City Guide to Athens, Greece: Part 7 | Traditional Food
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Greece is known for its Mediterranean cuisine, so of course we just had to try it while in Athens! Moreover, Shannon couldn’t visit Greece without indulging, since Greek cuisine has been a favorite of hers since she was a child. We did our research and found several traditional Greek dishes that we were eager to try. So, after a day of sightseeing, we decided to have lunch at a Greek restaurant, and see what we could try from our list. True to form, we wanted to find a restaurant that was known for serving great traditional food. Thank goodness for our cellular data, because we put it and our phones to work looking for a place with great reviews.
Athens Greek Food, Plan A: Spiti Mas
We looked over several options and both agreed on Spiti Mas (σπίτι μας), as it had great reviews and was on our way back to our house sitting home. We arrived at about 11 am, slightly before lunchtime and at the tail end of the breakfast crowd, but the patio seating was full and only a few tables inside were available. Since Spiti Mas was full, off the tourist path, and everyone there seemed to be local, the signs were looking good that we were going to be treated to a great traditional Greek meal. Upon entering we were greeted warmly and while we waited a minute or two for a table to be cleared, we noticed the interior design was quite unique. Among the seating area was the furniture of a bedroom and a living room, couch and bed included! The decor makes sense when you know that the name, Spiti Mas, translates to ‘Our House’. In other words, a meal here is like dinning in a home, and if you really want, you can be served while in bed!
Unfortunately, we soon realized that the menu was mainly breakfast items and didn’t seem to include a single item on our list of traditional ‘must try’ Greek dishes. The server was very kind and explained that they only served breakfast, and regrettably, we wouldn’t be able to order anything off our list. We thanked her, but also asked if she had a recommendation of a place that would be serving something along the lines of what we were looking for. When she said she knew of places, but that they weren’t open until the evening, it dawned on us why that was. We’d heard that there's a ‘Greek Siesta’, where essentially Greeks rest or nap in the afternoon, which is why generally 2 pm to 5:30 pm are quiet hours in Greece. A byproduct of taking mid-afternoon naps is a light lunch and a later dinner. Therefore, unless you’re in a tourist area, you’re going to have difficulty finding a restaurant that’s open for a hearty meal during lunchtime.
Athens Greek Food, Plan B: Atitamos
We thanked the server at Spiti Mas and set off on a journey to find a restaurant that served a traditional Greek lunch and dinner. After a bit of searching (and walking), we found Atitamos tucked away in the western edge of the Exarcheia neighborhood. It had fantastic reviews online, served traditional Greek food, and was open for lunch, so it was the perfect place for us!
The first thing we noticed when we arrived at Atitamos was that it was hidden behind a wall of greenery. And so when we entered the patio area, it was immediately like we’d left the busy city and walked into a peaceful oasis. Once seated, we looked over the menu, however not knowing the local language was hard enough, but even more challenging is making sense of the non-Western alphabet! Thankfully, the server was extremely kind and helped us translate the menu and answered all of our questions. We ordered our food and while we waited, we took in Atitamos' ambiance. The Greek music set the mood and the decorations were traditional, but with a modern edge to them. It had a very welcoming feel, and while the space was small, the large windows brought in a perfect amount of sunlight, opening up the dining space.
Our appetizer arrived and while it was a bit different than what we’d expected, it sure did taste great! Since Greece is known for their vegetable dishes, we’d ordered the Smoked Eggplant appetizer. Eggplant isn’t a vegetable we eat often, so we thought it would make the experience that much more enjoyable. It tasted great as a spread on bread, and the acidity was well balanced with the sweetness of the red bell pepper mixed into the dish. We didn’t take a picture of our empty plates, but take our word for it, every bit of the eggplant was devoured!
Our server timed our meal well, and just as we were finishing our appetizer, out came our main dish. We’d initially considered ordering the octopus, as Greece is well known for its seafood, however there was a note on the menu (indicated with a *) that it was frozen, so instead we opted for the kebab. When our dish arrived, the kebab didn’t look like a very substantial serving, but it turned out to be a lot more filling than we’d expected! The meat, a mix of lamb and beef, was well seasoned and tender. Plus, it was paired with a delicious yogurt sauce. The fries, to our palate, were fresh but were lacking slightly in flavor. We’d expected the kebabs to be served with tomato and onion garnish, but the plate consisted of simply fries, yogurt, and meat. For many this would be a great meal, but for us, we found ourselves missing the usual dose of veggies that we tend to have with each of our meals. Lesson learned, next time we'll be sure to order a Greek salad as well. All-in-all though, our meal was filling, satisfying, and very yummy!
We don’t eat out often, so when we do, we suspect that we have much higher expectations than others may have. In Athens, we were very excited to indulge in a Greek meal, and at Atitamos, we found just what we were looking for!
If you’re in Athens, Greece we certainly suggest checking out Spiti Mas for breakfast. The retaurant's atmosphere is quaint and charming, and topped off with friendly and kind staff. Atitamos on the other hand, is a great option for lunch or dinner, especially if you learn from our mistake and order a dish with more vegetables (Greek salad anyone?). Finally, as a bonus tip, after we left Athens, we learned of Savvas, which is located next to Monastiraki Square and has the claim to fame of being the first restaurant to serve kebabs in Athens, Greece (1925). It’s still owned by the same family, continues to serve kebabs (souvlaki), and offers a rooftop terrace with a stunning view of the Acropolis of Athens.
Do you have a favorite Athens, Greece restaurant? Share with us in the comments!