The Search for the Best Street Food in Athens
Traveling to Athens for Christmas of 2010, my traveling mates and I were so excited to immerse ourselves in one of the world’s oldest cities, explore the Parthenon, Oracle of Delphi and other ancient ruins. We were beyond thrilled to visit the gorgeous island of Santorini and watch the sun rise over the blue domed churches, making Greece our cultural and photographic playground for 10 days.
But you know who else was excited?
My shameless inner foodie.
To find the best gyro in Athens. And baklava. And souvlaki. And whatever else we might stumble upon in a street cart or hole-in-the-wall joint that would take our taste buds for a joyride.
Because being on this Athens trip as an underpaid English teacher meant that my budget hankered for cheap street eats nearly as much as my voracious appetite did. Besides, I adore street food; something about its simplicity and unpretentiousness really just cuts to the essence of a dish or cuisine.
First up on my list was The Best Souvlaki: that quintessential Greek sandwich of meat, tzatziki sauce and tomato on a warm pita. There were hole-in-the-wall joints toting the souvlaki nearly everywhere, but one of my favorites was at Kostas. The simple sandwich is served on squishy flatbread with perfectly spiced meat, vegetables and refreshing yogurt sauce.
Around the Monastiraki area was quite touristy, but great for kicking the mid-day hunger pangs with roasted corn-on-the-cob and roasted chestnuts (usually at the same stand!) Definitely worth the legwork peeling back the shells to get to the meat on those seasonally delicious little nuts!
One of the most interesting things I tried from a cart in Athens was in a mystery cup, filled with a creamy and foamy liquid with a deliciously spicy fragrance. It turned out to be orchid tea! But instead of a floral flavor as I expected, my taste buds experienced a rich mixture of fruity, spicy and nutty. Perfect beverage for a Christmas-time visit- but I’m sure they serve this year-round!
Another common street food sighting was carts selling donut-shaped pastry rings- filled with everything from cheese, olives, and tomato to chocolate. I learned that these are a typical mid-day snack of the Athenese, so we rested assured that ours was an authentic and local treat 🙂
So I can’t leave out a few of my other favorites- even though they aren’t technically “street food”, they were inexpensive items off the menus of small sit-down cafes, and definite must-tries if you’re in Athens!
Greek Salad with Feta- So ridiculously fresh, flavorful and covered with an entire block of tangy feta? Yes, please!
Fried Feta Cheese with Honey- Whatever else you may do in Athens, just do yourself a favor and sit down with a plate of this. Your tastebuds will thank you.
French Fries with Tzaziki- Great combo, hands down!
So when in Athens, consider yourself lucky to be in one of the greatest places in the world for seeing ancient sights and embarking on culinary adventures. Bon appétit!