We want to start this blog post by telling you how absolutely sacred the delicious souvlaki is for all fellow Greeks. We love it, we savor it, we bow down to it. Unlike most foods in the world -chocolate included- we have yet to find a single living soul that doesn’t love so souvlaki.
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Souvlaki, or in plural souvlakia, is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat -and sometimes vegetables' grilled on a skewer. The main confusion around the famous Greek delicacy is regarding the distinction between souvlaki and gyro. While, as mentioned before, souvlaki refers to pieces of pork or chicken on a skewer, gyros refers to the same kinds of meat, this time cooked on a vertical rotisserie.
Once cooked, the meat is sliced off the rotisserie or taken off the skewer and is put on round pita bread with lettuce, tomato, onions, and tzatziki, which is the key ingredient that gives souvlaki its delicious and authentic Greek taste. In some souvlaki shops, which are scattered all across Greece taking up almost every corner of the country, you can have your souvlaki wrap with beefteki, the Greek equivalent of burger meat. Souvlaki is served wrapped in a wax paper, which helps it keep its shape and it is designed to be consumed like a sandwich.
Souvlaki counts close to 4000 years of existence, with its recipe being known since antiquity. Ancient Greek writer Athenaeus mentions a dish very similar to souvlaki in its work titles Deipnosofistes, consisting of pieces of roasted meat, pita bread, cheese, and dill served with a broth. A version of souvlaki made with intestines is mentioned in Roman texts of the 1st century AD. The word "souvlaki" comes from the word 'souvla' which translates to 'spit', which in turn comes from the Latin word subula.
Where to eat the best souvlaki
However, we're not here for mediocracy, We're here to show you around the absolute best places to eat souvlaki in Athens; those places that have gained the trust of the locals through the years and will make you salivate with the aromas coming off of their kitchen alone.
We hope you realize how seriously we take this responsibility; we won’t let anyone and anything ruin the name of souvlaki. One point to be made is the distinction between souvlaki and gyro. While souvlaki refers to pieces of pork or chicken on a skewer, gyros refers to the same kinds of meat, this time cooked on a vertical rotisserie.
Fair warning: don’t expect any posh eateries here; the best souvlaki can be found in tucked-away tiny shops no one would spare a second glance on, with only a few if any sitting tables. As with everything though, looks can be deceiving. We hope you visit all or some of these souvlaki shops once you visit Athens:
Kostas' Souvlaki - credits: https://www.2foodtrippers.com/athens-souvlaki-guide/
Let’s start with the most popular of the bunch. Located in the vibrant Agias Irinis Square at the same spot since 1984 -well until a couple of months ago when it moved 5 meters to the left- long before Agia Irini Square became trendy.
High-quality meat screws, juicy beef burgers, and homemade hot sauce that the owner, Kostas himself, calls his ‘medicine’ are the elements that make this souvlaki a treat to the senses. Indeed, Kostas’ souvlaki is soul medication and no one can tell us any different!
It is no coincidence that queues are formed outside the small shop that looks like it has come from a past era every single day. Just keep in mind that Kostas closes early in the afternoon -why wouldn’t he?- so make sure to visit it relatively early.
Address: 2 Agia Eirini Square, tel. 210 3232971
Kostas - credits: https://www.greeceandaround.com/
The secret of success must be in the name because there is another Kostas that has stolen the Athenians’ heart with its out-of-this-world souvlaki! Located very close to the emblematic Syntagma Square, in a little alley that goes unnoticed to the unsuspected passer-by, Kostas’ souvlaki is the real deal.
The legendary shop serves souvlaki that exclusively includes perfectly-cooked pita bread, pork skewers, tomato, parsley, onion, yogurt sauce, and -optionally- loads of hot paprika. No fries, no gyros, no fancy meats, no mambo jumbo of any kind. Kostas was first established in 1950 in Plaka.
Today, the tradition continues in the hand of the owner’s grandson in a different Athenian neighborhood, however, the famous souvlaki remains simple yet nothing short of exquisite.
