Flo Cafe—Espresso and croissants, along with fresh fruit juices, cakes, pies and sandwiches. Open daily 8 am-2 am. $. Three locations: 118 Kifissias, Ampelokipi, phone 698-3880; 14 Fokionos Negri, Kipseli, phone 823-0755; 5 Stadiou, Syntagma Square, phone 324-3028.

    Neon—American-style breakfast and sandwiches all day long. Great coffee selection, hot chocolate and cheese pies. Open daily 10 am-midnight. $. 6 Tsakalof, Kolonaki, phone 364-6233.

    Favorite restaurants  | Local and regional specialties  | Asian  | Breakfast and brunch  | French  | Italian (including pizzerias)  | Vegetarian  | Additional experiences


    L'Abrevoir—One of the first French restaurants in Athens, L'Abrevoir is still a favorite among the fashionable crowd. With location and decor matching the elegance of its guests, the restaurant boasts fine French cuisine. Specializing in seafood, L'Abrevoir offers a wide range of wines from around the world. The duck fillet with cherry sauce and the sea bass with finocchio are recommended. Open daily for lunch and dinner until 12:30 am. $$$. Most major credit cards. 51 Xenokratous, Kolonaki, phone 722-9106.

    Favorite restaurants  | Local and regional specialties  | Asian  | Breakfast and brunch  | French  | Italian (including pizzerias)  | Vegetarian  | Additional experiences


    Azul—Located in one of Athens' liveliest walkways, Azul is known for its creative Mediterranean cuisine with emphasis on Italian dishes. Scallopini with sun-dried tomatoes and metsovone cheese and beef tenderloin in prunes and beer are two dishes worth sampling. $$$. 43 Haritos, Kolonaki, phone 725-3817.

    La Fontanina Di Torre—This Italian restaurant is north of Athens in the beautiful suburb of Kifissia. Extensive menu at night, coffee and cakes during the day. Modern interior and courtyard with outdoor tables. Daily (except Sunday evenings) 10 am-1:30 am; in summertime it's closed Sundays. Reservations required for dinner. $$$. Diners Club and Visa. Kassaveti and Kyriazi, Kifissia, phone 801-7635.

    Favorite restaurants  | Local and regional specialties  | Asian  | Breakfast and brunch  | French  | Italian (including pizzerias)  | Vegetarian  | Additional experiences


    Diavlos Music House—Near the old FIX beer factory on Syngrou Avenue, not far from downtown. Wednesday-Sunday 10 pm-3 am. During the summer months the Diavlos operates 11 am-2 am and is closed the first half of August. Reservations are advised. 9 Drakou St., phone 923-9588.

    Eden—Situated among fine neoclassical buildings in the pleasant back streets of the Plaka district. Inside, paintings and prints dot the walls and soft music contributes to the tranquil atmosphere. Eden offers a wide selection of salads but is known for its ragout and vegetables au gratin. $. Most major credit cards. Open noon-midnight. Closed Tuesday. 12 Lyssiou and Mnisikleous, Plaka, phone 324-8858.

    Favorite restaurants  | Local and regional specialties  | Asian  | Breakfast and brunch  | French  | Italian (including pizzerias)  | Vegetarian  | Additional experiences


    Egomio—The latest in a series of bar restaurants on the popular Zisimopoulou Street in Glyfada, Egomio is the hippest of the lot. Minimalist decor and cool ambience. Try the fredo (cold cappuccino) and Egomio's menu of light dishes including chicken bifteki, crepes, club sandwiches and pennes mozzarella. $-$$. Most major credit cards. Open daily 9 am-2 pm. 10 Zisimopoulou St., Glyfada, phone 894-9454.

    Herodion—With a view of the Acropolis, Herodion is a magical place to enjoy a meal. Located across the road from its main kitchen, the restaurant can seat as many as 120 people. The delicious mezedes come with a variety of ouzo. Especially good are the croquettes with spinach and cheese, taramokeftethes (fish roe patties) and kolokithokeftethes (zucchini patties). $-$$. Most major credit cards. Open daily at 11 am until late into the night. 29 Apostolou Pavlou, Thisseio, phone 346-1585.

    Mandeio—A hip and stylish hangout for the trendy. Located on a popular walkway, it offers a rich and imaginative menu leaning towards Italian fare. The champagne risotto, penne with salmon, and pepper steak are among the favorite dishes. Mandeio also has delicious desserts. Open 11 am-2 am, closed Sundays. $$$. Most major credit cards. 4 Delphon St., Kolonaki, phone 361-9682.

    Mr. Pil Poul—Mr. Pil Poul is known for its breathtaking view of the Acropolis and its world-class cuisine. It prides itself on its imaginative menu and an extensive wine list. Dishes to try include the sea bass fillet with potato crust and pesto and the peppered pork fillet stuffed with Gruyere and mustard. $$$$. Most major credit cards. Open Monday-Saturday 8:30 pm-1:30 am. Closed Sunday. Corner of Apostolou Pavlou and Poulopoulou Streets, Thisseio, phone 342-3665.

    To Kouti—Located next to the Agora, you'll find this hangout attracts the intellectual elite who appreciate its modern wood and slate interior. To Kouti, named for its "little box" shape, is on two floors with an open ceiling and provides an unobstructed view of the Acropolis from the second floor. The menu combines Greek and international dishes. $$$. Most major credit cards. Open for lunch until 2 am. Closed on Mondays. 23 Adrianou St., Monastiraki, phone 321-2836.

    Favorite restaurants  | Local and regional specialties  | Asian  | Breakfast and brunch  | French  | Italian (including pizzerias)  | Vegetarian  | Additional experiences

    Information prepared by Weissmann Travel Reports
    Copyright © 2000 by Reed Travel Group. All rights reserved.



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