Category: Bars and/or tavernas (page 1 of 12)

Top Greece travel reads of 2019: Greek food and wine

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Screenshot of Aegean Blue Magazine Issue 80 article about Vegan food in Greece

“Long before it became a fashionable trend and part of a new philosophy, dishes without any meat or animal products were a fundamental part of Greek cuisine, and they remain so today,” says the introduction to an Aegean Airlines in-flight magazine article about vegan food.

 

Feta. Greek Yogurt. Plant-based cuisine. Local Greek Island specialties. Wine bars in Athens. Vineyards open to visitors. These are a few of my favourite things in Greece, and they’re also the subject of magazine and newspaper articles I found particularly informative and instructive to read in 2019.  If you love food and wine yourself, and have a trip to Greece in your sights for 2020 (or later), the publications I spotlight in this post will give you an advance taste of the culinary and oenophilic delights you can plan to experience.

 

The articles I have selected as best reads for 2019 cover some topics that interest me personally, and others that will be useful to people who have emailed me or asked questions on social media or online travel forums that I regularly follow, like the Greece forum on TripAdvisor.

For instance, there’s a question that has become increasingly common in the past couple of years: “Will I be able to find vegan food & restaurants in Greece?” The answer: “Absolutely!” Brand-new restaurants specializing in vegan cuisine have been popping up in Athens, Mykonos and other major tourist destinations in recent years, while many existing eateries have been adding a range of vegan dishes to their menus to meet rapidly rising customer demand. But even in off-the-tourist-path places, travellers won’t have any trouble finding delicious meals that haven’t been prepared with meat or animal products.

As writer Nana Daroti notes in the article Vegan: Made in Greece, which starts at page 110 in Issue 80 of Blue, the Aegean Airlines on-board magazine,  Greeks are devoted to vegetable dishes known generally as ladera, and which can be found everywhere from “summer seaside tavernas to mountain retreats.”

“Olive oil, vegetables, beans and grains play leading roles in Greek recipes, not because they’re fashionable, but because they’re encoded in the Greek DNA,” Daroti explains.

 

 

For me, a far more difficult challenge than finding vegan food is shopping for wine in Greece, and not just because the labels on many bottles are written only in Greek.  Since we’re not familiar with local varietals and vineyards, we can never be certain what might suit our palates, and often wind up choosing a bottle at random and hoping we like it. We’ve found some pleasurable hits that way, but also some sorry misses. Happily, buying wine should be considerably less confusing on future holidays thanks to Wine Plus Magazine, which devoted its 2019 summer edition (Issue 57, pictured below) to all things a visitor needs to know about Greek wine.

In a welcome message, Editor Maria Netsika says the issue takes readers on “a journey through the wines of Greece … a travelogue to pleasure.” The Wine Plus trip itinerary includes the regions of Thrace, Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Aegean islands, Ionian islands, and Crete, and visits not only the country’s leading vineyards, but also lesser-known wine makers. For each region, the magazine suggests “must try” and “must buy” local cuisine and food products, and provides directions to vineyards and wineries to help visitors plan their “oenotourism stops” in whatever area of Greece they may be travelling. Directories highlight specific regional wines, and conveniently include photos of the bottles.

Cover of issue 57 of The Wine Plus Magazine special issue on Greek wines

The Summer 2019 edition of The Wine Plus Magazine is a veritable encyclopedia of Greek wine, packed with everything you need to know about Greek grapes, vineyards, wine regions, production, and more.  

 

Please turn to page 2 to see more of my favourite articles about Greek food, wine and beverages from 2019.

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Mykonos springs to life as more bars & restaurants open, first cruise ship of 2019 visits

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Greece, Greek islands, Cyclades, Mikonos, Mykonos, taverna, restaurant, beach taverna, Paraga beach Mykonos,

The beachfront of Tasos Taverna is seen in a photo posted on Facebook to announce its March 23 season opening.  Located on Paraga beach, Tasos has been serving customers since 1962.

 

Season starts: Spring has only just sprung, but the tourism season on Mykonos has kicked off with a spate of bar and restaurant openings, plus the arrival of the first cruise ship of 2019.

During the period of March 15 to 25, at least 10 establishments were set to officially open their doors, including two beach restaurants and, in Mykonos Town, several popular eateries and a bar.  March 15 also marked the start of cruise ship port calls into Mykonos, with a visit by the Celestyal Cruises ship, Olympia.

On most Greek islands, the annual tourist season is fairly short, and typically runs from the beginning of May until the end of September. With more than 10 places opening up during the third week of March, it might sound like Mykonos is getting things off to an unusually early start. But during the last four years, there has been a similar number of food and drink venues launching their seasons at this time, so I haven’t been surprised to hear of this month’s openings.

 

The cruise ship visits, on the other hand, have indeed commenced sooner than in previous years.  A March 18 news report by Greek Travel Pages notes that Celestyal launched its 3- and 4-night Aegean cruises two weeks earlier this year compared to last. It also is extending its season by two weeks in the fall, in response to what  Celestyal says is a rising demand for travel before and after the summer season.

I, too, have noticed a greater interest in off- or early-season travel to Greece this year, both in messages and inquiries sent to my blog, and from requests for advice posted on the TripAdvisor Greece travel forums.  This year I have fielded more questions than ever before from people who booked trips to Mykonos for dates in February, March and April. Many of those who wrote to me, or posted questions in online forums, were worried they wouldn’t have anywhere to eat or drink on Mykonos because they heard rumours that the island’s businesses are shut tight as a drum until May. That’s simply not true, since there are restaurants and bars that stay open all winter to serve the local population. The good news for people travelling to Mykonos between mid-March and May is that they will now have a much wider selection of places to enjoy a drink or meal, with more businesses opening each week until summer.

