What to Eat on Your Trip to Greece
1. Greek Yogurt
Sure, you probably have Greek yogurt in your fridge at home, but you haven't really had Greek yogurt until you've had it in Greece! There are shops that specialize in dairy products, like the famed old-world Stani in Athens, as well as newer Greek yogurt bars. But for an equally authentic experience, go to any supermarket and pick up some traditional yogurt—look out for the variety sold in terracotta pots.
Don't expect revolving cylindrical lamb and beef meatloaves in Greece. The real gyros is more like shawarma and it's pork—no lamb or beef in sight, though chicken gyros are also popular. The spiced and shaved pork is stuffed in a pita along with tzatziki (cucumber yogurt sauce), tomatoes, red onion, and a few French fries. On menus look out for gyros hoirino (pork) and ask for it me ap'ola (with everything).
Often called 'honey puffs' in English, loukoumades are traditional Greek doughnuts. The classic version is always soaked in honey and dusted with cinnamon, for a simple yet comforting treat. In recent years new twists on the classic have proliferated, with loukoumades now featuring everything from fillings of Nutella to feta cheese! In Athens, make a historical pilgrimage to Krinos, which is where you'll find the classic honey puffs served cafeteria-style, as they've been doing since 1923. For modern renditions, try Lukumades—a shop not too far from Krinos that caters to a younger crowd.
4. Fish & Seafood
A trip to Greece wouldn't be complete without indulging in local gifts from the sea. Yes, it's worth ordering grilled fish—head and all; two popular and delicious options include tsipoura (seabream) and lavraki (seabass, known in the U.S. as branzino). Don't pass up some of the more exotic options, however: maridaki (whitebait) or gavros (anchovies) are small fish that are deep fried and enjoyed whole, eaten like French fries, while ahinosalata is a true Mediterranean delicacy—simply sea urchin roe dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.
Stop into any Greek bakery (you'll never be far from one!) in the morning and order still-warm bougatsa, a flaky phyllo pillow of a pastry, stuffed with a light but creamy semolina custard.
If you enjoyed that morning bougatsa, stop into the same bakery later on for a savory spanakopita snack. Most bakeries have savory pites, or pies, on offer throughout the day—spinach pie and tyropita, or cheese pie, are by far the most common. There are some shops that specialize almost exclusively in pies, such as Mam in Athens.
Cocktail culture has exploded in Greece, with bartenders across the country taking their mixology very seriously. Two bars in Athens repeatedly make the cut on The World's 50 Best Bars list: The Clumsies (#6) and Baba au Rum (#31) are both worth a visit. Be sure to try cocktails using local spirits and liqueurs, such as Metaxa, Mastiha, and Tsipouro. And don't forget to clink glasses and say 'Yeia mas!' (To our health!).
8. Horiatiki Salata
You can't visit Greece without a traditional Greek salad, a.k.a. horiatiki salata, meaning literally "village salad." There are many variations, but a few ingredients remain constant: ripe tomatoes, local olive oil, dried oregano, and feta cheese. If you see Dakos on a menu, be sure to try it—essentially a Greek salad with dried bread rusks, similar to the Italian panzanella.
9. Traditional Desserts
Visit a zaharoplasteio, or sweet shop, to indulge in local versions of baklava and other syrupy treats. Greek baklava is almost always made exclusively with walnuts, though regional variations might use almonds or pistachios. Traditional Greek cakes are also worth trying, such as portokalopita (a syrup-soaked orange cake made with shredded phyllo instead of flour) and ravani (a semolina cake, often vegan and usually scented with orange or mastic).
A koulouri is a sesame-crusted bread ring and a typical Greek snack. You can find koulouria vendors all over the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, and in most bakeries. Try the traditional plain sesame version first, then explore some of the newer renditions—koulouri stuffed with everything from cheese to chocolate.