If you decide to visit this culinary paradise, please note that you should be armed with patience, as there is almost always a line of people waiting from early noon till early afternoon -around 3.30 pm- when the shop closes for the day; with the slogan of the beloved souvlaki shop being ‘no stress’ since the very beginning, one would expect nothing less. What better lunch after an Acropolis tour?
Address: 5 Pentelis, Athens, tel. 210 3228502
Hoocut - credits: https://www.greekgastronomyguide.gr/
A fairly new addition to the souvlaki industry -and the newest one on this list- everyone who has tried the culinary masterpiece that is Hoocut’s souvlaki can’t stop raving about it! Hoocut is another souvlaki shop that has opened its doors in the colorful Agias Irinis Square, right on the trendy Aiolou street, this one, however, has come to rock the boat of Athens’ streets food scene, giving a modern spin on all-time favorite classic delicacies.
Created by the 5 chefs of Cookoovya restaurant, a favorite Athenian restaurant, Hoocut offers an alternative to the cult-classic souvlaki shop that is not different for the sake of being different but has rather enhanced and added to the age-old souvlaki tradition with creations that have delighted even the most difficult of local customers.
The shop itself is large with a high ceiling and encompasses four different "shops": an oven, a grocery store, a butcher’s, and a grill, while right in the center of the shop, there is a large heated marble counter that collects the ingredients from the other sections and transforms them into the familiar souvlaki wrap we all know and love.
There, you can find 4 meat choices: chicken, pork, beef, and mutton, all baked right before your eyes and finely chopped. The essential pita bread is also kneaded and baked on-site, while there are a number of sauces you can choose from to accompany your souvlaki. All in all, a delightful, innovative addition to Athens’ souvlaki culture you should try the first chance you get!
Address: 9 Agias Irinis Square, Athens, tel. 210 3240026
Elvis - credits: https://popaganda.gr/
Now, we were a bit skeptical about including Elvis in this list because it has broken my heart time and time again. The reason why? It doesn’t offer souvlaki wraps, just meat screws with delicious well-baked pita bread on the side.
Yes, it is one of the best-tasting skewers in the city but Elvis, king of rock, why would you do that to us? Why? All jokes aside, in Elvis, you can find delicious, high-quality meat, crispy fries and a shot of traditional ‘raki’ on the house while you wait for your order.
Despite not offering wraps, you can choose between pork and chicken skewers, kebabs, rustic sausage, and dreamy pork chops, all served with a side of pita bread (whole, corn, and wheat), fries and accompanied by the secret delicious yellow sauce the locals go bananas for.
The shop is expectedly decorated with everything Elvis, from posters and photos to figurines in various sizes. Initially, Elvis was located in the neighborhood of Kerameikos, however, in recent years, and due to its rising popularity, a second shop opened in the neighborhood of Pagkrati right next to the popular ‘Chelsea Hotel’ bar, following both the quality and the aesthetic of the original shop.
Both Elvis souvlaki shops open early at noon and close late at night, so they are perfect for those who like to treat themselves after a wild night out; party animals galore!
Addresses: 29 Plateon (Leonidou), Kerameikos and
3 Archimedes, Pagrati, Plastira Square, tel.21 0756 6066
Lefteris - credits: https://www.nou-pou.gr/
Located in the lively square of Nea Smyrni, a cute neighborhood on the south side of Athens that doesn’t gather the travelers’ attention, Lefteris has been the favorite Athens street food among locals since it opened the doors of its tiny souvlaki shop on Omirou street around 60 years ago.
Known for its famous customers, as it has served some of the biggest names in Greek show business, the quality of Lefteris’ souvlaki is non-negotiable. The shop remains family-run to this day, with the sons and grandsons of Lefteri taking the lead and living up to the family name by maintaining the signature value of the souvlaki the locals know and love.
