Photo: Eleni Veziri

You don’t have to travel all the way to Crete to enjoy its traditional dishes. Athens has many fantastic Cretan restaurants to satisfy your cravings.

By Katherine Whittaker

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When it comes to Cretan restaurants, the ingredients always take centre stage.

Photo: Eleni Veziri

Crete on a Plate

If you’re heading to a Cretan restaurant while in Athens, you’ll find a few mainstays on the menu: dakos, a salad consisting of a hard barley rusk covered in diced tomatoes, soft mizithra cheese, oregano, capers and olives. There’s apaki, smoked and salted pork that can be eaten like charcuterie or cooked. Skioufichta, a type of pasta specific to Crete, is usually served with local cheese or meat. Do look out for symbetherio, a veggie-based casserole, too. 

Above all, Cretan cooking is about freshness and provenance—dishes are prepared as simply as possible so the ingredients take centre stage. Here are some Cretan restaurants in Athens that will transport you right to the island with their food, atmosphere and music.

To Laini

Traditional Cretan apaki is the move at this tiny restaurant.

Photo: Eleni Veziri

Adventurous eaters shouldn't miss out on the snails, a popular dish on the island.

Photo: Eleni Veziri

I Kriti

Rachati

If you’re up for a bit of a hike to the southern suburb of Ilioupoli (then a 15 minute walk from the Ilioupoli metro stop), Rachati is a great spot for a taste of Crete. It has the feel of an island taverna: small, casual and relaxed, with photographs of Cretan musicians hanging on the walls. The restaurant’s meze-centric menu is full of traditional Cretan food (think sharing dishes like mizithropites, small pies made with mizithra). The recipes come from the owner’s grandmother and most of the products are sourced from Lasithi, a region in eastern Crete. Check their Facebook page for information on occasional live music performances.

"The recipes come from the owner’s grandmother and most of the products are sourced from Lasithi, a region in eastern Crete."

Tigania kotopoulo (pan-fried chicken swimming in sauce) is a great reason to check out Biftekatsi.

Photo: Eleni Veziri

Biftekatsi

Rakoumel

The art at Rakoumel is just as good as the food. Case in point: this piece by Greek street artist Sonke.

Photo: Eleni Veziri

Pull up a chair, grab a glass of raki, and get ready to spend your afternoon here.

Photo: Eleni Veziri

Patouchas

Το Rakaki

Greens swirled in with potatoes make for the perfect salad.

Photo: Eleni Veziri

"A tiny deli crammed with amazing Cretan delicacies, from specialty cheeses and meats (hello, apaki) to herbal teas, and honey. Some of it is incredibly rare."

Sympetheroi