Timing: Greeks do not expect quick service and often frown upon food that is
too hot! (Try ordering a coffee and you must stipulate that you want it hot,
else you will end up with a
frappe!) Waiters will not rush you and will rarely deliver food in the same
order as it was placed. Dishes sometimes arrive as and when they are ready -
just sit back and relax and you will soon adjust to the Greek way of life!
Becoming anxious or stressed in a Taverna is a sure way to ruin your
experience which is to be savoured, not rushed!
What To Eat and Enjoy
and maybe surprisingly, fish tends to be expensive. Prices are usually per
kilo not per portion. When looking at the menu, do not assume that
everything listed will be available! The golden rule - if the price has been
removed then it is not on. Most Greek establishments work on a 'seasonal
availability' basis, as most produce is local. In some of the more
traditional places, it is usual (and fun) to go into the kitchen to be shown
what is available; great for those who can never decide from looking at menu. Greek
menus by law have to be in Greek and English. Some of the translations may
cause you some amusement. As a guide, you will be offered:
A fish roe dip made with garlic, onion, breadcrumbs, olive oil and lemon
juice. Homemade versions are light salmon in colour and a delight. If you
are offered an artificial bright pink sludge, then it has been bought in;
drink up and find somewhere else to eat!
The famous yoghurt, cucumber and garlic dip. Scooped up with fresh bread, it
makes a refreshing snack.
many locals enjoy a thick slice of feta with a drizzle of olive oil and a
dash of paprika.
Vine leaves stuffed with rice or meat - normally served cold. Fresh ones are
only available early in the season (May, June) when the vine leaves are
Filo pastry pies stuffed with feta cheese - they are a delight. Also look
out for Spanakopitta - which are the same but with a little spinach added
- one of our favourites in the Agni Travel office!
A hard Greek cheese which is battered and shallow fried. Served with a large
chunk of lemon.
The Greeks love dips and this one is a very garlicky potato based one.
Served cold but it is yummy.
Large butter type beans, baked in a thick seasoned tomato, onion and garlic
Fried meatballs with garlic and herbs.
Spicy local sausages - usually grilled.
(Notice there is no 'r' in the correct pronunciation and the accent is on
the last 'a'.)
Layers of fried aubergine and minced meat (usually beef) topped
with a creamy béchamel sauce.
Stifado: A meaty red wine stew with baby onions and tomato. The meaty
chunks are soft and tender and the baby onions go soft and sweet - to be
eaten with lots of bread.
Tender beef steak cooked in a garlic and wine sauce.
Stuffed vegetables, usually tomatoes and green peppers. The filling is
usually a vegetable and rice mix with a little cheese. Sometimes beef mince
Kelftiko: Lamb slowly baked in the oven until
it is so tender it just falls from the bone. Served with Greek roasted
Saganaki: a rich creamy dish with king-size prawns, feta, tomato and a
little garlic. My favourite.
(Lobster) local lobster is very expensive and best eaten lightly grilled
with a little butter. Even though the menu says lobster, you will normally
be served a 'crayfish' - basically a lobster without claws - just as good
Baby squid, usually fried with a dusting of flour, but better grilled. Fresh
ones are normally only available when there is no moon - as they are caught
with a powerful 'gas lamp'. The light attracts them to the surface. Watching
dozens of 'lit-up' fishing boats on a dark summer night, dotted along the
coast is quite magical.
(Oxto means 8 and Pothi means leg - you already knew that didn't you!) Octopus,
is often boiled and served in what the locals call a
'salad'. Actually these are small pieces in olive oil - with no salad in
sight! It is though very tasty ( a little bit like chicken). Grilled is also
excellent - but often quite expensive as it shrinks to a tiny size when
cooked. The octopus is caught using a long pole with a few leaves attached
to the end - plus a liberal sprinkling of hooks! The pole is prodded around
the rocks to tempt the octopus to grab the leaves - a time consuming task.
Kakavia: Fish soup - often this will include vegetables, bones and heads!
But it is always excellent.
Atherina: White bait. Tiny fish that are fried and usually eaten whole.
Marithes: Sardine sized fish which are fried and yummy. Incidentally,
sardines and (many other fish which are also caught at night) are not
available when there is a full moon. The reason is that the fish can 'see'
the nets and simply avoid them.
preferring not to eat meat, then you will be pleased to know that you will
not miss out. There is a wide range of tasty salads and vegetables available
- although some will of course be seasonal. Look out for bean dishes such as
fasolakia or gigantes. At Taverna Agni, we often suggest that vegetarians
order a selection of starters as their whole meal. This way of eating is
in Greece though, but mostly in the mountain villages, the idea of not
eating meat is somewhat foreign and you may be encouraged to eat something
that has 'just a little bit of meat' in it! Persevere and explain that
eating meat is like going against your religion - it will work eventually.
local Pittas - often filled with feta cheese, spinach or local vegetables.
Firstly, take note of the
following. When you see the word salad in a Greek menu - it does not always
mean what it says. For example 'Aubergine
salad' is a creamy dip! A 'Russian salad' is potatoe and
Xhoriatiki: A Greek salad Literally translated means 'village salad'
and includes tomatoes, cucumber, onion, lettuce or cabbage, topped
with feta cheese, olives and sprinkled with dried herbs. There are many
variations though - so expect anything!
Tomato and Cucumber: you get exactly what you would expect - and nothing
Chef's salad: Usually similar to a Greek salad but without the cheese and
instead topped with ham and garlic mayonnaise.
Horta: Wild bitter greens. Locals go mad for these. Dandelion looking weeds
are carefully collected, cleaned and then boiled. They look similar to
spinach when cooked. Served with olive oil and lemon and sometimes new
potatoes - well worth a try if you see it on a menu, but needs to be eaten
with a meal.
Tavernas in Greece do not automatically serve desserts or coffee - you
normally have to ask. The following is often available, but a small platter
of fruit is more usual Greek choice and often more refreshing:
Baclava: (As with Mou-sa-ka, there is no 'r' in the correct pronunciation
and the accent is on the last 'a'.) Filo pastry layers with chopped walnuts
cinnamon and steeped in honey. Homemade versions are not too sweet and
excellent - bought in versions are not!
Kataiifi: Something resembling a 'shredded wheat' stuffed
with nuts and honey.
Galactoboureko: Milk custard pie with filo pastry and a little honey.
Chalva: A very traditional sweet from the mainland, made with semolina,
olive oil, almonds and a honey.
thick and creamy and usually served with a little honey or fruits.
With an abundance of fresh produce available, expect some
culinary delights in the local Greek Tavernas.