Eating in Greece - Useful Information

Lycabettus Restaurant in Santorini

Lycabettus Restaurant in in Santorini

Below, you can find all the information about eating in Greece, from the kinds of eateries to typical Greek behavior when it comes to dining.

Types of establishments MealtimesReservationsCommunicationWater TippingSpecial Menus
Tourist Traps Extra Facts

A simple Google search evidences that Greece always makes it to the top 10 of the best cuisines in the world. With dozens of local dishes and a major love for food, Greeks are the people all foodies want for friends! At the same time, beyond the variety of flavors and the excellence of the local ingredients, eating in Greece is not only about the consumption of food but also the pleasure gained from creating and sharing it. This innate passion for food is the main reason behind the great number and wide range of restaurants in Greece.

In this guide, we present all the information about restaurants in Greece. Keep on reading to find out everything from types of eateries to mealtimes, tipping, and more!


Types of Establishments


Practically, taverns are what one imagines as an authentic Greek restaurant. Tavern (or taverna as they call it in Greek) is the most usual type of eatery across the country. The main characteristics of such establishments are the traditional menu (which may be quite limited), the simple design, and the groups of friends and families sitting at its tables. Typically, the menu includes traditional appetizers like tzatziki and saganaki, salads, meat, and oven-cooked dishes. The term “tavern” is very general and can be divided into subcategories. The most common is the fish tavern (psarotaverna), where fresh fish and seafood are the central ingredients comprising the menu. For that reason, those establishments are mainly seafront. Mezedopolio, ouzeri, and tsipouradiko are places focused not only on food but also on alcoholic drinks. They specialize in meze, i.e. small plates that are meant to be shared and accompany alcohol (quite similar to tapas of Spanish cuisine). Wine, ouzo, tsipouro, and beer are the main spirits on the menu. Magirio is an authentic taverna that offers customers traditional food (usually marmite- or oven-made) at reasonable prices. These eateries may be small, but their portions are hearty! Koutouki is something similar to magirio. Lastly, patsatzidiko is a unique type of tavern for the non-squeamish. Usually busy during the early morning hours, a patsatzidiko serves patsas (tripe soup). Patsas is known for calming an upset stomach and being the perfect cure for hangovers.

Fine Dining Restaurants

When using the word “restaurant”, Greeks usually refer to a more upscale eating establishment than a tavern. However, not all restaurants are fine dining restaurants. Fine dining restaurants are found in big cities like Athens and Thessaloniki and cosmopolitan destinations like Santorini and Mykonos. Visitors who want to taste the epitome of the Greek gastronomic scene can visit one of the Michelin-starred restaurants in Greece. They are all situated in stunning venues in Athens and offer a unique culinary experience. Some of the most opulent fine-dining restaurants include Spondi and Hytra in the center of Athens, Varoulko Seaside in Piraeus and Selene in Santorini.

Fast Food

Even though some fast-food chains like McDonalds and KFC have quite a few shops in the big cities, locals tend to head to eateries with Greek street food when they feel hungry. And why would they prefer a hamburger or chicken nuggets when they have souvlaki, pies with all kinds of stuffings, koulouri, and many more? Fast food restaurants differ from one another; some have dozens of tables spread across a large space, while others have no sitting areas at all. Souvlaki and gyros in particular are offered locally in every area of Greece, even in small or remote villages, and are a must-try for every meat eater who visits the country.


Ethnic restaurants could not be missing from our guide. Despite being a minority in the gastronomic scene, restaurants serving traditional dishes of several nations are found in Greece. Athens has the largest number of ethnic restaurants in Greece and, consequently, the widest range of cuisines and flavors. Other places that are considered international destinations host some ethnic restaurants, too. Japanese cuisine, especially sushi, has gained many fans over the last few years, making it one of the most popular ethnic cuisines in Greece along with Chinese. Trying Vietnamese, Thai, and Middle Eastern foods is also possible. Note that falafel made in a shop that specializes in it is usually of excellent quality. Last but not least, don’t forget that Greeks and Turks share a lot when it comes to gastronomy. When Pontic Greeks and Greeks from Asia Minor settled in Greece in the early 20th century, they brought their culinary knowledge and habits with them. Politiki cuisine, as they call it, is not reminiscent of the Mediterranean diet, since (similarly to Turkish and Levantine cuisine) many spices like cumin and cinnamon are used. Restaurants offering such dishes are plenty, too.



