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Petralona, and especially its upper half of Ano Petralona, is a neighbourhood often quoted as an example of contemporary Athenian gentrification. However, this is far from the truth since Ano Petralona always was, and remains, a charming residential area. Built on the foot of the Philopappou Hill hugging the Acropolis, below the ancient settlement of Koile, Ano Petralona has a truly Athenian vibe. This is why the addresses worth visiting are those with a neighbourhood feel, rather than the faux traditional joints that have sprung up in the last few years.
Arguably the neighbourhood’s bedrock, it is an institution which has been going strong for almost a century. Although the eponymous Mr. Oikonomou still lives above the restaurant, business has been in the hands of the colourful Mr. Kostas Diamandis for two decades—a "they don’t make ‘em like they used to” Greek, with a dry sense of humour and a big, kind heart. In the open kitchen, the female cook, Garyfallia, dishes out no-nonsense family fare such as roast baby lamb with waxy-lemony potatoes, rabbit casserole, or stuffed cabbage leaves (beef and rice) in a silky egg and lemon (avgolemono) sauce. Don’t be shy to ask for wine from the “reserve” barrel in the basement, and make sure you try some of the amber-red quince preserve Kostas makes himself, for dessert.
Much more than your average round-the-corner Thai, this is a place for rubbing elbows (the larger tables/benches are for sharing) with some cool characters from the Athenian arty milieu. Well-heeled customers from the northern suburbs also tend to flock here in search of neighbourhood authenticity and always end up paying a little more than they expected mainly because of the nice cocktails. (The wine list is in fact quite uninspired.) The food is always good and consistent. Sit at the bar and watch the action unfold in the open kitchen right behind, as a tableau vivant. Specials include elegantly presented red and green curries, a mean larb gai (shredded chicken and mint salad), and a very reliable Pad Thai.
One of Athens' oldest and most loved open-air cinemas, with a recurring repertoire of neo-realist, nouvelle vague and even Soviet classics. It doesn’t have the Acropolis view of the famous Thissio cinema nearby, but it doesn’t attract so many tourists either. If you want to feel like a true Athenian, come here on the warmest night and drink beer under the stars. Never mind if you have watched what’s on before—that’s beside the point.
The coolest of the area’s bars, this 'cage' as it’s named in Greek, is a neighbourhood dive that somehow managed to get a full revamp without losing its relaxed attitude. Don’t let the unfussy crowd fool you: the bartenders here are quite crafty with cocktails. Try the potent Negroni for a generous aperitif. Klouvi is also a good option if you want to cap your evening with a lively nightcap, after dining in the neighbourhood’s various eateries.
The 'grande dame' of Petralona, Mrs. Chryssa, used to run the best (and only) sophisticated restaurant of Ano Petralona, before it was cool. Following the lifestyle curve to nearby Keramikos, she moved her business to that grungier neighbourhood—only to return to Ano Petralona a few years ago. This time her restaurant is smaller and less ambitious, but she still offers a decent alternative to most commonplace tavernas nearby, with her gentle manners and light touch. Her best sellers include an elegant rendering of the chicken souvlaki, fava with capers and sun-dried tomato, and homemade cheesecake with honey.