Attention! This is going to be a ‘delicious’ post! We are exploring Greek islands from a different point of view; this journey is one of gastronomy!
How many of you plan your holidays in Greece to a fine detail? Desperately searching for relaxation during the small “wonder” of Greek summer. Any traveller knows that exploring a place means to also indulge in the delightful tastes and flavours on offer.
Yes, Greek islands offer the finest local delicacies and this is an article for those who look to be taken away by both natural beauty and local gastronomy. This post attempts to provide a look at six islands, notorious for their local cuisine and the most popular dishes and spots suitable for satisfying your appetite and tastebuds!
Important notice: It was very tough for me to choose only six islands, but I had to narrow it down!
Let’s get to know the Greek isles via gastronomy!
The biggest island of Greece is of course the first on the list. So many delicious local specialties!
What to taste:
-Dakos salad, made of hard bread (paximadi or rusks, lightly soaked in water so that they are softened), accompanied with tomato pieces, mizithra cheese and olive oil.
-Gamopilafo, the famous Cretan wedding rice. ‘Gamos’ in Greek means wedding and this kind of rice is served at Cretan weddings and at traditional taverns around the island.
-Kaltsounia, the sweet mini pies, served with honey or mini pies filled with cheese. They may seem similar to other cheese pies you could find around Greece, but taste them and you’ll see that these are unique!
-Also, Sfakianes pites, pies from Sfakia, a mountainous area in the southwestern part of the island. They may seem like the common pancakes, but they are not. The main ingredients are flour, cheese, honey and raki (the traditional Cretan spirit).
-Bougatsa, pastry filled with cream and dusted with powder sugar.
-Hohlioi boubouristoi (fried snails).
-Kserotigana, the honey dipped spiral or butterfly shaped pastries, sprinkled with crushed almonds.
-Cretan Cheeses. Well, I have been to many parts of Crete (Chania, Rethymnon, Sitia, Hersonissos) and it seems that every part has its own cheese. The most famous, though, are graviera, (a hard cheese made of sheep’s milk), anthotiro from Sfakia (white and soft cheese made of goat’s or sheep’s milk), ksigalo from Sitia (creamy textured cheese with rich and slightly sharp taste). There are many others, as well, that can be found in many places throughout Greece, but even these were primarily produced in Crete, such as mizithra, kefalotiri, staka, pichtogalo of Chania.
- Lamb with stamnagathi. Cretan people have their own lamb and they serve it with stamnagathi, a wild leafy green. It’s a Cretan variety, which has become famous internationally as a food ingredient.
- Apaki (smoked pork). A dish of pork made in a traditional Cretan way and not easy to be recreated outside Greece, at least not as the Cretans do it!
- Last but not least, tsikoudia or raki, the famous Cretan spirit.
Have in mind that when Cretan people offer you raki, you really don’t have any other option, than to drink it!
Where to eat
Important notice: There are so many restaurants and tavernas worth mentioning, but unfortunately I cannot include them all!
- For the best taramosalata and slow cooked lamb visit the Ferryman Taverna, in Elounda. It’s been running since 1974.
- Approximately an hour by boat from Elounda, you reach the village of Mochlos. There you should eat at Kohilia Taverna. It serves the best mezedes (bites) ever! Try the dakos salad , the mizithra cheese, marinated sardines and saganaki.
- For delicious snails go to Taverna Kroustas.
- For traditional food go to Kouzina. Try the kaltsounia, dakos salad, lamb with stamnagathi, but also the gemista (stuffed tomatoes and peppers).
- In Tavern Strata try the calf in oven with anthotiro (soft cheese), kalitsounia and apaki.
- In Maridaki you will taste the best fresh fish.
- For delicious bougatsa go to Iordanis in the centre of town.
- In Rakadiko Inodion and Vai Tavern you will eat the best fava, kaltsounia, dakos, ksigalo cheese and pies with honey.
