It is not a secret that Greeks love their meat, and especially when it’s of high quality and expertly prepared. So that may be one of the reasons for the instant success of The Salty Pig, a restaurant which, since it opened in central Athens in November, has received rave reviews from the capital’s top chefs, food critics and foodies. Designed as a large open kitchen with a few benches and seats placed outside, it serves up a sumptuous and completely unpretentious version of classic street food themed on Pan-American culinary traditions.
Its owner-chefs Dimitris Panteleakis, Philipos Dimopoulos and Vasilis Akrivos all have decades of culinary expertise under their belts and have come together to show how executive chef-level skill, worldly experience and higher inspiration plus simple, flavoursome food cooked using the right equipment equal a winning combination.
Panteleakis designed and installed equipment such as an upright smoker that uses wood, a planetary rotisserie (named as such because it turns round and round ‘orbiting’ in two different directions, which means most of the juices stay on the meat), charcoal and wood grills and an Italian wood oven straight from Napoli. The menu includes a dizzying choice of dishes that have roots in north and south America, from tacos and sloppy joes to Canadian poutine (hand-cut fries with cheese curds, gravy and any topping or sauce of your choice), pizza and homemade, 100% beef or pork hot dog sausages. Many sauces such as the green tomatillo ketchup and the southern BBQ sauce, the buns and black maize tacos are also homemade.
“We saw the need to do something authentic instead of looking up a few recipes online and opening up yet another average burger joint,” Panteleakis, who has been travelling to and cooking in the US since the age of 12, says. “It turns out there was a huge demand for it, both from Greek-Americans and Americans and from other Greeks and foreigners.”
The beef brisket, which everyone raves about, and the BBQ mixed platter have proven the most popular dishes so far, but sandwiches such as roast beef with horseradish are also a relatively new taste that Greeks are enjoying. Vegetarians need not keep away either, as The Salty Pig also serves several meat-free options, from cauliflower steaks and black bean burgers to Italian panzanella salad, mushroom kebabs and garlic broccoli.
Located on Ippokratous St (36) on the border with Kolonaki, the restaurant makes a great stop for professionals on the hoof, families and groups of friends who want a quick bite and even solitary laptop-addicts who want to chomp a yummy sandwich as they work. When I ask Panteleakis about the future he is extremely secretive but suggests they will be creating more of the same coming up in Athens, as well as a completely different, yet equally delicious project in the near future.