Greeks regard eating out as one of their main forms of entertainment, and after doing so once, you will soon see why. The atmosphere they create is infectious. They eat late and al-fresco, it’s informal and fun and a very pleasant experience visitors to the country. As well as having their own distinctive way of enjoying an evening meal, they also have a number of local dishes which make up the meal. The following is a guide to some of the most popular Greek delicacies and you should try at least one of them during your stay.
For most, the highlight of the main meal of the day is the selection of hors d’oeuvres which begins your meal. They are served both hot and cold and are referred to in Greek as mezedes. In this selection, you can expect to sample specialties which include melitzanosalata which is a mashed eggplant with oil, lemon and garlic; kalamarakia, a deep fried squid; tzatziki - a cucumber, yoghurt and garlic spread; tyropitakia which is cheese wraped in strudel leaves and delmadakia which is meat or rice rolled in grapevine leaves. You can also expect stuffed peppers, tomatoes, pickled octopus, caviar spread and much more.
If, after your mezedes, you have any room for your main course the principal dishes served in Greece are usually casseroles and stews, which include pastitsio, kokinisto, stifadho and ladhera; grilled fish or the famous charcoal grilled lamb or pork known as souvlaki. Fresh fish and shellfish are particularly popular as they are excellent when caught and cooked on the same day. Your main course will usually come with salad and this can consist of anything from fresh vegetables to boiled dandelions. A traditional Greek salad known as Horiatiki is probably your safest bet consisting of cucumber, tomato, olives and feta cheese.
And, to finish you can either sample some of the variety of local cheeses which include the aforementioned feta which is a white, salted and semi-soft cheese, kasseri which is a yellow cheese, or manouri which is an unsalted creamy cheese. Or, those of you with a sweet tooth might prefer kataifi which consists of nuts wrapped in wheat and coated with honey or baklava which includes strudel leaves and walnuts. There is also a multitude of fresh fruit on offer, particularly in summer, so if you are a little worried about your calorie consumption you might want to avail of the delicious peaches, grapes, pears and watermelons on offer.
Finally here are some of the different types of establishments where you can eat all of the specialties detailed above. A taverna is an extension of the traditional rural eatery. The family who own the restaurant are often seen preparing and serving the food which always adds a nice touch. This is a good choice – the quality of the food and the service is excellent and rarely as expensive as the more deluxe restaurants or estitatorion. Another thoroughly enjoyable venue is the psistaria. This is a barbecue-style eatery, usually with a large spit in the centre of the entrance. Here you can inspect what you want to eat and pick a piece of meat which you think is the right size for you. Unusual to say the least, but delicious nevertheless. Finally, if meat isn’t really your thing, you could always visit a psarotaverna. Also know as fish tavernas, they are almost always found by the harbour or the sea. Serving exceptionally fresh fare, they are among the most popular restaurants in Greece and once you try them you will appreciate why.