One of the best things to do in a different city is to find really cool new places to eat and drink, particularly if the country you’re in has traditional food. In Greece, sharing a meal is an intensely social thing, which makes the whole thing even better.
The problem is that in most of the areas you’ll end up in, the restaurants cater primarily to tourists. This isn’t something to decry too quickly, as making it easy for visitors to eat there is part of their business after all… it just isn’t very satisfying if you want an ‘authentic’ experience.
My usual aim here has been to find places that don’t have their signs in English… and staying clear of ‘tourist hunters’ where the menus have been translated into everything from German to Mandarin. We could easily find lots of small places in the neighbourhoods around where we have been staying, but they all seem to be incredibly quiet. Part of the fun of eating out is the atmosphere, which means we’ve been seeking out places more in the centre of Athens.
Of course, this city is overflowing with restaurants and cafes down every street, so it’s not always the easiest task to whittle it down to the ones we are looking for. Normally I would turn to the Internet, but it’s not too straightforward a task given the low key attitude and culture surrounding traditional Greek eateries. In other words, they’re not the kinds of places that will have dedicated Facebook pages.
Luckily our friend George pointed us to one such place. At first we thought he was going a bit mad, as we had walked down this particular street countless times and hadn’t seen anything of note. Then he stopped here:
Along a back street and nestled in between a couple of what looked like hardware shops is this door. There’s nothing to indicate that there’s anything behind here that would be open for people to go in and see… especially when the door is closed.
But, there’s this:
Squeezed into a ramshackle gap between two dilapidated buildings is this long courtyard. The only reason that it’s empty in the picture is because after turning up the day before and not getting a seat, we made sure to head in early. There were some other people by this point, but they were sat behind us. Within about half an hour the place was packed out, so we had timed it well.
Even if we had seen that there was a restaurant lurking behind the White door, there’s almost no way we would have felt comfortable waltzing in unless our pal had assured us we should try it out. It seemed like a private members club or something from first glance.
However, it wasn’t.
Never mind not having their menu in English, they didn’t even have a menu, full stop. Instead, it seemed like they had various things and you just had to chat and ask if they’d bring you some more chicken, or bread, or whatever. The standard fare appeared to be a mix of various meats and cheese and things, so we went for that – along with some white wine. It seemed like the best option rather than trying to work everything out in broken Greek.
Before long we spotted a cat skulking about. More than a common sight in Athens.
Then there was another one…
and before long there was a whole pile of them darting around, being fed tid bits from the tables.
We stayed for a while before heading off nearby to drink some more delicious rakomelo spirit. Mmm.
We almost didn’t go back to this wee place after not getting a seat the other day, but I’m glad we did. It was about as authentic a taverna experience as you could get, and definitely wouldn’t be a place typical tourists would find the easiest to navigate. It was a great way to spend lunch, and also ended up being ridiculously cheap. Who can complain about that?