There are numerous ways to sample Greek cuisine. There are restaurants 'Estiatoria' from expensive to very reasonable, which usually offer a full Greek menu that includes both meat and fish, cooked in a number of ways, including traditional Greek dishes. Most restaurants will also offer a range of deserts.

You then have tavernas. This covers a range of eating establishments, from those that offer an extensive variety of traditional meat and fish dishes, to others which have set menus with usually oven-roasted or baked dishes that vary from day to day, commonly referred to as "ready food". There is a wide variety of eating establishments on Crete, usually characterised by certain well-defined features. Or there are those which cater for specific kinds of food.


Lunch is served between noon and 3 p.m. dinner after 8 p.m. The Greeks love to eat. Eating out is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening in Greece. The Greeks enjoy eating out and it is a real family occasion; you will see large families including grandparents and small children all out for a meal together. Most restaurants are informal - it doesn't matter what you're wearing. Nothing is so spicy or full of Garlic (unless otherwise stated) that you can't eat it. With seasonings which are the very same as you find in most kitchens world wide. Nothing covered or cooked in lashings of oil as most people seem to think. However, Olive oil is used to cook just about anything but is extremely good for you.



A 'Psistaria', for example, specialises in grilled meat, which includes local goat and lamb, and Greek delicacies. To the European palate these can often seem strange but once tried very enjoyable, such as 'kokoretsi', spleena or 'sikoti' (intestines, spleen and liver).


Fish tavernas 'Psaro-tavernas' are less common nowadays, but used only to sell fresh fish exclusively. These old village tavernas were called 'hani' or as we would refer to them, local inns, where visitors could spend the night and enjoy a good home-cooked meal, before they developed into their present-day forms. But one thing is for sure, they still treat their guests as friends and supply plenty of genuine hospitality.


Bread is served with every single meal, from warm and fresh first thing in the morning to the more traditional 'psimeno' bread toasted on the barbecue. Until the last few decades Cretans consumed brown bread, while white bread (without bran) was consumed only five or six times a year, at Christmas, Easter, during the religious festivities on August 15, and at social events and weddings. 


'Mezedes' are comprised of such items as 'melitzanosalata' (mashed eggplant with oil, lemon and garlic), 'taramosalata' (known as Greek caviar), 'tzadziki' (cucumber, yoghurt and garlic spread), 'keftedes' (meatballs), stuffed peppers and tomatoes, pickled octopus, fried eggplant slices, 'skordalia' (garlic mashed potato) 'dolmadakia' (meat or rice rolled in grapevine leaves)


'Kalamarakia' (deep fried squid), 'tyropitakia' (cheese wrapped in filo pastry leaves), 'kolokithakia' (deep fried courgettes) and much more.


In most restaurants and tavernas who serve food in the more traditional way you will be invited - more often than not encouraged - to go into the kitchen, to see what they have to offer. There will be either a large steam table full of pots and oven trays with different dishes, on display. Greeks love hearty soups that are meals in themselves, and many delectable meat stews and casseroles to choose from. Not all restaurants produce food in this way but cook to order other than ready foods, but you are welcome in just about any kitchen where they will take pride in showing you their assortment of meats, fish or shellfish for grilling and you will be expected to pick out your own, especially your fish. Plain grilled cuts of meat and of course the well-known charcoal grilled lamb or pork either in chop form or 'souvlaki'.


Salad is usually brought before the main course and can be a combination of anything and everything. 'Horiatiki', the usual Greek salad, consists of tomatoes, sliced onion, cucumber, peppers, olives and feta cheese dressed with oil and vinegar. Sometimes you will have lettuce or thinly sliced white cabbage dependent on what's available.


Horta' (weeds) are prepared with either fresh vegetables such as spinach or cooked dandelions or other mixed greens (boiled in water, drained and served with oil and lemon).


