A culinary exploration of Keramikos, one of Athens’ lesser-known neighbourhoods. You’ll eat your way through local restaurants and visit the weekly farmer’s market, all the while learning about the area’s unique character.
By Katherine Whittaker
Indoor dining in Athens has reopened for the vaccinated and anyone with a negative PCR or self-test. Read more here.
In antiquity, the Keramikos neighbourhood was known for its pottery (“keramos” is Greek for tile). It was once split by a wall, dividing the district into outer and inner Keramikos. Outside of the gates sat the cemetery where famous Athenians were buried. The graveyard is now a fascinating archaeological site.
Carolina picked this neighbourhood for food tours because of the interesting stories behind it, but mainly for the vast selection of excellent, authentic restaurants, specialty stores and markets you’ll find here.
Breakfast with a food expert
The tour begins with a breakfast at a local cafe and shop that specialises in products from Chios island. Carolina fills a small table with Greek coffees infused with mastiha, a piney resin that comes from trees in the south of this Greek island, yoghurt covered in spoon sweets (preserved fruit in syrup, a typical Greek dessert), and breads and cheeses from Chios. She also pulls several masourakia, a kind of baklava, out of a plastic container and lays them out on a plate for us to try.
Carolina knows nearly everything about each product we taste. The spoon sweets? She knows that these days, they come on spoons because these preserves were served out of a jar, and guests had to use teaspoons to serve themselves on a small plate. Yoghurt? She can make her own, and knows that different breeds of cows and sheep produce different kinds of milk, which all affect the taste and texture. The sourdough that is set on the table? She has a recommendation for a great bakery in the centre of Athens where we can get one just like it.
Carolina brings us to a small specialty grocery store, packed with produce from all over the country. She tells us, “These stores with super local products are a result of Greece’s economic crisis.” Young urban dwellers who lost their jobs decided to return to their grandparents’ farms and get involved in the family business. They revamped the products, from the packaging to the marketing, and started selling them in exactly the kind of artisan delis that Carolina is showing us now.
The other side of this farm-to-table movement is the laiki, the local market that spans a few blocks of Keramikos every Tuesday. Carolina picks up a few giant quince, telling us about everything you can cook with them. She lifts a pomegranate to inspect it, and even buys a few carrots for her own cooking projects. She explains that these neighbourhood farmer’s markets happen throughout Athens on different days of the week, selling everything from bright oranges and piles of greens to fresh fish.
After browsing so much fresh produce, we’re hungry again. Carolina takes us to a Cretan restaurant. In true Cretan style, she orders raki for all of us, and then fills the table with small plates to illustrate meze culture. But this is a lesson within a lesson: the sharing dishes she orders all focus on the island’s special cuisine. A dakos—a hard rusk bread topped with tomato, onion, and soft cheese—is placed on the table. She also gets briny artichokes, and apaki, a lean smoked pork that comes cut into bite-sized pieces. As we eat, we sip raki, and the tour suddenly becomes lunch with friends.
Top Tip: Come hungry. Really hungry. You will eat at several different restaurants, trying all kinds of Greek foods.