Eating in Athens: Exploring Petralona Neighborhood
Greek cuisine is considered to be one of the tastiest and healthiest in the world and that is more than fair. With so many fresh vegetables, the virgin olive oil and the tasty juicy meat, it is hard to avoid gaining some weight when in Greece! Athens offers a wide scene of restaurants and it is worth exploring some of its hidden neighborhoods, where you will often find better prices and probably more quality in the ingredients.
So, let me introduce you to one of my favorite neighborhoods… Petralona! It is a definitely charming and worth visiting neighborhood near the center of Athens, just next to Thissio and Philopappos Hill. What is interesting about it is that even though it is located in the heart of Athens, just like Koukaki, it manages to preserve its local vibe and quality. The whole area is now home to lots of bars and restaurants, making it a cool spot to hang out.
The fruit and vegetable market (‘laiki agora’ in Greek, a market with fresh fruits and vegetables which are sold by farmers and producers from all around Greece) that takes place every Friday at Kallisthenous street is totally worth a visit. Make sure you have cash with you.
Fun fact: Petralona actually took its name after the Greek words 'Petrina Alonia' which means 'stone threshing floors', because the area was used to thresh grain, before urbanization. The area was also known as ‘Katsikadika’, due to the presence of goats in the area who used to give out milk to the residents.
1. Diomataris Taverna
One of my favorite places in Petralona is Diomataris Taverna. It is a high-quality Cretan tavern, where you will find authentic Cretan cuisine. If you haven’t been in Crete, it is a great chance to get some taste of the island’s amazing food. This place offers a rooftop garden too, for the hot summer days! It has a really warm and family atmosphere. The owner, Diomataris Glakousakis, is a friendly man who makes you feel like home. He strongly believes on the quality of the ingredients, therefore he uses pure products, like eggs, milk, onions and peppers from his little farm in Kryoneri. The atmosphere is great, with often live Cretan music on the background.
The graviera cheese from Crete is a must and so is the tsikoudia drink, the raki as we often call it. Tsikoudia is a must try alcoholic beverage, produced by grapes in Crete and contains 40 to 65% alcohol by volume. Go for the snails, it is a worth eating course for the ones who are not afraid to try new and special flavors. The gamopilafo is another excellent dish they offer, totally typical in Crete’s cuisine and traditionally served at weddings. The rice, which is called ‘pilafi’, is cooked in broth of meat, that is already boiled, usually lamb or chicken. The dakos at that place is the best. I, myself, am obsessed with dakos and this is the only place they make it that good, with a huge amount of grated tomato and extra virgin olive oil from Crete.
Location: Dimofontos 80, Athens 118 51
2. T’asximopapo (The Ugly Duckling)
For really good grilled meat and healthy Mediterranean vegetable recipes, this eatery is a must visit. The Ugly Duckling is a historical tavern as it was founded by an important actor decades ago. It offers really cozy atmosphere, especially at evenings with the sounds of good Greek rembetiko live music. There is no way that you will visit this place and leave without making new friends.
Go for their grilled beef steak and basically anything that is grilled. The chefs are masters at the grill. This place has managed to maintain its food quality in very affordable prices. Give the Ugly Duckling a chance and it will become a swan!
Location: Ionon 61, Ano Petralona 11851
Interested in tasting authentic Greek Street food?
Kapari has always been a must visit place in Petralona, before the area evolves to what it is today, a vibrant and lively neighborhood. Offering a cool garden, a beautiful courtyard and a chilled atmosphere, this place is perfect for a romantic dinner. Don’t miss their Kapari salad, as well as the soutzoukakia (a Greek and Turkish dish of spicy meatballs with cumin, cinnamon, and garlic served in tomato sauce). Their risotto is another interesting option for the classic dish lovers.
Location: Dorieon 36, Athens 11851
This is the best place in Petralona for ‘mageireuta’, home cooked, simple food with fresh ingredients, usually prepared in a casserole or a pot. You should definitely try this place to get to know what an everyday Greek household usually eats at home. Greek cuisine is not only about moussaka, souvlaki or grilled meat. It is also about spanakorizo, spinach rice with fresh tomato and lemon cooked in a pot, giouvetsi, beef with tomato sauce and pasta rice in the oven, fasolakia, green beans cooked in olive oil in the pot with carrots and potatoes and of course a lot of fresh tomato and olive oil. Make sure you go for the ‘Lathera’ dishes, which are eaten usually in the summer, made with fresh, seasonal vegetables and are olive oil based. The Greek word for oil is ‘lathi’ and these vegetable dishes are olive oil-based.
Location: Kidantidon 41, Athens 118 51
Another must in the area. The interior is small, but in the summer, tables are added outside. The restaurant has a warm atmosphere with mosaic floor and black and white tiles. The chairs and tables are different, some modern, other old, something that creates an interesting mix between the past and the present, just like Aster’s food; an interesting play between the traditional Greek food and the new experimental Greek cuisine.
The menu is mostly based in Cretan cuisine. Try their light apaki (salted and smoked lean pork, one of Cretan cuisine favorites), the aster potatoes (fried fresh thick potatoes with thick salt) and the chicken meatballs (chicken with olives and gouda cheese). Believe me, the latter should not be missed. Of course, try the raki that the owner orders from Crete, or even some local Greek beers.
A reservation is advised since the place tends to get easily packed with people.
Location: Troon 48, Athens 118 52
Cook like a Greek for a day!
I chose to let that restaurant at the end. And that is because it is a new entry in the area. Xenofon, the owner and his wife and chef, Elisavet, are welcoming and friendly. They have put all their passion and hard work for this restaurant. The menu offers a variety of different local dishes from all over Greece, with recipes that only the grandmas know. I myself did not know most of the courses! I learned a lot by Xenofon, who took us on a food journey.
‘Lagoto’ was my favorite dish. It is a traditional delicacy from Arcadia with slow cooked beef, fresh tomato, walnuts and red wine. The beef couldn’t be more soft and tender.
Location: Ippothontidon 10, Athens 118 54
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I hope you get to try at least one of our top 6 favorite restaurant recommendations in Petralona neighborhood and if you have more ideas or suggestions, please let us know with a comment below!
Text: Christina Stathopoulou