All seasonal vegetables, artichokes, beans, peas, carrots, and courgettes are often cooked and served together in a casserole or oven cooked 'briam' or just cooked separately.


Greece produces a variety of cheeses, including some very interesting regional specialties. But the most commonly offered in restaurants are feta (white semi-soft and salted), kasseri (yellow semi-soft), 'graviera' (hard) and 'mizithra' (white and semi-soft) and the harder 'kasseri' and 'kefalotiri', also local cheese like 'prentza', a soft white cheese mixed with thyme and 'stomba'. 


Greeks seldom eat desert after their meals, perhaps some fruit especially in the summer, sweets give way to fresh fruit such as large peaches, melon, watermelon, grapes and pears. Eating cakes and pastries is usually a separate experience. When you go to a 'zakaroplastio' or pastry shop, this is where you will find most of the classic Greek sweets. Desserts are a delectable treat, including baklava (consisting of strudel leaves and walnuts), 'kataifi' (which consists of nuts wrapped in shredded wheat with a honey syrup), yoghurt with honey and halva.


Greek coffee is a variation of the coffee offered in many south-eastern Mediterranean countries. The traditional Greek coffee is best prepared in a 'bakirenio' or 'briki' a copper or zinc small pot, which is heated slowly on gas until it becomes frothy. The important words to know when ordering are 'sketo' (plain), 'metrio' (semi-sweet), and 'gliko' (sweet). Coffee is always served with a glass of water.

And don't forget in Greece it is OK to keep ordering. If something delivered to another table looks good, ask what it is and order it. Eating in Greece is seen as a pleasure and you will be constantly asked if everything is OK The whole experience is meant to be a relaxing and enjoyable time.


Tipping & Cover Charge


A 10% service charge is usually included in the bill. If service was good then leave a tip for the waiters. If the owner serves in a one man taverna then the choice will be yours. In a high class restaurant and a deluxe night spot 12% up to 20% will be expected. 

Most people are familiar with the term 'cover charge', for most of us this term is usually associated with nightclubs. In Greece, however, the cover charge means exactly what it implies, you pay for the table to be covered. As soon as the waiter appears with paper or a linen tablecloth and prepares the table with napkins, condiments and basket of bread - you pay the cover charge.
It is normally a Euro per person. 

Kali Orexi - Good Appetite


You will also see a few goodies that we as foreigners often find a little disconcerting to our palette, pig's and sheep's heads, intestines, tripe and other offal served up in many different ways. You are a very honoured guest if you are given first choice at the table of any of these. 'Kokoretsi' and brains or lambs heads are the same thing. Traditionally the head of the family gets the head and eyes and a chance to pick at the brains! Fish is always cooked whole with the bones and head of the small varieties always being devoured. The heads of larger fish are considered a delicacy, with the flesh from the cheek being the sweetest of all.



Patsas (Not Pasta) has been made by every restauranteur and taverna owner for centuries in Greece and also many Spanish speaking countries. The question you have to ask yourself is Why? Patsas is basically tripe soup. There are 'patsas' restaurants in every town in Greece, as patsas is a working class food. It is made from calves feet or tripe. I am told it is very good for you and people even go out of their way to find it!

Good for the blood and 'patsas' is recommended if you have a hangover.

Similar to eating 'magaritsa' which is the Easter version of 'patsas', you spend most of your time trying to guess what part of the animal each strange looking piece of meat came from. Patsas is not only the intestines of the animal but also the stomach wall and other bits and bobs!

Are these things really good for you or are they stories just past down from times gone bye when everything was hard to come by and all basic food because of lack of money was deemed Good For You?

Now Patsas has become a national tradition and even foreigners are reading articles about it and TV documentaries are suggesting when in Rome! Or Greece in this case you must try Patsas.




More food pages
: Wine : Eating Out : Olive Oil : Honey : Ofto : Prickly Pear
: Local Specialities : Recipes : Local Cheese : Wild Mushrooms :



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