Locals are very flexible in terms of mealtimes. Greece, along with a few other countries (Italy, Spain, Croatia, and Portugal), is a place where people eat late.
People in northern Europe dine around 18:00, while in central Europe the average dinnertime is 20:00. In Greece, though, people may eat their last meal even at 23:00! That results from the sunny weather, good climate, and their love for food. Especially during summer, when the sun sets around 21:00, many Greeks won’t have dinner before it gets completely dark outside.
Greeks generally eat lunch between 12:00 and 17:00 and dinner between 18:00 and 23:00. On average, lunch is served around 14:00, and dinner at around 21:00. Especially in the case of dinner, restaurants receive their most customers between 20:00 and 22:00, so it is strongly recommended to book your table in advance if you want to dine in a specific restaurant around that time.
Restaurants in Greece are usually open until midnight, or one to two hours after. Even if you arrive as late as 23:00, most establishments will probably serve you. Lastly, some canteens and fast food chains, mainly located in the cities and highly popular destinations, stay open until the early morning hours (04:00 to 06:00) to satisfy those who get hungry after their night out. Such establishments get very busy on Fridays and Saturdays.



The need to reserve a table is related to two parameters - the restaurant’s location and the time of the year. Making a reservation is almost mandatory if you want to eat at a renowned restaurant in a tourist destination during the high season. In the cases of Santorini and Mykonos, customers who visit in July or August may book a table some weeks in advance to ensure tasting the gastronomic creations of the top chefs cooking there. In mainland destinations and the rest of the islands, calling the restaurant a few days in advance will work just fine. Going out for dinner without a reservation on Friday or Saturday or for lunch on Saturday or Sunday in a city like Athens is equally risky. That applies to every season and also on National Holidays. Since people of all ages tend to go out on those days, you may notice that both fancy and traditional restaurants get crowded.



Overall, communication is not a problem in restaurants in Greece. In tourist destinations, it is nearly impossible for the personnel to not understand and speak English fluently. Menus are written in both Greek and English and, in cosmopolitan places like Mykonos and Santorini, you may find them translated into other languages as well. Even in taverns that are off the beaten track, almost all waiters understand basic English. However, if you realize that the staff doesn’t speak English, don’t panic - Greeks are very hospitable and will do anything to attend to their guests! Similarly to Italians, they practice nonverbal communication extensively, so they may use gestures, facial expressions, or sounds to help you understand what they are trying to tell you!



In general, a 1-liter water bottle will probably be brought to your table after you sit in a restaurant, usually charged 1 - 3€. Most islands rely on bottled water due to increased salinity. On the other hand, tap water is potable in big cities of mainland Greece (Athens, Thessaloniki, etc.). There, customers may be asked if they prefer tap or bottled water. In contrast to bottled water, tap water is not charged. Greeks drink mineral water, so no waiter will bring you carbonated water unless you request it. However, don’t be surprised if the establishment doesn’t have sparkling water at all. It is most likely to find this type of water in restaurants that welcome many visitors from abroad.



Tipping is not mandatory or strictly regulated by percentage. However, leaving no tip at all is perceived as dissatisfaction with the restaurant’s food and/or service. A tip of 3 to 5 euros is fine for small orders. For large orders, it is safe to leave a tip equal to 5% - 10% of the total cost. This understood gesture is considered the most appropriate.


Special Menus (Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Kid Meals)

Let us start by saying one thing: Greeks love animal products! Meat, fish, seafood, eggs, and cheese are the protagonists of numerous dishes, and the average household will likely have all those mentioned above at any time. In the countryside and the islands, a large number of inhabitants are livestock farmers and fishermen selling their products to the local taverns. The majority of dishes in a typical restaurant or tavern have animal products as protagonists and, of course, some of the most renowned Greek dishes include meat, fish, or dairy products. For instance, souvlaki is made from pork or chicken, moussaka has minced beef, the main ingredient of tzatziki is yogurt and taramosalata is a dip made from the roe of cod.