As with most traditional family-run souvlaki shops that have stood the test of time, Lefteris is very strict about what the souvlaki wrap is served with; there are no gyros meat to be found, fries are not included, and any kind of sauce, including tzatziki, stays out of the wonderful wrap and is only served on the side, even if you literally beg the staff to put it inside your souvlaki.
The reason for that is that Lefteris doesn’t want to compromise the quality of the pita bread and wants to highlight the incredible taste of the meat without too many flavors getting in the way. Therefore, during your visit to this culinary gem, you’ll have the opportunity to taste souvlaki with either pork, chicken beef burger, kebab or sausage, pita bread that is baked to perfection on the grill without any kind of fat on it, tomato, onion mixed with parsley, salt and pepper and -if you’ve opted for the chicken skewer- bacon and green peppers.
Lefteris remains closed on Sundays as the pita bread supplier is not open during those days either and the owners flatly refuse to use pita bread from the day before. We mean, you can’t go wrong with 60 years of experience!
Address: Eirinis 2, Nea Smyrni, 2109310341
Athens Night Tour With Cocktails and Souvlaki
Lefteris o Politis
Lefteris o Politis - credits: https://www.thisisathens.org/
Another Lefteris -I had never realized the souvlaki industry is such a male-dominated field until today- this time in the heart of Athens and specifically on Omonoia Square, Lefteris o Politis is known for its kebab skewer.
That’s the only type of meat it serves, but you’ll never find anyone complaining. On the contrary, you’ll find many people lining up outside its small shop ready to gobble down one -or a couple, whatever, we don’t judge- of these heavenly creations.
Luscious, warm pita bread, juicy kebab skewers, tomato, a little onion, hot paprika, and a pinch of salt to taste will have you ordering a second wrap before finishing the last bite of your first one! Lefteris o Politis is open daily from early in the morning to noon, except on Sundays, so if you want to have the magical culinary experience it offers, you need to plan ahead.
Enjoy a cold beer alongside your souvlaki for the ultimate Greek experience, and you’ll be dreaming of your souvlaki feast for the rest of your life!
Address: 20 Satovriandou Street, Omonia, tel: 210-5225676
Souvlaki - credits: rawf8/Shutterstock.com
I like a souvlaki shop of few words and great tastes, and the name of this souvlaki shop says it all. Located in the alternative neighborhood of Petralona, and specifically in Kato Petralona, the lower part of the district, Best has been known to serve incredible gyros, maintaining its star quality consistently since its establishment in 1996.
This is what makes the locals fans of Best: you can depend on your souvlaki to taste exactly the same way every single time you visit it. It’s not for nothing that Athenians from all over the city rush to Best every time they crave souvlaki. Once again, everything is homemade and the gyros, whether it is made with pork or chicken, is artfully marinated and incredibly tasty and tender.
Putting teamwork in practice, every day the experienced and coordinated production team prepares gyros through a process that almost resembles a ritual: one is responsible for cutting, one is taking over the wrapping process, which is done in a special way over the fire, and both are supervised by specialist bakers, who are responsible for both the pita bread and the meats to be flawlessly cooked.
The servings are particularly generous -as they should be- and you can choose between classic souvlaki wrapped in pita and a more hearty one sandwiched between two. Whatever you choose, prepare to be wowed!
Address: 23 Athinodorou Street, Petralona, 2103410005
Kyr Aristos - credits: https://www.kir-aristos.gr/
At the coastal district of Paleo Faliro, some 6 km southwest of Athens’ city center, the local-beloved kebab and grill house of Kyr Aristos, with its name paying tribute to the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, makes some of the best-tasting traditional Greek dishes and downright sinful souvlaki.
Unlike most souvlaki shops on this list, Kyr Aristos' tavern is big, with a lot of tables, and tastefully decorated following an old-time Greek aesthetic and with a number of pictures and mementos of Onassis -and by tastefully, I mean it is borderline tacky, but in a fun way.
