Koukaki has an old-fashioned, understated charm that has (a little surprisingly for locals) granted it worldwide fame.
Despite not being blessed with any incredible architecture, major historical landmarks or stunning streets and shops, it does combine a sense of cosy residential Athens as it was before the capital was transformed by tourism, with its somewhat off-beat, friendly and unpretentious ambiance.
Koukaki is just a few minute’s walk away from Makriyianni, the Acropolis neighbourhood just above it, which is why it has become a more affordable (years ago) option for Airbnbers and was voted ‘6th Best Neighbourhood in the World’ less than a decade ago. Above all, it is a popular food and drink destination where friends gather to chat away the hours over tasty and often creatively exciting options day and night and it keeps offering pleasant surprises to Athenians and tourists alike.
Here we list the top 10 must-visit Greek and ethnic food spots old and new
O Lolos (5 Georgiou Olymbiou)
A cafe and meze restaurant, Lolos is the kind of place where a “quick afternoon coffee” can easily end up as hours of sipping tsipouro and munching on seafood meze dishes until late at night. Order anything from baked sardines and marinated anchovies to large fresh fish or even yiayia-style keftedakia meatballs and homemade ladera like spetzofai while enjoying a relaxed yet buzzy ambiance.
Kalamaki Bar (15 Dimitrakopoulou & Drakou)
Practically outside the Syngrou Fix metro station, this place is an especially ideal stop to have a delicious family meal. The menu offers a quality choice of modern, simple but also creative dishes like kalamaki of Haloumi cheese, beef, lamb, chicken or Portobello mushrooms accompanied by pita bread, zingy salads and homemade fries in a friendly, clean environment. There is plenty of vegetarian options too.
Guarantee Sandwiches (41 Veikou)
An often-unnoticed classic that has been serving deli-style sandwiches to endless queues of those in the know since the ‘80s, this family-run place has a glass display fridge packed full of mouthwatering cheeses, cold cuts, sauces, chutneys, mustards, grilled veggies, and other fillings and encourages you to dream up your own sandwich, which is made using the freshly baked bread of your choice from nearby (and locally legendary) Takis bakery. They also make fresh fruit and vegetable juices and salads.
7Cactus (7 Dimitrakopoulou)
Whether you’re craving a rich and flavoursome breakfast or any other meal, this eaterie bases its modern, fun and satisfying dishes and snacks on the quality of its ingredients – mainly sourced from around Greece, like Naxos potatoes, Evrytania ham, pies from Mani, cheeses from all over, homemade-style jams and honey. Salads, pasta dishes (try the one with bottarga from Mesolongi), Greek traditional recipes with a creative twist and both sweet and savoury cakes and pies are all there to entice you.
Mani Mani (10 Falirou)
By now this spot is a classic for anyone craving lovingly-made Greek food and a taste of the Peloponnese. Try traditional Greek dishes that are made with innovative and delicate touches – like the fluffy taramosalata with a lemony zing, handmade pies, pasta fried in butter and dressed in creamy xynomyzithra cheese, and lamb slow-baked for 16 hours.
Ines Rincon Mexicano (5 Dimitrakopoulou)
Greek food may rule your palate’s priorities, but it can always be fun to take a break and try some authentic Mexican dishes for a change at this low-key, friendly place. Go for the homemade Tamales, Quesadillas, tacos with dips, chicken slathered in cocoa-based Mole Pomplano sauce and a glass of refreshing Sangria to wash it all down.
Tuk Tuk (40 Veikou)
Another great ethnic food option in Koukaki, catering succulently to the ever-growing Greek love for Asian cuisine. Colourful and zany Thai street food meets Athenian fancy with tasty noodle and rice dishes, coconut-milk and kaffir-lime-infused curries. The dinky store is mostly for takeout but has a few small tables to perch and slurp at.
Skoubri (14 Drakou)
Stuck in the city but craving an island-like seafood meal? Head to this white-washed modern taverna to sample simple fried, grilled or marinated fish as well as seafood-inspired dishes such as prawn kritharoto (made with rice-pasta), salmon tartare and mussels saganaki (with melted cheese).
Dyo Dekares I Oka (29 Anastasiou Zinni)
Created to be reminiscent of an old-style Greek hangout where you can sip ouzo and play backgammon while savouring delicious meze dishes, this place serves classics like kolokythokeftedes, rolled up cheese pie, colourful salads and a good selection of local wines.
Meno Male (10 Veikou)
A relatively recent foodie destination on the Koukaki scene, this Italian-cuisine-themed, all-day restaurant starts your day with an abundant breakfast menu. It serves up pizza made with homemade dough (proved for 48 hours before cooking time) that has already become the talk of the town. Other choices like mushroom tartare, truffle or puttanesca pasta dishes and desserts like sweet pizza and tiramisu also have customers coming back for more.