Hearty, rustic, and fulfilling, traditional Greek cuisine permeated restaurant scenes across the world with these simple traits.
In North America, Greek food earned its reputation as ‘hard to go wrong’ and sits comfortably high among our list of favourite takeout foods. But in Greece, you’ll find eateries and tavernas keeping up with tradition and prepare classic dishes without much of the same embellishments our local restaurants couldn’t resist tacking on.
Here, you can expect authentic recipes steeped in history and made with fresh Mediterranean ingredients.
Here’s our Travel Experts' list of the best traditional food in Greece and where to try them:
A classic Greek casserole layered in ground lamb meat, rich meat sauce, eggplants, potatoes and topped with creamy Béchamel sauce. Baked to golden perfection in the oven, moussaka is considered the ultimate Greek comfort food.
Where to try it:
Liondi: Makrygianni Street 19-21, Athens 11742, Greece
Eva’s Garden: N. Kalogera 2, Goumenio Square, Mykonos Town 846 00, Greece
The Greco’s Project: Mitropoleos 5, Nikis, Athens 105 57, Greece
Pronounced ‘yee-rohs’, this vertical rotisserie sliced meat dish is Greece’s own take on donair kebab. Gyros are typically made with pork and served with tzatziki sauce, tomato slices, chopped onions, and wrapped in a grilled pita with fries.
Where to try it:
O Thanasis: Mitropoleos 69, Monastiraki, Athens 105 55, Greece
PitoGyros Traditional Grill House: Oia 84702, Greece
Known in North America as the ‘flaming cheese’ and often served with plenty of theatrics. But in Greece, you’ll find saganaki brought to the table with little fanfare. Pan-seared to crispy gold, this square cut cheese appetizer pairs nicely with ouzo, Metaxa, and beer.
Argo Restaurant: By the Old Port, Fira 847 00, Santorini, Greece
A Greek fast food staple, souvlaki has been around for centuries and was eaten the same way as you would today, hot off the skewers. In southern Greece, including Athens, souvlaki is referred to as ‘kalamaki’ and comes with a side of quartered grilled pita, fries, lemon wedges, and generous dollops of tzatziki sauce. It’s also sometimes served as a wrapped pita sandwich with chopped vegetables and dressings.
While visiting the Greek islands, grab a seat at a seaside restaurant and try some fresh caught seafood made with aromatic spices and herbs. Among the best dishes are steamed mussels with tomatoes sauce, grilled or fried octopus, calamari, lambraki (sea bass), bakaliaro (fried cod), mackerels, and shrimp saganaki.
Meze dishes are small plate appetizers that are often served alongside ouzo, raki, and mastika. Stop by a taverna or ouzeri for some olives with feta cheese, dolmathakia (grape leaves stuff with meat and rice), taramosalata (carp roe spread), and keftethes (Greek meatballs).
Where to Try It:
A savoury spinach pie made from crunchy filo pastry, spanakopita is usually stuff with spinach, feta, onions, and different seasonings. Almost every region in Greece has its own take on this traditional pie. Some resemble calzones and are made with a thicker, flour-based crust.
Where to Try It
8. Handmade Desserts
Fried, creamy, dipped in honey or syrup, Greek desserts are deceptively simple and decadently sweet. In Athens, visit the local markets or cafés and pick up a plate of loukoumades (fried donut balls drizzled with honey, syrup or chocolate), galaktoboureko (filo pastry pie filled with custard), halva (semolina butter cake with sesame, raisins, and cinnamon), kataïfi (pastry made from shredded filo dough rolled with almonds and nuts then dipped in honey), baklava and more.
Where to Try It
Where else but Greece to try the best traditional Greek food?