Despite its size, Kyr Aristos offers a homey vibe that goes hand in hand with its homemade creations. Since its opening in 2013, this local tavern has gathered a loyal fanbase due to the quality of its products and the friendly staff that is eager to guide you through the menu.
Regardless of what you choose to taste though, one thing is for sure: everything will be served fresh and cooked to perfection. Whether you prefer to have your souvlaki with kebab meat, soutzouki-pasturma -a type of spice sausage-, pork or chicken, Kyr Aristos will provide you with a unique experience that will become one of the culinary highlights of your stay in Athens.
My personal favorites are either the kebab or the soutzouki souvlaki, as they both stand out from the usual offerings, and they are not too oily yet not too dry, without too many spices, leaving the taste of the delectable meets to come through beautifully. Kyr Aristos is usually packed and doesn’t accept reservations, so if you’re planning a visit to taste its melt-in-your-mouth creations, make sure to call ahead and avoid peak days and times.
Address: 96 Zisimopoulou, Paleo Faliro, 2109822320
To Souvlaki tis Harokopou
Souvlaki - credits: MIKE MANIATIS/Shutterstock.com
When talking about a genuine Greek family-run business, To Souvlaki tis Harokopou definitely takes the cake. When the souvlaki shop opened its doors, in 1987, it was run by the father of the family, who had been a butcher his whole life.
Following many years of success, the craft of making authentic, mouthwatering souvlaki has been passed down to his sons, nephews, and cousins who all work with passion and devotion to serving high-quality souvlaki that keeps pace with the family name.
The tables are set in the small courtyard of an old house in the residential neighborhood of Kallithea, with a well in the middle, still in place, although not functioning, and frescoes all around. Everything you will find in 'To Souvlaki tis Harokopou' is handmade using fresh, five-star, fresh meat -even the luscious gyros.
Having in mind to give prominence to the pure, unobscured flavor of the excellent meat its serves, the souvlaki is wonderfully cooked and mildly seasoned. There are no modern twists or unusual menu items to be found here, however, that’s exactly what makes the locals trust it; both the simplicity and the quality of flavors make its souvlaki become one of the most legitimate Greek gastronomic experience one can have, and therefore, obligatory destinations for travelers from around the world!
Address: Harokopou 42, Kallithea, tel.: 2109596569
Kalyvas - credits: https://www.thegreekfood.com/
If your feet carry you to one of the coolest neighborhoods of Athens, Koukaki, you’re in for a treat, as Kalyvas will welcome you with the juiciest, most succulent souvlaki in town. The couple that owns this famed grill house, George and Ioanna, begun this family-run business in 1993, many years before Koukaki became the trendy hangout spot it is today.
Since then, Kalyvas has become a staple in the locals’ lives, with many Athenians coming from all over the city just to get a taste of their favorite delicacy. Since 2003, the tavern is run by the three sons of the couple, who upgraded the tavern by adding a delivery service and more tables out on the pedestrian street, while also refurbishing the place itself.
In Kalyvas, apart from the gyros meat, the shop is favored for, you will also have the opportunity to taste the pork and chicken skewers, as well as homemade beef burgers kneaded by Ioanna herself. For the more adventurous eaters, on Sundays, Kalyvas offers souvlaki stuffed with boar or lamb; rest assured that whatever you chose to have will reward you with a delightful taste!
Address: 12 George Olympiou Street, Koukaki, tel.: 2109231257
At this point, if you’re not drooling on the screen or daydreaming about stuffing your face with a delicious, warm, juicy souvlaki, you’re either a robot or Kendal Jenner and we can’t be friends.
If you’re dedicated foodies like us, however -yay!- you need to trust us on this: if there is one thing you should do during your stay in Athens, -apart from visiting the famous ancient monuments, come on- this is to follow my advice and pay a visit to as many of the souvlaki spots on this list as possible. If you don’t indulge in the best street food that has seen the face of the earth during your holidays, then when? Everyone knows that calories don’t count in Greece!