The local food you have to try while traveling in Athens. Stuffed vegetables, dakos, meze, spinach pie, and many more dishes Athenians love to eat.
Last updated: 07 Nov 2023
Greek cuisine is so much more than moussaka, tzatziki, and souvlaki.
Then, why are these dishes famous? Because they are delicious, of course.
Nonetheless, in Athens, you can find plenty more fantastic local food if you try to walk away from the touristy restaurants.
So, get your cutlery ready; an unconventional tasting guide is following.
Before we get started, here are some helpful tips:
- Athens has some of the best restaurants in Greece. Take advantage of the opportunity to eat quality food and try new tastes.
- How to spot touristy restaurants? Usually, the ones that have staff outside calling you to get in are also the ones you should avoid.
- Be prepared to eat late at night, as most locals do. Dinner usually starts after 21:00, while most restaurants serve until 00:00.
- Always make a reservation in advance to avoid frustration. Even if a restaurant looks empty, it is very likely to fill up in a short time.
Where Can You Taste the Best Local Food in Athens?
Check out my guide to the Best 10 Authentic Greek Taverns for top spots to enjoy traditional Greek dishes.
Some of these places have been making delicious food for over a hundred years, giving you a true taste of Greek cuisine.
After finishing your meal, taste the finest baklava and local desserts Athens has to offer.
Best Local Food in Athens
1. Stuffed Vegetables
Ingredients: You will find many different versions of stuffed vegetables in Greece – almost every house has its own recipe. Nevertheless, fresh tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, and potatoes are the “usual suspects”. The cook first fills the vegetables with rice, then bakes them in the oven with olive oil, tomato juice, and local herbs.
Local’s tip: Stuffed vegetables are one of the most distinctive foods of Greek summer. They are delicious, easy to digest, and, additionally, you can enjoy them either hot or cold. Moreover, don’t be afraid to ask for the specific vegetables you like – it’s a common practice.
2. Spinach pie
Ingredients: All pies are very popular in Greece, and once you taste them, you will understand why. Among them, the spinach pie and the cheese pie stand out. In particular, spinach pie is my favorite, consisting mainly of crispy leaves, fresh spinach, several kinds of herbs, and usually savory feta.
Local’s tip: In Athens, bakeries are everywhere. Therefore, the best way to enjoy a spinach pie is by visiting a bakery early in the morning. Make sure you request one with feta, as it’s commonly sold without the cheese. For recommended bakeries, check the Top Brunch Spots of Athens.
Ingredients: With its roots originating in Crete, dakos is an excellent alternative to Greek salad. The base consists of barley rusk, and on top is added olive oil, chopped tomatoes, feta or mizithra cheese, olives, dried oregano, and pepper. It is as tasty and healthy as it sounds and one of the local foods you should try in Athens.
Local’s tip: Although it can usually fill you up, dakos is served as a salad. It is ideal for sharing if you travel with friends, and it can accompany most main dishes. Combine it with a refreshing glass of beer or ouzo – keep reading for more tips about the drinks.
4. Fresh Fish
Ingredients: When you visit Athens, eating in one of its fish taverns is a must. Choose the fish you want, like tsipoura or sargo, let the staff cook it for you, and add only olive oil and lemon. The greatest proof that delicious dishes are cooked with minimal ingredients.
Local’s tip: Clean the fish carefully before eating it. It may take you a while to remove the bones, but the result is totally worth it. If you find it difficult to remove the bones, simply eat around them.
What to Expect: When in Athens, don’t miss the taverns that offer meze, akin to the Spanish tapas. These are small, savory plates usually shared among friends.
Must-Try Dishes: Be sure to sample tirokafteri (a spicy cheese spread), tzatziki (yogurt with garlic and cucumber), kolokythokeftedes (crispy zucchini fritters), saganaki (pan-seared cheese), and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). Seafood lovers should try the grilled octopus, fried squid, steamed mussels, and tiny, crunchy fish like atherina.
Local’s Tip: Don’t stress over the choices. Embrace the spirit of meze by ordering anything that piques your interest. It won’t take long to discover your favorites!
About the Dish: Soutzoukakia is a delicious meal with a history tracing back to Greece’s Asia Minor and Istanbul refugees. It’s known for its rich blend of spices, including cumin, cinnamon, boukovo (a type of chili pepper), and black pepper. The main ingredients are a mix of beef and pork mince, airy bread, eggs, and a generous amount of tomato sauce.
