In most countries when heading out to eat, you tend to think of finding a good restaurant for an enjoyable meal.
Not in Greece.
Here, the most commonplace to eat at is the local taverna, which is a more casual place that serves delicious and traditional dishes cooked on-site and mostly includes grilled meats, seafood and simple ingredients and flavours that compliment the season.
The Greek dining experience is a lot more laid back and perfect for couples, families, and groups of friends who can order a variety of food that is meant to be shared. At a Greek taverna, there are always salads and sides that are placed in the centre of the table for all to enjoy.
Of course, there are many types of eating establishments in Greece, including many fine dining and Michelin star restaurants, street food joints (mostly Souvlatzidika) and some fast-food chains. However, none are as iconic or popular as the Greek taverna.
While restaurants usually have an extensive menu, tavernas on the other hand specialise in particular dishes and local produce. Depending on location, ones by the sea in summer are normally open for lunch and dinner, whereas others in town are only open at nighttime.
Whereas a restaurant is simply a place where you eat, a taverna provides food and a good vibe.
It doesn’t matter if you are in a city, village, island or remote town, you will always find a taverna in Greece, however, depending on where you are, they may serve different types of foods.
For example, ones by the sea may specialise in seafood and are called Psarotavernas, or Fish Tavernas. Others may offer mainly meats and there is also the Hasapotavernas (the “butcher’s” taverna) which truly specialises in meat. Cut on the premises, the meats are generally of excellent quality, served in good portions and at a great price.
Foods that are typically served at tavernas include salads, grilled meats, seafood dishes, and various mezedes, such as Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) Xorta (old greens), Gigandes (Lima beans), Padzaria (beetroot), Saganaki, Tiganites Patates (homemade chips) and dips.
When you’re in a traditional Greek taverna don’t be surprised if there is no printed menu, it may simply be written on a chalkboard, or your waiter will brief you on the day’s specialties.
Of course, there are tourist traps and some taverns in extremely busy spots may lack authenticity but if you find yourself a good local tavern, you won’t be disappointed with the food or prices, as they really are good value for money.
One thing guaranteed is that at a traditional local Greek taverna, you will be served the freshest and most delicious food available in Greece, and you won’t be going home hungry!