Greece is known to be a culinary heaven and we are here to prove our reputation true. As self-acclaimed, die-hard foodies ourselves, let us guide you through Athens’ street food scene, introducing you to all the Greek flavors you’ll be thanking us for trying.
Although not made from the hands of our grandmothers, Athens’s street food complies with the rules of the Mediterranean diet, which means that although a bit more calorie-heavy, it is still made with fresh ingredients from the Greek land, and with olive oil prevailing over butter. Found in conventional shops, or more widely in canteens and food trucks all around the city, Athens’ street food scene offers the ultimate comfort dishes and the best cure to a hangover, which is the reason why street food vendors usually stay open until the early morning hours, catering for Athens’ party people.
Here, we present to you a guide to Athens’ street food, suggesting the types of street food you can find in Greece’s capital and the best place to try them!
Souvlaki wrap - credits: gioiak2/www.depositphotos.com
Of course, the all-time classic souvlaki couldn’t be anywhere else but at the top of the list, as it is taking Athens’ street food scene by storm! One of the most common of visitors’ misconceptions of Greek street food is regarding the distinction between gyros and souvlaki. Souvlaki refers to the world-famous pita wrap, while gyros refers to the pork that is cooked slowly on a vertical rotisserie and is served in strips and small slices. Souvlaki consists of grilled meat, or gyros, garnished with sliced tomatoes and onions, fried potatoes, tzatziki, and wrapped in a lightly grilled pita. It’s no coincidence souvlaki is the most popular street food in Greece and one of the most popular in the world; it tastes exactly as magical as it sounds! If you would like to experience a truly delicious souvlaki, away from the mediocre, overpriced tourist traps, ‘Kostas’, a tiny souvlaki shop in the middle of Agias Irinis square, is what you’re looking for. Adored by locals, the addition of a secret red sauce -no one knows the ingredients of- makes Kostas’ souvlaki one of its kind, and an experience everyone should indulge in at least once in their lifetime!
Collection of pies from Ariston bakery - credits: https://tastepicks.wordpress.com/
Greeks’ culinary preferences have derived from their rich tradition throughout history, and pies are no exception. The origins of the pie dates to ancient Greece, where they were part of people’s daily diets, with one of the most common ones consisting of honey, cheese and olive oil. Today, pies have yet to lose their popularity, remaining one of the top street food choices. One trip to ‘Ariston’ -which means ‘excellent’ in Greek, and rightfully so- will convince you of the scrumptious taste of this Greek delicacy. There, you will have the opportunity to try every pie under the moon, both sweet and savory. Ariston’s specialty, however, is the ‘kourou’ dough cheese pie, being its best-seller since its establishment in 1906. ‘The Pie Shop’ is another excellent choice for you to try fresh individual pies not only from Greece, but from all over the world. The tiny, cozy and very busy shop uses fresh Greek ingredients and the expertise of a well-traveled chef. Last but not least, ‘Meliartos’ offers a wide variety of pies, among other baked goods, that never fail to amaze its guests. Its offerings range from traditional to more contemporary and creative recipes that invite both locals and visitors to try them. Its central location on Ermou Street makes it irresistible for a tasty break amidst your wandering in Athens.
Koulouri stand - credits: https://travelpassionate.com
Eaten as breakfast or as a snack -or even as lunch and dinner, if you share our passion for it- this yummy creation is well worth a mention in Athens’ street food scene. Koulouri is a traditional delicacy that has been the trademark in every bakery’s production through centuries; a product both delicious and pure, with flour, water, salt, sesame and yeast being the only ingredients used for its preparation. To taste a truly traditional Koulouri, you need to buy it from the famous bakery called ‘To Koulouri tou Psirri’. Established in the 1960s, the acclaimed bakery offers every variation of Koulouri you can come up with, both savory and sweet. Thankfully, if you like to try it, you don’t need to go all the way to Psirri neighborhood, where the bakery is located. Scattered across the center of Athens, you can find numerous vendors under yellow and white-striped tents; they all sell the same product, freshly baked by ‘To Koulouri tou Psirri’. Do you want to know the best part? The traditional Koulouri costs only 0,50€ and has around 90 calories!
Greek fish and seafood meze
Zisis, Food in a Cone - credits: https://www.2foodtrippers.com/
Surrounded by sea, Greece can’t help but have fish and other seafood seated deep within its culinary culture. Fresh fish can be found almost everywhere; even in the heart of the bustling city. ‘Zisis, Fish in a cone’ is a fairly recent addition to Athens’ street food offerings, but its newness hasn’t been a drawback to its incredible success. The on-the-go seafood shop offers fresh fried fish in a paper cone, in true ‘fish and chips’ fashion, keeping visitors and locals well-fed. Zisis’ food is takeaway, but it’s not junk food. It may be cheap, but its quality doesn’t mirror its price; it’s healthy, nutritious food on the naughty side of delicious. Its fish balls and fried prawn are some of our favorite picks, however, you will find there almost every kind of fish you can think of, including the traditional Greek meze of grilled octopus. ‘Zisis, Fish in a cone’, is an unconventional type of Greek street food and a great alternative to people wanting to stay away from meat.
