We love Greek food, but sometimes you just can’t take another Greek salad. Here is a selection of restaurants to try when you need a break from souvlaki, from Thai to Italian.
By Kimon Frangakis
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If you’re craving sushi, Pad Thai or authentic Italian pizza while you’re in Athens, you’re in luck: this city’s ethnic food is just as good as its Greek food. Some are long-established neighbourhood joints, while others are brand-new but seriously good. Read on for where we eat the world from Athens.
The king of glamorous comfort food, Aris Vezenes has created this idiosyncratic Japanese pub and grill in an unassuming alley below Syntagma Square. The menu pays homage to Japan's rich culinary heritage: tasty neck-to-tail yakitori skewers, meat and seafood kushiyaki, melt in the mouth wagyu beef nigiri, and ethically sourced yakiniku meats from rare cattle breeds prepared on a robata-style grill at the open kitchen-counter. However, the ingredients have a distinctly local flavour: Laconia oranges, Kalamata olives, Aegean uni, and free-range chickens from Crete. Ask about the daily specials, which might include beef ramen or donburi bowls made with local lamb, shrimp and greens. Birdman also knocks up some of the meanest cocktails downtown, alongside natural wines and craft beers. Try the Negroni, or, if you are a whisky person, the interesting selection from Japan, and new world distilleries in Taiwan, India and America. Birdman is essentially a long bar where you can listen to some great tunes on the turntables and enjoy a drink and a nibble from 6 pm until 1 am, while rubbing shoulders with some cool characters winding down after work.
This pub and grill specializes in Japanese-style foods.
"An excellent idea would be to order takeout and head for the beautiful woods around the Kesariani monastery."
Pizza lovers, take note: “Granny Edda” serves not just the best but also the cheapest authentic Italian pizza in Athens. (It does have stiff competition from Lollo’s pizzeria in Halandri—however, this is a pricier option). Nonna Edda is essentially a delivery/takeout spot. Inside, there’s only a small, high table with three or four bar stools to sample pizza, plus a couple of tables for alfresco dining in the summer. An excellent idea would be to order takeout and head for the beautiful woods around the Kesariani monastery, just at the end of the road, for a dejeuner sur l’herbe. Order simple pizzas with elegant toppings, like a true Italian: olives, artichoke, thin slices of piquant sausage. And enjoy the thin crust till the last crumb.
Sister to the more flamboyant Royal Indian Chef, this new eatery is a bright and airy alternative to your usual neighbourhood curry joint. And though the airy, unfussy decor is a refreshing change from the usual red and gold opulence, the menu is thankfully classic with tasty chicken tandoori and dosas and solid vegan options. The light cheese naan is excellent, the biryani rice freshly made and fragrant, the curries potent. May we suggest you cool down with an excellent mint lassi. On our recent visit, we were pleased to see we were practically the only non-Indian clients although you can expect to see many tourists here as well, since it is very close to the Acropolis Museum and right next to the FIX Modern Art Museum.
Unfussy and understated is the name of the decor game at Indian Chef.
Courtesy: Indian Chef
“This place has been everyone’s 'best kept secret' for 20 years, when only Thai expats and drifting sailors from the port walked through the door."
This place has been everyone’s “best kept secret" for twenty years. Foodies from all over Athens have tales to tell about how they first discovered it way back when only Thai expats and drifting sailors from the nearby port walked through the door. Rouan Thai’s humble but by no means dreary appearance—it looks like a southeast Asian canteen—masks the fact that this is the best Thai in town (superior even to some of the city’s most upscale Thai restaurants; although don’t go expecting street food prices). If you feel overwhelmed with the selection on offer, you can’t go wrong with the excellent Pad Thai. Soup lovers must try the sweet and sour Tom Yum and the fragrant Tom Kha Gai. Don’t forget that the green and red curries are authentic—which also means authentically spicy, so keep a steady supply of steamed rice and jasmine tea to hand.
This is one of those seemingly unremarkable food joints that always looks half empty but harbours tasty secrets. Owned by an Egyptian, Ali Baba proposes many Middle Eastern staples such as fresh, lemony tabouleh and crunchy kibbeh (bulgur and minced meat patties)—all above average quality and fairly priced. However, we would like to bring your attention to what could be the best “souvlaki” you might enjoy in Athens, as long as you know how to ask for it: choose the “sandwich” bread, which despite its name is a puffy flatbread, freshly baked in house. Forgo the heavy mayo sauce and go for some delicious and healthy hummus instead. Meat-wise, choose the marinated chicken gyros. Oh, and skip the fries, which have no place inside this lovely—and filling—“pocket”. Are you vegan or avoiding fast food meats? Swap the chicken for some fried eggplant. It is not at all greasy and pairs beautifully with the earthy hummus and zingy salad.
A bread pocket filled with fried eggplant and creamy hummus? Yes please.
Courtesy: Ali Baba
These burgers are the real deal: cheesy, juicy and perfect.
Courtesy: Burger Joint
As American as it gets, but this crowd-pleaser in the glossy, coastal suburb of Glyfada has a welcoming, youthful vibe (no sawed-in-half Cadillacs or effigies of Marilyn and Elvis here). The burgers are juicy, the fries are crisp and they all arrive from grill to table huddled in a little basket. Try the Umami burger with chèvre (goat’s) cheese, mushrooms, caramelised onions and truffle mayo. Worry not, it isn't a fussy gourmet concoction, but a rewarding burger with sweet, savoury and tangy flavours assaulting your taste-buds. The vegan burger is also surprisingly squishy and tasty. And yes, they have baked New York cheesecake: skip the strawberry coulis and enjoy its unadulterated flaky creaminess.