Tavernas are traditional Greek Restaurants serving typical Greek cuisine.
From appetizers to desserts, Taverna menus across the country, usually look quite similar. In rural areas, they may not even have a menu, they just come and either you tell them what you want and hope they have it, or they will will list off what they have that day.
Tavernas can be found throughout Athens and even right in-between an Indian restaurant and a modern wine bar. The international food scene is definitely expanding in Greece, but tradition is king and Tavernas are here to stay.
Along the Athens Coast you won’t find as high of a consistency of Tavernas as in other parts of Greece, but they are here- hidden little gems in the modern, upscale suburbs. Head out of Athens and towards Anavyssos and you’ll see more of the traditional, roadside Tavernas.
When dining in a traditional Taverna, I suggest always asking the waiter for his recommendation. Otherwise, opt for some of my favorites listed below.
Garlic, cucmber and yoghurt dip. Order with bread or french fries. Also goes great with grilled meats.
A plate of yellow mush – pureed fava beans, red onion, lemon, capers and tomato. Pour some oil around the outside edge, squeeze the lemon and stir everything in. Then grab your bread and scoop. Order this everywhere you go with a village salad (Greek salad) and white wine – it’s yummy and although the Greeks joke this is a dish for old men with no teeth due to its pureed consistency, I’m happy to be known as one of the old men.
Dolmades are eaten as a warm starter, stuffed vine leaves are filled with mincemeat and rice and a massive slab of lemon. Squeeze the lemon over the leaves and eat. They are lovely.
Usually also on the salad menu, Dakos is dry barley rusk, soaked in olive oil and topped with diced tomatoes, herbs, feta cheese and capers.
A spread or dip of feta cheese, roasted red peppers. Can be spicy hot or mild. Spicy is best.
Greek Salad (Horiatiki)
Tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, onion, feta cheese and olives, seasoned with salt and oregano, and dressed with olive oil. Order it with everything.
Probably the most famous Greek baked dish: aubergine, minced meat, fried tomato, onion, garlic and cinnamon, potato, and then a fluffy topping of cheese and béchamel sauce. Greek lasagne essentially. You may have had supermarket moussaka, but I guarantee you it will not be a patch on the real deal.
Ask for what they have fresh that day. Anything unavailable will not have a price by it on the menu. Usually fresh fish is served with a chunk of lemon and some oil. Simple. Fish soup is usually incredible, but it’s often worth checking in the morning with your local taverna how the fishing was that morning: if it was a bad day, there will be no soup. Order shrimps saganaki – cooked in tomato, garlic and ouzo. Yes, your seafood will invariably have come from the sea, was once alive, and is likely to have its head, tail and legs on it. If you’re going to order it, then you’ve got to deal with it.
Amazing, provided you try not to think about the bit where it has its brains bashed in on the rocks. Grilled or marinated, it makes a fine meze (appetiser), with salad, or served with pasta. Again, check it’s fresh from your waiter – not all places have access to fresh, so you may see an asterix by its name on the menu, which means ‘frozen’.
Baked stuffed tomatoes and peppers, or zucchini / eggplant, hollowed out and baked with a rice and herb filling.