All in all, veganism is not common in Greece and it is safe to say that vegans will have the roughest time when it comes to dining. The bad news is that only large cities and busy tourist places host (exclusively) vegan establishments. The destinations that are the most suitable for vegans are Athens, Santorini, Crete, and Mykonos. The good news is that you will find some vegan options even in typical restaurants and taverns all around Greece! Thanks to the rich fertile soil and good climate, many fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and nuts are produced in Greece. Some traditional dishes are vegan, too. So, unless you somehow end up in a meat tavern, you will probably not be starving!
Some palatable vegan options you can try in Greek restaurants are:
- Fava (yellow split peas topped with olive oil and onion)
- Gemista (baked vegetables stuffed with rice and herbs, usually accompanied by potatoes)
- Dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice)
- Fasolada or Gigantes (beans cooked with herbs)
- Vlita (boiled leaves of purple amaranth topped with oil, garlic, and lemon or vinegar)
- Skordalia (mashed potatoes with much garlic)
- Greek salad (horiatiki) without feta cheese

Vegetarians and pescetarians, on the other hand, will not be so limited, as animal by-products, fish, and shellfish are included in a plethora of dishes. Dishes that you can find in Greek restaurants and should not skip trying are spanakopita (spinach pie with or without feta cheese in it), dakos (a Cretan salad with rusks, feta cheese, tomato, and olive oil), and, of course, tzatziki!

The fact that Greeks love animal products but also offer produce of excellent quality is convenient for people who follow a gluten-free diet. However, make sure to inform your waiter about your diet. Especially if you avoid gluten due to celiac disease or other health-related reasons, it is essential to confirm that cross-contamination will not occur. Keep in mind, though, that people who live in remote and rural regions and follow the more traditional way of life may not be aware of what gluten is. In that case, you have to be specific about what you can and can’t eat.

Lastly, note that it is rare to find a kids’ meal in a Greek restaurant. Nonetheless, some authentic Greek dishes are like international go-tos. Children will most definitely enjoy a portion of keftedakia (small fried meatballs), crispy french fries, calamari (fried squid), and dishes with cheese, like tiropita (cheese pie) or saganaki (fried cheese).


Tourist traps

Unfortunately, tourist destinations come with tourist traps and that applies to restaurants, too. Such establishments sit close to the landmarks in the busiest areas of the top Greek destinations. Some examples are Thissio and Monastriaki in Athens, the Old Town of Rhodes, and Little Venice in Mykonos. In the case of restaurants, a few indicators that usually give away tourist traps include:
- No Greek customers
- A wide range of options, including all “stereotypical” Greek foods (moussaka, souvlaki, calamari, Greek salad, dolmades, etc.)
- An employee standing outside and trying to persuade you to sit at a table
- A large sign depicting foods or a catalog without prices


Some extra facts

Signal to the waiter
It is common for visitors to expect the waiter to collect the plates when they finish their meal and then bring the bill immediately; that is unlikely to happen in Greece. In fact, it is borderline rude for the waiter to hand the bill to the customer without being asked to do so. Eating out is equal to relaxing, having fun, and overall enjoying the whole experience, so when a restaurant asks for payment it looks like an attempt to get rid of the customer in the eyes of Greeks! Waiters won’t approach you unless you call them for something and will ask if you are satisfied with your meal while clearing the table. When you are ready to ask for the bill, just signal to the waiter with your hand or pretend that you are writing something on your palm (like a mime would).

Sharing is caring
In other countries, an ordinary conversation succeeding a look at the menu would be “I will have a salad and a bowl of soup, what will you have?”; not in Greece, though. As said, Greeks view eating out as an opportunity to spend time with their loved ones, not only to consume food. Here, people prefer to order plates “for the middle”, meaning everyone will get a portion of each dish.

Free dessert
Being served a plate of dessert without ordering it is a common practice in Greek taverns. After asking for the bill, the waiter may bring you a plate of yogurt with jam, a syrupy sweet, halvas (semolina cake), or fresh fruit (watermelon is the most popular during summer). Alternatively, you may be offered a digestif shot, like limoncello or mastiha. In Crete, it is a custom to offer a shot of raki to guests.

Cats, cats, cats!
In Greece, cats are everywhere, and restaurants are no exception! The little furry creatures approach the customers, who usually throw them leftovers such as fishbones, seashells, and greaves. In that way, no food gets thrown away and everyone present at the restaurant gets full! Those cats are used to people and will either be very friendly, stand by your table, or even allow you to pet them, or be very calm and quiet. You will encounter them in restaurants and taverns with tables in an open space, mostly on the Greek islands.