Eating Out

DESTINATIONS greece eating-out-18

TRAVEL TIPS

Eating Out

Meals and Mealtimes

Greeks don't really sit down for breakfast, so with the exception of hotels, few places serve that meal. You can pick up a cheese pie, a baguette sandwich, and rolls at a bakery or a sesame-coated bread ring called a koulouri sold by city vendors; order a tost ("toast"), a sort of dry grilled sandwich, usually with cheese or paper-thin ham slices, at a café; or dig into a plate of yogurt with honey. Local bakeries may offer fresh doughnuts in the morning. On the islands in summer, cafés serve breakfast, from Continental to combinations that might include Spanish omelets and French coffee. Caffeine junkies can get a cup of coffee practically anywhere.

Greeks eat their main meal at either lunch or dinner, so the offerings are the same. For lunch, heavyweight meat-and-potato dishes can be had, but you might prefer a real Greek salad (no lettuce, a slice of feta with a pinch of oregano, and ripe tomatoes, cucumber, onions, and green peppers) or souvlaki or grilled chicken from a taverna. For a light bite you can also try one of the popular Greek chain eateries such as Everest or Grigori's for grilled sandwiches or spanakopita and tiropita (cheese pie); or Goody's, the local equivalent of McDonald's, where you'll find good-quality burgers, pasta dishes, and salads.

Coffee and pastries are eaten in the afternoon, usually at a café or zaharoplastio (pastry shop). The hour or so before restaurants open for dinner—around 7—is a pleasant time to have an ouzo or glass of wine and try Greek hors d'oeuvres, called mezedes, in a bar, ouzeri, or mezedopoleio (Greek tapas place). Dinner is often the main meal of the day, and there's plenty of food. Starters include dips such as taramosalata (made from fish roe), melitzanosalata (made from smoked eggplant, lemon, oil, and garlic), and the well-known yogurt, cucumber, and garlic tzatziki. A typical dinner for a couple might be two to three appetizers, an entrée, a salad, and wine. Diners can order as little or as much as they like, except at very expensive establishments. If a Greek eats dessert at all, it will be fruit or a modest wedge of a syrup-drenched cake like ravani or semolina halvah, often shared between two or three diners. Only in fancier restaurants might diners order a tiramisu or crème brûleé with an espresso. One option for those who want a lighter, shared meal is the mezedopoleio.

In most places, the menu is broken down into appetizers (orektika) and entrées (kiria piata), with additional headings for salads (Greek salad or horta, boiled wild greens; this also includes dips like tzatziki) and vegetable side plates. But this doesn't mean there is any sense of a first or second "course," as in France. Often the food arrives all at the same time, or as it becomes ready.

Breakfast is usually available until 10:30 or 11 at many hotels and until early afternoon in beach cafés. Lunch is between 1:00 and 6 (especially during summer months), and dinner is served from about 8:00 to midnight, or even later in the big cities and resort islands. Most Greeks dine very late, around 10 or 11 pm. Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed are open daily for lunch and dinner.

Paying

Reservations and Dress

Regardless of where you are, it's a good idea to make a reservation if you can. In some places (especially the more upmarket restaurants), it's expected. We only mention them specifically when reservations are essential (there's no other way you'll ever get a table) or when they are not accepted. For popular restaurants, book as far ahead as you can and reconfirm on the day of your reservation. (Large parties should always call ahead to check the reservations policy.) We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie.

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