Local’s Tip: Soutzoukakia is a staple in traditional Greek taverns and pairs well with a variety of sides. While I prefer them with crispy french fries, feel free to enjoy them with rice or creamy mashed potatoes.
Ingredients: No Greek food list would be complete without souvlaki. This iconic Greek street food is made with grilled pork or chicken skewered on a small wooden stick. Enjoy it on its own or wrapped in pita bread with fries, fresh tomatoes, onions, and a dollop of tzatziki sauce.
Another beloved variant is the pita gyro, which is similar to souvlaki but uses thinly sliced pork or chicken cooked on a vertical rotisserie.
Local’s Tip: Souvlaki is a popular dish in Greek cuisine, with numerous shops (souvlatzidika) specializing in it. People love it because it’s cheap, satisfying, and tasty. For just 7 euros (7,5 USD), you can buy two pita-wrapped souvlakia, typically enough to fill an average adult.
A simple tip for finding the best souvlaki? Look for the busy shops; a steady crowd often means freshly grilled meat.
You can find some of the best souvlaki shops in Athens in the Athens Street Food Guide.
Ingredients: Another well-known local food you can try in Athens, moussaka, usually includes potatoes and eggplants lightly fried in olive oil. The cook then places them in a pan and adds a mixture of minced beef or minced pork, onions, tomato sauce, and mixed spices. Then, on top of the layers, he/she spreads the hot béchamel and breadcrumbs or cheese crumbs.
Local’s tip: Although delicious, keep in mind that moussaka is a heavy meal. So, it’s better to eat it at noon, not in the evening, and try not to overdo it.
Ingredients: If you like spaghetti, then pastitsio was invented for you! It’s pretty similar to moussaka; the main difference is that it has pasta instead of vegetables at its bottom. Then, the cook adds the minced beef or minced pork, the béchamel, and the grated cheese on top of them.
Local’s tip: Pastitsio is much easier to digest than moussaka, as it doesn’t contain fried ingredients. As a result, you can eat it whenever you want, even at night. However, before ordering, ask the staff if they produced it the same day. If they have it from the previous one, the taste difference will be significant.
Athens’ Finest Traditional Desserts
Loukoumades are one of the most iconic traditional Greek desserts, famous for their crispy exteriors and soft interiors.
This Greek version of doughnuts is best served hot, topped with honey, grated walnuts, and cinnamon.
For an extra layer of pleasure, you can add a scoop of ice cream on the side, but they are also delicious on their own.
You can find plenty of shops serving them, but the best in Athens is Loukoumades Ktistakis.
Galatopita could be translated as milk pie since its main ingredient is fresh milk.
If you can’t resist juicy and fluffy cream, soft texture, and crisp crust, look for it after a good lunch.
You will find it in traditional pastry shops, served optionally with cinnamon on top.
Good baklava is like a piece of art made from multiple filo pastry, rich butter, chopped nuts, and sweet honey.
Ask for a fresh one, and enjoy it, if you are lucky, shortly after it comes out of the oven.
For an even greater taste, add a scoop of ice cream on the side.
Discover the top spots to enjoy baklava in our ‘Where to Eat the Best Baklava‘ list.
You can thank me later.
4. Mastic Ice Cream
Imagine yourself enjoying a refreshing ice cream on a sunny day in Athens.
Now add mastic to its flavor; it’s the pure resin produced on the Greek island of Chios for thousands of years by the mastic trees.
The result is an aromatic and slightly sweet flavor, worth remembering forever.
Athens Beyond the Plate
Apart from local food and sweets, it is also worth trying local spirits in Athens.
Which one should you not miss?
You will find them in the list of ‘10 Rare Greek Liquors You Must Drink In Athens.‘
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Make Your Trip Easier
I always book my accommodation with a reliable service like Booking.com. Besides their price guarantee, you can rest assured that you will have 24/7 support in the event of any problems with your hotel. Always make sure you read reviews from other guests before booking.
If you want to get to and from Athens Airport with peace of mind, I recommend pre-booking your taxi with Welcome Pickups. Their flat rate is a few euros more expensive than random taxis, but they are totally worth it. They use local English-speaking drivers, wait for you at the arranged meeting point, even if your arrival is delayed, and introduce you to the city along the way.
Don’t forget to use Skyscanner before booking your flights as it compares different airlines to provide the cheapest and fastest solutions. Moreover, you can save a lot of money if you are flexible with your dates.
Nobody wants to think about all the things that could go wrong on a trip. However, these things can happen, so do not miss taking out travel insurance: SafetyWing is the one I use, as its plans are affordable and can save you a lot of trouble.
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