What could characterize a tavern as classic? Is it its long history, its popularity, the quality of its cuisine or its durability over time? It’s all these elements together. It is the tavern that makes you feel at home, serves quality comfort food and evokes a feeling of intimacy. In this article we present six taverns, hidden in the neighbourhoods of Athens, that we think could be classified as classic.
Roumeli (Ρούμελη) : Hidden in the street of Vyronas, this tavern stands at this location since the 1930s. The owner continues the tradition of his family, who established and has been operating the tavern all these years. The quality of the meat, grilled on charcoal, is excellent. The variety is sufficient but the best dish here is lamb chops, perfectly grilled and always tasty (considered by many the best in town). The side dishes are basic and limited, like fried potatoes, Greek salad and wild boiled greens but very tasty too. If you are lucky, during winter months, you could find delicious meat soup (a secret specialty of the place). Finally, if the weather is good, you could sit at the tables on the pedestrian street in front of the tavern. (Konstantinoupoleos 34, Vyronas)
Vardis (Βαρδής) : The story of this tavern started almost 100 years ago. In the refugee neighborhood of Ymittos, it started as a grocery store by Vardis Bourdakis and continues its course until today from generation to generation. Also known as Vardina, when after the death of her husband his widow took over, the tavern became a place where class differences were abolished. The workers of the nearby factories, the refugees from Asia Minor who lived in the area and artists of the lyric theater ate here. The most famous dish remains the fried goat, but here you can eat excellently cooked dishes (such as the chickpeas with tomatoes) but also impeccable meats and fish appetizers. There is also live music on weekends. (Kesarias 9, Ymittos)
Ta Skalakia (Τα Σκαλάκια) : Ta Skalakia (also known as “Steps” to tourists) is a neighbourhood tavern located on the same spot since 1967. At the end of a steep uphill stairway in the narrow streets of Ilisia it has managed to maintain its reputation due to the excellent food in large portions that offers. Its name is known all over the city and in recent years it has become popular with tourists staying in hotels in the surrounding area. Here you will eat excellently grilled meats, very tasty burgers, kokoretsi (baked in the oven) and some very good appetizers, such as green zucchini pie. Finally, here you will drink very good bulk wine and tsipouro. Sitting at one of the tables at the end of the stairs, will make you forget that you are just a few minutes’ walk from the city center. (Eginitou 32, Ilisia)
Pezoulas (Πεζούλας) : Pezoulas is a historic fish tavern located at this point since 1951. Grandpa Panagiotis Pezoulas and his wife Panagiota, then open a snack bar at the back of the Hippodrome (which was located here before the construction of the SNFCC) to serve the visitors of the horse races. Over time, the place became a full tavern that served mainly seafood. Its fresh fish, the unique fish soup and the classic salad with boiled vegetables, made the tavern a legendary place of its time, frequented by all the famous singers of the time (Tsitsanis, Papaioannou, Bellou etc.) to eat when their program in other venues was over. Today, Pezoulas’ grandchildren continue the tradition of good fish and at the same time have given the cuisine a modern touch with dishes like fava beans with smoked eel. (Pisistratou 11, Kallithea)
Spyros-Antonis (Σπύρος-Αντώνης) : This is a tavern that has written its own history in this part of Athens, in a low and humble house that seems to have frozen in time in 1975, when it first opened by Spyros and Antonis. It initially served the locals of the Kypriadou neighbourhood and workers of the now-abandoned ice factory right next to it. It was also the meeting place of the people and artists who worked at nearby studios of Columbia. The excellent homemade cuisine remains unchanged and the grilled meats are excellent. The most famous stew is the snails, but you will also eat excellent beef with lemon sauce, meatballs and amazing sausage from Lamia, the place of origin of one of the current owners (who started as a waiter in the tavern). This tavern’s small courtyard is a refuge from the noise of the city. (Gavriilidou 24, Ano Patisia)
Koutouki tou Grilli (Το Κουτούκι του Γρίλλη) : With origins from Asia Minor and roots from Naxos, the grandpa Grillis opened a place in this location in 1975 to sell wine. Together with the wine he started with his wife to prepare some dishes for the customers and gradually the place became the most famous tavern in Tavros. This family-run place offers all these years excellent Greek cuisine. It may not have specialties that stand out, but the appetizers and main dishes are all well cooked and delicious. You could taste here excellent dolmadakia (vine leaves stuffed with rice) and perfectly grilled lamb chops. On weekends they also have live Greek music. (Anaxagora 7, Tavros)
These are six of our favourite classic places outside the center of Athens, where you could taste excellent and timeless Greek cuisine.