Even as someone who regularly perambulates the city, I am constantly surprised by how many new food places keep popping up. Greece is still very much in the depths of a financial crisis, but clearly, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed spirit of visionary Athenians keeps resiliently rising. Here I present some of the best recently opened hangouts for great street food to discover from this autumn in the capital.
Lotofagos, Romvis 13, Monastiraki.
Themed on a healthy Tiki beach bar, and bringing cooks out front to make and serve a grand variety of delicious fresh salads, Lotofagos is the first of its kind in Athens. The recipes are refreshing and nutritious - from aubergine with fresh mozzarella, pine nuts, basil and rocket leaves or artichokes with sun-dried tomatoes, anthotyro cheese and sunflower seeds to lentil salad with spring onions, crunchy peppers, and smoked trout, you can easily make enthusiastic salad-eating a part of your daily routine. The salad bar also serves high-quality wines by the glass to accompany your meal.
Hoocut, 9 Ag. Eirinis Sq.
A new-generation souvlaki joint with a name combining two of a butcher’s favourite actions, Hoocut (or hook and cut) makes “ola me pita” into a refined rather than commonplace art. It was the vision of five of Greece’s accomplished chefs, and its selection of high-quality ingredients attests to that standard. You won’t find a greasy, stodgy souvlaki here: instead chefs serve up clean and lean meats (including mutton), which are finely carved and gently grilled, are served in small pita bread (you can choose among two types made fresh at the store). A good choice of salads are also available, as are freshly cut fries.
Naanwich Ermou 115, Monastiraki
If you’ve already guessed what this place serves you’ve earned yourself some extra mango chutney. Athens’ first central Indian fast food place makes several types of sandwiches using two types of traditional, homemade (in the store’s tandoori oven) naan bread. Fillings include chicken tikka, madras or curry and vegetarian options such as kale, cucumber, and avocado filling). The menu also includes a few basic Indian classics, all of which can be drunk down with a refreshing lassie or a cool craft beer.
Cookoomela Grill, 43-45 Themistokleous, Exarcheia
Who said a mouth-watering gyro sandwich has to include fatty, often dodgy meat? The owners of Cookoomela decided to tastefully cater to the growing vegan/vegetarian appetite of today’s Athenians by serving up something that looks like, and tastes as delicious as a gratifying gyro souvlaki, but is completely meat-free. Pita breads are stuffed either with chopped, marinated and grilled plevrotus and portobello mushrooms or with a ‘soutzouki’ sausage made of lentils, and added ingredients include homemade sauces and spices. The hand-cut fries are served with vegan mayonnaise, homemade mustard or a Sicilian sauce and there are also vegan cannolis to satisfy a sweet tooth! With the same prices as those at an average souvlaki joint, the shop is also run with a planet-conscious philosophy, sourcing its ingredients from small producers and using chiefly eco-friendly materials.
The Pie Shop, 16 Voulis, Syntagma.
Pie-lovers rejoice! At this dinky pie shop that dares to stand on the same street as age-old Ariston, you’ll find something completely different. Here you can sample fresh, homemade pies based on recipes from as far and wide as Korea, England, Russia, Spain, Tanzania and of course, Greece. Sweet pies, savoury pies, spicy pies, creamy pies, gluten-free pies... the list goes on forever. A soothingly good variety of teas is also sold here, together with homemade cookies, and the store’s motto “bake the world a better place” is definitely a suitable one.