Falafel wrap in the making - credits: http://www.greece-is.com/
Vegetarian street food in Athens exists and is no way, shape or form lacking the delectable flavor of the rest of Athens’ street food suggestions! Falafel, the chickpea dish, most commonly consumed in a wrap, that has stolen the heart of many vegetarian and non-vegetarians around the world, is popular in the city of Athens as well and ‘Falafellas’, a tiny shop located in one of Athens’ city center busiest streets, is incontrovertible proof. With a long queue forming outside the shop daily as soon as it opens at 12 pm, ‘Falafellas’ marries the Greek cuisine to Middle Eastern flavors. You can choose between a small or a big wrap, consisting of falafel, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, aubergine, tahini sauce, yogurt sauce and red sauce. The combination of luscious flavors and affordable prices make ‘Falafellas’ a top choice for both locals and visitors. Tip: try the hummus dip -it’s to die for- and go there as early as possible to avoid waiting in the line!
Latin American and Ethnic
'Etnico' street food shop - credits: http://popaganda.gr/
As you’ve already noticed, Athens’ street food is not limited to traditional Greek dishes like souvlaki. On the contrary, it is rather diverse, with tasty dishes from all over the world. The Ethnic and Latin American cuisine has slowly but surely gained a spot in the Athenian street food market, giving locals the opportunity to try flavors completely foreign to them, while at the same time presenting Athens’ visitors with an abundance of choices. Flavors from Mexico, India, Arab countries and Southeast Asia combined, have taken over one of the hippest streets of Athens’ city center, Kolokotroni street, with ‘Etnico’, a street food shop known for its flavorful creations, such as the Mexican Chimichanga and Indian Samosas. What’s more, the menu of ‘Los Loros’, a Venezuelan and Columbian street food shop close to Syntagma square, is filled with dishes Greeks may not be able to pronounce, but are more than able to devour! In ‘Los Loros’ you get to choose your meal’s base and filling, creating a personalized dish filled with delicious, fresh and high-quality ingredients. The ‘Chicharrón’ and ‘Pabellón’ fillings are our absolute favorites, however, if you’re after a vegetarian option, the ‘Caraotas’ leaves nothing to be desired.
Juicy burger from 'Hot Hot Burger' street food shop - credits: https://www.manual.gr
Although a typically American street food, Athens doesn’t lack in burger shops, always putting a Greek twist in everything they make. As both a cost-efficient and utterly filling option, burgers have been adopted into the Greek gastronomy, being vastly available in every other corner of the capital. The most succulent burgers in Athens can be found in ‘Hot Hot Burger’, a burger spot that monopolizes the interest of locals, offering the best prices on the market. Being established in 2012, ‘Hot Hot Burger’ soon became a success story, with its branch in the center of Athens becoming an emblematic figure in Athens’ street food arena, armed with its distinctive and innovative design, clearly influenced by the 50s and 60s, as well as its creative, yummy recipes. Additionally, if you’re a fan of barbeque, ‘Po' Boys BBQ’ is right up your street! It first started as a pop-up food truck, but now has its own space in the heart of Athens, proving to its guest that it is worthy of its virtuous reputation. If you want to have a true barbeque experience, try its traditional New Orleans recipes, such as brisket, Crispy Pork Belly and Pulled Pork in burgers, paired with a Greek beer!
Hot dog - credits: https://gr.askmen.com
There is no way we could leave out of our list one of the most popular street foods in the world: the naughty comfort food with the funny name, hot dog. Served with the simple dressings of mustard and ketchup, or enriched with a variety of ingredients, such as pickles, coleslaw, and different kinds of onions, hot-dogs are a versatile treat, designed to suit everyone’s taste. ‘Chef and the dog’, in Kolonaki neighborhood, has taken hot-dog a step further, coming up with gourmet recipes that elevate the simple street food specialty to a mouthwatering delicacy. With dishes such as ‘Katsu Dog’, a Japanese version of our beloved street food, consisting of breaded sausage, wasabi mayonnaise, tonkatsu sauce, pickled ginger, carrot and finely chopped cabbage, ‘Chef and the dog’ has managed to think outside the box, offering dishes made with lots of creativity and love. If you take a more conventional route down hot-dog-land, you’ll come across ‘Johnnie Hot Dog’, a food truck on Syggrou street, famous among locals, that has become a sensation among the late-night crowd looking for something to eat after a night of drinking. Its menu is simple, while the ingredients’ top-quality award those who choose to indulge in it.
