One of the my favorite parts of travel is the opportunity to sample the local, casual cuisine.
I've always been a huge fan of street food. I feel like I get to know the culture on a much deeper level when I experience what the locals are having, not what's being served at the local Michelin star restaurant (though those are fun for different reasons).
In Athens, we stayed right inside the Plaka, a cute, historical area right at the foot of the Acropolis. The neighborhood consists of narrow cobblestone roads and tight buildings all scrunched up next to each other. It's a charming, very walker-friendly area full of restaurants, shops, and cafes. Frankly, I wouldn't stay anywhere else if I were visiting Athens.
After "hiking" up the hill in the morning to see the Acropolis and surrounding sites, we were famished by lunchtime. What lovely Greek food could we find in the Plaka?
My friend is a Rick Steves junkie and swears by his book for all her European travel. Rick recommended a few restaurants in and around the Plaka that were inexpensive and quite tasty. We decided to eat at one called Thanasis, right on the edge of the Plaka in an area called Monastiraki square.
Since the weather was nice, we ate outside. The restaurant is huge and seats probably over a hundred. The place was packed with locals and tourists alike.
The freshly made pita bread all over Greece is so good. It's soft, warm, and just downright addictive. Even though we were full, we couldn't help but continue to munch on the bread!
One thing we quickly learned about Greek salads - they have no lettuce! Frankly, I much prefer the salads in Greece compared to the "Greek salads" we get here in the US. I love the chunky mixture of fresh ingredients - tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and olives. No filler! Of course, you must drizzle on some gorgeous olive oil plus add a nice chunk of feta cheese.
We thought we were getting a real salad when we ordered the "cheese salad." Instead, it's more like a whipped feta spread, which was good, but hard to finish without eating too much bread!
We then ordered a bunch of things on the menu to try. It's great fun traveling with a slightly bigger group because you get to try so many more things! My favorite from that meal? The chicken souvlaki, which was absolutely incredible. It was among the best chicken I'd ever had - hot, juicy, tender, and full of delicious spices.
Similarly, the lamb sausage souvlakis were juicy, perfectly seasoned, and delicious as well.
I guess it takes a lot of muscle power to carry so many gyros all day long!
Fries just seem to be a part of every culture! In Greece, they put fries inside the gyros!
It's easy to find souvlakis, gyros, and the like all over Greece. At most of these shops, you can choose between various types of meats. Here in a tiny place near the bus stop in Oia, Santorini, we have a choice of lamb (left) or chicken (right). You can see pita bread grilling at the right of the rotating meat.
Here are some chicken gyros we had at another street side gyro place in Oia, Santorini.
Back to Athens!
After enjoying a nice lunch in the Plaka area, you can just walk around and enjoy the ancient sites of Athens. There's so much to see within walking distance of the Plaka.
Old Roman style ruins.
You can't forget the Acropolis (which is just up the hill . . .)
And surrounding buildings . . .
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