Souvlaki has always been the most popular go-to street food in Athens, and with the financial crisis that began a decade ago considerably constricting Athenian’s budgets, more and more such places have sprung up in every neighbourhood across Attica, offering not only a takeaway delight to chomp on but even a sit-down family meal. But souvlaki is not souvlaki – there are various kinds sold and here we have selected the best of different kinds of souvlaki you can try in Athens.
Hoocut (9 Ag. Eirini Square, Monastiraki)
Definitely something new in the city’s same-old souvlaki scene – let’s not forget that there is a souvlaki place almost around every corner in Athens today – Hoocut is run by five highly accomplished Greek chefs (three of whom also own the reputable Cookoovaya restaurant) and includes an in-store grocer’s, butcher counter and bakery. The focus is on high-quality ingredients plus skillful and creative preparation. They also serve delicious salads and homemade fries.
Thanassis (69 Mitropoleos, Monastiraki)
A long-time family business (since 1964), Thanassis is part of the bustling strip of souvlaki restaurants at the bottom of Mitropoleos St, and is known mainly for its killer kebab, although its souvlaki is a crowd-pleaser too. Good-sized portions, very reasonable prices and friendly service all add a pleasant experience.
Savvas Roof Garden (91Ermou 91, Monastiraki)
A large rooftop restaurant serving a broad array of souvlaki, kebab, other meat dishes, salads and meze plates with a hearteningly full view of the Acropolis. This is an especially great spot for large groups of friends or family who want to enjoy a tasty, satisfying meal al fresco.
O Kostas (5 Pentelis, Syntagma)
Perhaps the most famous and authentic souvlaki in Athens that used to be located in a hole in the wall on Adrianou St in Plaka, then run by the current owner’s grandfather Kostas, since 1950. The quality and cook of the meat is exceptional, the pita bread is dry rather than greasy and plain yogurt is used instead of tzatziki along with parsley, all of which delivers a gratifying yet light result… Which is probably why most customers (usually standing in a queue that spills out onto the street) can’t stop at one.
Cookoomela Grill (43-45 Themistokleous, Exarcheia)
Sourcing their ingredients from small, mainly organic producers in Greece and using mushrooms as a replacement for meat, Cookoomela is converting even the most dedicated meat-eaters to vegan alternatives by creating truly delicious souvlakia. They serve homemade sauces, hand-cut fries, Dako (rusk) salad and even meat-free gyros made with lentils.
Elvis (29 Plateon, Kerameikos & 1 Archimidous, Pangrati)
Hipster cooks, bouncy beats, quality, succulent primary ingredients, and hand-cut fries have made Elvis a buzzy place to beat, which is why it very quickly cloned into a second store (one in Pangrati and one in Kerameikos). Here you won’t find the wrapped (tylikto)-style souvlaki but instead kalamaki sticks of beef, pork or chicken served with chopped, grilled pita bread. You’ll be offered a little glass of raki as you wait and can select amongst perfectly frosted craft beers to drink down your food.
Kosta (2 Agh. Eirinis, Monastiraki)
With just a few tables outside and always a queue, this is another Athenian ‘steki’ (hangout) for souvlaki lovers who like tradition with a real homemade feel. There may not be very many choices – although the simplicity of the menu, made up of pork kalamaki or meatballs and fries that are slathered in a rich, slightly spicy tomato sauce – can actually be quite refreshing.
Mirch (109 Ermou, Thisseio)
Sometimes the usual souvlaki may get a little boring, and your tastebuds call for more exotic flavours. If you’re in that kind of mood, head to Mirch for a giant ‘souvlaki’ of chicken tikka and veggies wrapped in naan bread and served with a sauce that can be as hot as you want it to be.