Greek cuisine is renowned for its use of simple, yet flavorful ingredients. The use of fresh and seasonal ingredients is a key aspect of Greek cooking, where traditional recipes are respected and passed down from generation to generation. The use of herbs such as oregano, olive oil and lemon juice are a staple, lending a distinct and bright taste to the dishes. The simplicity of Greek dishes is one of its greatest strengths, as it allows the natural flavors of the ingredients to come to the forefront.
Greek dining is often characterized by a relaxed and casual atmosphere, with an emphasis on sharing and communal eating. Greek meals are often served family-style, with a variety of dishes placed on the table for everyone to enjoy. This style of dining is known as "mezedes" or "meze" in Greek, and it typically includes a variety of small plates, such as dips, cheeses, olives, and grilled meats or seafood.
In Greece, tips are not expected or compulsory. It may feel rude, but don't bother calculating any percentages, as tipping in Greece only requires leaving a couple of coins on your table with your bill as you leave. A substantial tip is a 2 euro coin, regardless of the size of the bill you pay. It may not be possible to add a tip to your credit card, so if you want to tip, always carry some cash and change to make tipping easy.
If it's your first time in Europe, you may want to avoid drinking tap water. The water in Greece is safe to drink in most places, but your stomach might not appreciate it the first time. All restaurants serve bottled water, so you shouldn't have many issues avoiding tap water.
Avoiding Tourist Traps
Tourist traps are often located in popular tourist areas, such as famous landmarks or attractions. Since, you will most likely want to do some sightseeing of these famous landmarks while in Greece, tourist traps can be difficult to avoid. However, here's some fun tips to keep in mind:
- Pushy salespeople who can speak multiple languages, trying to lure you in
- Places that look fancy or hipster
- Photo menus
- Menus in more than 2 languages
- Crowded with tourists
- Paper table cloths
- Lots of Greeks just chilling
- Wicker chairs that looks like they are going to fall apart
Traditional Greek Dishes
Meat that is cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The meat, typically pork, is seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices and then cooked until it is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It is then shaved off the rotisserie and served in a pita bread with various toppings, such as tomatoes, onions, tzatziki and french fries.
Small pieces of meat, typically chicken or pork, that are marinated in a blend of herbs and spices, and then skewered and grilled.
A traditional Greek salad, also known as "village salad". It is a simple, rustic salad that is typically made with vegetables that are in season and locally grown, such as: tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and green bell peppers. It is dressed with olive oil and sometimes with a splash of red wine vinegar. The salad is usually topped with crumbled feta cheese and sometimes with capers.
Wild greens and herbs, typically cooked with olive oil, lemon juice and sometimes garlic.
Octopus, typically marinated in olive oil and lemon juice, and sometimes with garlic, oregano, and other herbs. It is typically served as a meze, or appetizer.
Fried squid, typically sliced into rings. It is usually served as a meze, or appetizer.
A traditional and hearty dish made with large lima beans. It is often considered a comfort food and it is a great source of protein, fiber, and other nutrients. The beans are usually soaked overnight before cooking, and then simmered for hours in tomato sauce until they are soft and tender.
Fritters made from grated zucchini, flour, and a variety of herbs and spices. The ingredients are mixed together and formed into small balls or patties, which are then deep-fried. Kolokithokeftedes are usually served as a meze, or appetizer often served with tzatziki.
Stuffed grape leaves. The leaves are stuffed with a mixture of rice, herbs, and sometimes meat, such as ground beef or lamb, and then they are rolled up and cooked. Dolmades are usually served as a meze, or appetizer.
Greek cheese that is fried in a small pan and served hot. It is usually served as a meze, or appetizer.
A dip made from yogurt, cucumber, garlic and dill.
A dip made from tarama, which is a paste made from the roe (eggs) of cod or carp fish. The tarama is then mixed with breadcrumbs, lemon juice and olive oil to create a creamy, pink-colored dip.
A stew made with small onions, typically pearl onions, and meat, usually beef or rabbit. The onions and meat are cooked in a tomato-based sauce with a variety of herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. The dish is typically slow-cooked and it can be served with potatoes, pasta or rice.
Arni Avgolemono / Fricassee
A dish made with lamb (commonly spelled "lamp") and a lemony egg-based sauce called Avgolemono.
Makaronia Me Kima
Spaghetti bolognese (Also known as spaghetti and meat sauce)
Slow-cooked beef or veal in tomato-based sauce, served on potatoes, pasta or rice. My fave is patates tiganites (fried potato aka "french fries").
Layers of pasta, meat sauce, and a creamy béchamel sauce.
Layers of eggplant, sometimes potato, meat sauce, and a creamy béchamel sauce.
A popular breakfast pastry made with filo dough and a filling of sweet semolina custard. The pastry is often served warm and dusted with powdered sugar or cinnamon.
A dessert made with layers of filo dough, filled with sweet semolina custard and drenched in syrup.
Deep-fried dough balls that are traditionally doused with honey.
A savory pastry made with filo dough and filled with various cheeses. Also known as a cheese pie.
A savory pastry made with filo dough and a filling of spinach and feta cheese. Also known as a spinach pie.
Loukaniko, a type of Greek sausage, wrapped in filo dough.
Glub glub 🐟