In a country known for its Mediterranean diet, you would bet that even our street food is top quality. In the past years, we’ve had many international influences from various cuisines mingling with the local food culture. But we still keep loyal to our traditions, so here’s a short list of what to try in Athens, if you’d like to eat Greek street food like a local.
Koulouri is the cheapest street food you will find in Greece, costing nothing more than 0,50€. Simple but delicious, a freshly baked koulouri in the hand, bought early in the morning, will warm your heart. It has been doing so since ancient times for generations of Greeks, no matter how poor or rich, young or old. As big bread eaters, Greeks get crazy for this tasty bread ring sprinkled with sesame seeds. We can now find it in different variations from their street vendors, filled with cheese, sun-dried tomato, chocolate etc. Our recommendation though is to buy it plain – crunchy or soft, cut it in half and stuff it with cheese, ham and whatever you can imagine of (toasted gets even better!). Vegetarians or not, your attention please: our favourite recipe includes feta cheese, slices of juicy tomato, olive paste and cucumber – a snack so delicious, that when you try it, you will want to have it for breakfast every day.
Ooh, pies.. the biggest chapter in Greek food culture! Everywhere you travel in Greece, they’ll wait for you to make your days even more delightful. Delicious Greek words you should know:
Pita=pie, eg spanakopita, tiropita. Pitaki= little pie: sounds innocent but it’s not, its bite-size will trick you to eat more.
Filo, fillo or phyllo= thin unleavened dough used for making pies. Tip: in Greece, there’s not only one type of phyllo, but many. It depends on the recipe and the region, so for example, you may find thin “crust phyllo” or the thicker “village” phyllo.
Bougatsa= a kind of pie made of thin fillo, tossed in the air to make it crunchy and airy. Seeing a bougatsa master making it is an experience in itself. The two most popular fillings are cheese and cream, for both sweet and savoury addicts out there.
Kuru: Pie with feta cheese filling and dough made with butter (sometimes yogurt too).
Strifti: Snail-shaped pie, its swirling form will mesmerise you to eat the whole pan 🙂
Souvlaki and gyro
Greeks’ favourite street food, found also as a sit-down meal. Locals love it for four reasons: it’s easy, affordable, tasty and filling. Here’s a few words you should know to order like a pro:
Souvlaki = means actually small spit, which is the skewer in this case. You can also find it wrapped (tylichto) in fluffy pita bread and stuffed with tomatoes, onions, tzatziki and fries (yes, the fries go inside).
Kalamaki = chunks of meat (mainly pork or chicken) on a wooden stick. The name is used only in Southern Greece, in the North they will make fun of you and hand you a straw instead (called kalamaki as well).
Gyro = The most commonly mispronounced food item in Greece (it’s yee-roh). Meat (pork or chicken) that turns around a spit vertically (from the Greek verb “gyrnao”- does the word “gyroscope” sound familiar?).
Kebab = minced beef and lamb grilled on a stick. You will rarely find doner kebab in Greece and you’d better stay away from it.
Tzatziki = the perfect condiment for souvlaki – Greek yogurt, cucumber and garlic – not recommended on a date (unless you are both having it).
Vegan and vegetarian souvlaki is slowly gaining ground in Athens, so you and your friends can now enjoy mushroom gyro, vegetable skewers or veggie patties in your pita bread.
The Greek version of pizza. It came to us in the early 20th century from the Greeks who emigrated from Black Sea region. You can find literally anything on top of that super delicious dough with the perfectly nice crust baked in a wood-fired oven. Our favourite is the one with cheese and a whole egg on top. Just break the edge of the “boat” and dip it into the yolk – exactly as delicious as it sounds. While in Greece, look out for the traditional toppings, one of them is soutzouki (beef sausage with cumin and spices) and pastourma (cured beef with fenugreek).
Peinirli can substitute a whole meal so make sure you stay hungry before you eat it, as it is perfectly bready, buttery and super filling.
Want to grab some street food with the locals while walking around the city? Check out our Athens Street Food Tour – Day & Night. One of the top things to do in Athens on a budget, super friendly for kids & families.