Athenians, like most Greeks, view dining out late in the evening as one of their main forms of entertainment. A recent survey showed that Athenian adults spend more time dining out than the residents of any other city in the world. Of the nearly one million people over the age of 16 who live in the city’s greater metropolitan area, 85% start their day at a cafe, more than 50% visit a cafe twice every day, nearly 75% have dinner at a restaurant at least once a week, and 55% have dinner out three or more times every week.
Even more startling, Athenians pass more time eating out every week than they do watching television. Dining out or spending one’s time in public places where food and drinks are served has been an accepted and important part of the Athenian life style. Literally thousands of restaurants — gastronomic, business, trendy, Michelin-starred or budget — as well as traditional tavernas serving delicious, inexpensive food can be found throughout Athens. And of course there is the ubiquitous Greek souvlaki!
Some of the most charming Athenian tavernas are set in a gardens or on the roof of the building in which they are housed. Most eating establishments in and around Athens use excellent natural ingredients from all over Greece. Delicious grilled fish, salads, baked meat and tasty fruit have a wonderful fresh flavour. Try specialities such as the wonderful tzatziki, a dip made from garlic, yoghurt and cucumber, feta cheese served in olive oil, dolmades, vine leaves stuffed with minced meat, or grilled octopus.
At the lovely little yacht harbour of Mikrolimano in Piraeus, customers can choose from a number of excellent seafood restaurants that serve fresh fish, shrimp and lobster daily.
Because Athenians have a freely admitted passion for sweets, many will have their lunch at one of the city’s many zacharoplasteion, pastry shops where, among the most popular treats are baklava, kadaif (both of which originated in Greece and not in the Middle-East as is often thought) and galaktoboureko, hollow pastries filled to overflowing with custard cream, and an enormous variety of layer cakes, custards, puddings and mousses.