- One more must visit tavern for traditional Cretan delicacies is Ramountzis, at Piskokefalo village.
- Dialeskari Marmara offers the best Sfakiani pita.
- Taverna Vatalos in Fragkokastelo serves all possible local Cretan food. Cheeses, lamb cooked in many ways, apaki, kalitsounia and the bonus is the galaktoboureko at the end of the meal.
- Naxos, Cyclades
Naxos is located at the South Aegean and it’s the largest of the Cyclades complex. When I hear the name ‘Naxos’ one thing that comes to my mind concerning the food is - potatoes! They are very famous and consumed throughout Greece. However, there is more.
What to taste
- Kitron liqueur, made of citron tree leaves, which is widely consumed.
- Pig, pork and goat are used in various Naxian dishes. Among the most known is the ‘pig rosto’, which is pork leg stuffed with garlic and braised in wine and wild rabbit.
- Also, ‘batoudo’ is a dish served during Easter and it consists of lamb stuffed with fennel and aromatic herbs. All dishes are accompanied with local vegetables, such as the Naxian sweet tomato.
- Various local cheeses. ‘Arseniko’ is a hard goat cheese with an intense flavour. ‘Graviera’ of Naxos is also widely known, whilst ‘ximomizithra’ and ‘kopanisti’ are a must try.
- In Naxos, locals combine potatoes with onions. Give it a try.
- Moving on with desserts, ‘melachrino’ is something like a ‘karidopita’ (walnut cake).
Where to eat
- In Oasis you will have the best potatoes and stuffed peppers.
- Elliniko offers tasty baked eggplant, cheese pies and lamb.
- Flisvos Beach Café has amazing potatoes, cheeses and kitro.
- For fresh fish accompanied by a beautiful view visit Palatia Island Restaurant.
- Lefteris in Apeiranthos village is your best option. Try the rooster with wine.
The island of famous chef Nicholaos Tselementes couldn’t be off this list! Sifnos owes its reputation to this local chef, who wrote the first Greek Recipe Book in 1910. Ever since, his name is considered to be a synonym with Greek cooking and recipe books. It’s also important to mention that locals cook in traditional casseroles, something that makes the taste of their dishes unique and authentic!
What to taste
- Mastela- a slow cooked lamb with red wine and vine.
- Revithokeftedes or revithada. These are chickpeas fritters or chickpeas soup.
- Caper salad.
- Local cheeses such as ‘ximomizithra’ and ‘chloromanoura’.
- Orange and anise biscuits, almond macaroons and scones.
Where to eat
- In Chrysso you will find a tavern that makes delicious Greek salad topped with mizithra cheese and caper salad.
- For the best fishfood go to Ω3 in Platis Gialos and don’t miss the tuna tartare and sea bream ceviche. Make sure to book in advance!
- Local cheeses in Meropi, Kamares.
- Breakfast in Rabagas, at Apolonia.
- Mizithra cheese and imam baildi in Tsikali tavern in Vathi.
- For the best mastelo go to Argiris in Kamares.
- In Exambela village you will find many places to taste revithada.
- You should definitely have a drink at the famous local bar named Kavos Sunrise. It’s run by a distinctive man known as ‘Che’, as he is obsessed with Cuba.
- For the best sweet delicacies visit Theodorou Sweet Shop. Try the amygdalota and the bourekia.
There is no doubt that the ‘star’ of the Cyclades is one of the most romantic destinations throughout Greece, offering breathtaking views. Into this scenery add the vast array of delicious food and there- you have it all!
What to taste
- Fava (split peas)
- White aubergines
- Cherry tomatoes that only grow here.
- Chloro cheese (coming from goat’s milk). It’s something like feta cheese, but the taste is milder.
- Domatokeftedes, tomato fried balls, very popular in the island of Santorini.
- Roasted lamb
- Spinach pie
- Brusco, Nichteri and Vissando are the best varieties.