The canteen in Mixalakopoulou street - credits: https://www.lifo.gr
There is a soft spot for late-night sandwiches in all the Athenians’ hearts. If you think we are having a laugh, a stroll around Athens’ streets by night will easily prove our point; numerous food trucks serving homemade sandwiches are scattered across the streets, especially outside clubs and bars. Canteens and food trucks are emblematic to Greek street food; they are well-known and well-loved, being often the topic of discussion among friends. The canteen on Mixalakopoulou street is an urban food legend and an oasis for Athens’s night owls seeking a post-drinks food bliss. It is one of the longest-standing food canteens in Athens and a point of reference for the city’s socialites and foodies. There is no true Athenian who hasn’t tasted one of the famous canteen’s sandwiches. The chicken nugget sandwich is one of its best-sellers, with its reputation having exceeded the capital's boundaries. Just as famous, the canteen on Mavili square has even earned a mention in one of Greece’s most popular songs! Although this food spot started out in 1989 as a canteen -and is still called a canteen- its success resulted in the owner opening a regular shop, 2 feet away from where the canteen used to stand; the shop even resembles a food truck for old time’s sake. The well-known canteen of Mavili square that has been feeding the nightly Athenian visitors for over 25 years, serves mouth-watering customized sandwiches that satisfy the most demanding of clients. The sausage sandwich is the canteen’s specialty; try it at your own risk as it will ruin you for all other sandwiches once and for all! Despite being located a bit further away from Athens’ city center, in the northern suburbs of the city, ‘Meraklis canteen’, or the ‘king of cured meats’, as it is most commonly known among the locals, deserves an honorable mention. Its cured meat sandwich is out of this world, consisting of everything you can possibly think of: sausage, cheese salad, potatoes, different kinds of cheese slices, an array of cured meats and a huge slice of mortadella meat on top. Its somewhat isolated location may be hard to find, but it is more than worth the effort!
Loukoumades from 'Lukumades" shop - credits: http://www.greekguide.com
Do you have a sweet tooth? Well, so do we! Therefore, we wouldn’t dare disappoint those of you interested in discovering the sweet side of Athens’ street food. In a beautiful two-story residence in Aiolou street, where the first pharmacy of the city once operated, the first pastry shop of Athens was established in 1923 under the name ‘Krinos’, with the traditional Greek donut-like dessert of loukoumades swiftly becoming its specialty. Today, it still serves magnificent loukoumades, keeping both the recipe and shape traditional, with the donuts sporting a hole in the middle and being served hot, crisp, doused in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. An oldie but a goodie, a trip to ‘Krinos’ for loukoumades accompanied by a cup of traditional Greek coffee will transport you back in time, giving you a taste of Greece’s true essence. A little further down the road, you will come across another shop selling loukoumades, carrying the -oh, so original- name of ‘Lukumades’. In total contrast with the uninspired name, ‘Lukumades’ offers a deliciously creative menu that transforms the traditional Greek dessert into a work of art. A lot less conventional and a lot more fashionable than ‘Krinos’, ‘Lukumades’ loves creating a paradox; there, you can even find savory loukoumades, sprinkled with feta or mizithra cheese!
Takeaway Cocktails (yeap, you heard that right!)
TYCO takeaway cocktail - credits: https://www.athensvoice.gr
After giving you a medley of suggestions regarding Athens’ street food, it is time to wash down the savory and sweet goodies. ‘TYCO’ -with its name being the acronym of ‘Take Your Cocktail Out’- is a pioneering initiative that has elevated Athens’ street food on a whole other level. There, from 12 pm until 2 am you can take your cocktail on the go and enjoy a walk around the historical city. The menu consists of a wide selection of drinks and cocktails in impressively affordable prices, starting from 5€ - or 4.5€ if you opt for the non-alcoholic concoctions. If you’d rather enjoy your drink sitting down, you can relax on the stylish stools of the shop. It’s your vacation after all! You can leave sobriety behind; ‘TYCO’ will definitely help you with this.
As dinner or as a hangover cure, Athens’ street food is a good enough reason, in and of itself, for someone to move to Greece. In typical Greek fashion, the Greek street food scene has its own long and valuable history, offering happiness in just one bite!
If you want to taste everything that Athens has to offer, grab the opportunity to join us on an Athens for foodies tour – or a night food and wine tasting if you love wine - to get a local’s insight into the Greek gastronomy.
Whatever your preferences are, we are sure to have a common objective: good food! Follow our guide to the diverse street food scene of Athens and we promise you won’t regret not even one calorie consumed!