- A type of sweet pie made with mizithra cheese, sugar and mastiha powder.
Where to eat
- Chloro cheese in Psaraki. Also, fish (try the octopus with caper) and the local beer, named Red Donkey.
- Taverna Roza prepares the best local food. Try domatokeftedes, tomatoes and aubergines and don’t miss the rabbit dish.
- Tasty Greek food with a gourmet twist at the fantastic Laokasti.
- In Melitini you will enjoy cold beer with meze platters. Wide variety starting from cheese and fava to desserts. Bonus: The rooftop. Make sure you go there and enjoy the sunset.
- Kyra Katina makes superb domatokeftedes, fava and aubergines.
- 1800 is a must option for discovering all kinds of local flavors accompanied with local Santorinian wine.
- Selini and Kukumavlos are two of the best restaurants in the island, offering local food with gourmet twists.
Folegandros lies on the Southern Cyclades. A small, charming island, with a wild beauty.
What to taste
- Matsata is the best known local food. It’s a fresh pasta dish made with red sauce and served with chicken or rabbit.
- Tarama spread
- Souroto cheese, a salty soft white cheese.
- A delicious cheese pie made with ‘souroto’.
- Karpouzenia, a local dessert made of watermelon.
- Honey and pasteli
Where to eat
- Kritikos is one of the oldest tavernas in Folegandros, famous for its meat.
- Sinantisi in Ano Meria has everything you need! Unbeatable matsata, cheese pies with souroto, local meat and at the end the owners bring you desserts.
- Eva’s Garden is the one for you to taste gourmet Mediterranean flavours.
- Goupi has the best mezedes.
- To enjoy a relaxed evening or night with rakomelo, wine or homemade desserts and mezedes, go to Kafenion Lotzia. Yannis and his mother become your best friends and create a cozy atmosphere.
- Don’t miss the local pies and bougatsa from Artos & Gefsi bakery.
Lemnos is a large island in the North Aegean, still undiscovered but this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it keeps its pure beauty. Lemnos offers a wide variety of things to do, namely presenting the beaches, cultural and historical sightseeing and of course, the food. This is a story in itself!
What to taste
- Can I start with the local wine? Lemnia Gi is one the most famous and widely produced wines in Greece. There are other varieties as well, of course, and you can perfectly explore them through a wine tasting evening. A perfect place to do that is Ktima Chatzigeorgiou. Polina Chatzigeorgiou will show you all about wine. From production to consumption.
- Melichloro cheese, made of sheep and goat milk, hard cheese with rich flavor.
- Kalathaki cheese, a white and soft-medium cheese. Its flavour may remind you of feta, but you will taste the difference.
- Virgin olive oil. ‘Ktima Olon’ is the perfect place to experience the production of pure oil. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Laskaridis will guide you through and will also show you the production stages of the above cheese.
- Fish mezedes (bites). Sardines and anchovies marinated with vinegar and salt.
Where to eat
- Visit the Kotsina village and there you will find the Muragio tavern. Try everything!
- Mantella in Sardes for the best local food.
- The tavern Metaksi Mas in Myrina harbour. The friendly owner, Yiota, welcomes you always!
- Peri Anemwn is again a tavern worth visiting for its Lemnian delicacies.
- Flomari is a traditional yet new age place, close to Amothines.
- Enia (meaning ‘sense’ in Greek). This is modern kafeneion, which serves simple dishes with gourmet variations and is always based on local produce. Don’t miss the octopus and lamb dishes.
- Last but not least, don’t miss visiting the Pezoula- Home of Taste in Moudros. You can try a brunch menu featuring local dishes, such as omelette with melicloro, lalaytes, Mediterranean crab with tomato and eggs, local cheese pie with kalathaki and peppermint. It also offers coffee and drinks, as it’s an all-day place!
OK! Who else is hungry? Kali Orexi!
Alonissos honoured on National Geographic's 'Best of the World' List 2021