 

Greece, Greek islands, Cyclades, Mikonos, Mykonos, Ornos, restaurant, seafood restaurant, estiatorio, Greek restaurant, Apaggio, Apaggio Mykonos, Apaggio restaurant Mykonos

Apaggio, located on the seaside at Ornos, is open every day of the year. In fact, it hasn’t closed since it opened in 2013. Apaggio specializes in fresh fish and seafood, but guests also can choose from salads, warm and cold appetizers, meat and pasta dishes, Greek dishes and more.  It has an extensive wine list, and a vast selection of ouzo and tsipouro.  During winter, Apaggio is open from 12 noon until 11 p.m. The restaurant has an indoor dining room as well as a large seaside patio, seen in the photo above from the Apaggio website.

 

Greece, Greek Islands, Cyclades, Mikonos, Mykonos, Mykonos Town, restaurant, taverna, Raya, Raya Mykonos, Raya restaurant Mykonos,

Raya, an all-day restaurant and bar positioned on the harbourside promenade in Mykonos Town, is one of the island businesses that doesn’t close up shop when the tourist season ends — it stays open all year. And it’s not just popular for food and drinks: Raya is known for its special Sunday parties, with music by DJs from Mykonos and Athens. This photo is from the Raya page on Facebook.

 

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2, where you can see which bars and restaurants have opened on Mykonos this month, along with places that opened even earlier, or have been open throughout the winter.

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Two nights in Marathopoli: Where we ate and slept

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Artina Hotel & Artina Nuovo Hotel Marathopoli

We enjoyed our spacious, comfortable rooms at the Artina Hotel, seen here in an aerial image shared on Google by Nikos Tsiak

 

Panorama Fish Tavern Restaurant in Marathopoli

On our first night in Marathopoli, we had dinner on this seaview patio at Panorama Fish Tavern Restaurant …

 

Artoinos Μεζεδοπωλείο Marathopoli

 … while the next night, we enjoyed mezes at Artoinos Μεζεδοπωλείο, seen in a photo from its Facebook page

 

Great food & accommodations: We ate well and slept well during our brief 2-night stay in the small seaside town of Marathopoli last spring.  Our only disappointment? Not having more time to enjoy our lovely hotel room longer, or to try other restaurants besides the two where we had delicious dinners.

As I mentioned in my March 20 2018 post describing Marathopoli, we had chosen to base ourselves in the town so we could easily access top sites and attractions in Messenia during our road trip through the region. 

Though Marathopoli has fewer than 700 residents, it has a surprising variety of accommodation options, ranging from a budget-friendly campground to 2-star hotels, studio apartments, and luxury suite hotels. Choices include:

♦ the 15-room Hotel Rania (shown as Rania Apartments on Google Maps);

♦ the two-star Porto Marathos, a 33-room property with single, double and triple rooms, as well as four apartments;

♦  Artina Hotel and Artina Hotel Nuovo, two connected hotel buildings with apartment-style suites and a shared swimming pool, breakfast room, and gym;

♦  Megalos Kampos Hotel & Resort, a property offering four large studio apartments and two maisonettes;

♦  Pefkides, a complex of five separate luxury apartment residences that share a large garden area and a swimming pool; 

♦  Agrikies Country Retreat, a complex of four maisonette guest houses that can accommodate up to 5 persons each;

♦  Camping Proti, a full-service campground with spaces for tents and trailers, and facilities that include a cafe-bar, minimarket, TV room, swimming pool, laundry, kitchen and shared refrigerators and freezers;

♦  Esperides, a complex of five independent holiday apartments; 

♦  Faros Luxury Suites, a seaside hotel with 11 kitchenette-equipped luxury apartments; 

Mesogeios Hotel, a group of studios and apartments situated between Marathopoli and Lagouvardos beach;

♦  Lagouvardos Apartments, a collection of seven small, furnished houses near Lagourvardos Beach;

♦   Edem Suites, a collection of standard and family-sized maisonettes near Lagourvardos;

♦   Dialiksari Villas, a complex with six individually decorated houses, and

♦  Messinian Horizons, a complex of 5 luxury maisonette villas situated about 3 km south of Marathopoli.

Our travel companions had suggested we all stay at the Artina Hotel Nuovo, and it proved to be an excellent choice: the location was good; the breakfast buffet was enjoyable; the sea and sunset views were wonderful; and our spacious, well-appointed rooms were extremely comfortable. The nightly rates were very reasonable, too. I would love to stay there again. (You can see photos of our room and the hotel on page 2 of this post.)

For dining, we were again spoiled for choice and had to decide from such top-rated restaurants as:

Panorama Fish Tavern;

Argyris Fish Tavern;

♦  Maistrali Restaurant & Fish Tavern;

♦  Artoinos Mezedopolio;

♦ Miggas Vassilios Taverna;

♦ Riki Mediterranean Restaurant (operated by the proprietors of the Megalo Kampos resort);

♦ Faros Restaurant in the Faros Luxury Suites hotel;

♦  Pame Bounti grillhouse;

♦ Entheon Italian cuisine and pizzeria; and

♦  De Novo Cafe Bar

(A bright new arrival on the Marathopoli dining scene, Opos Palia (Όπως Παλιά_Μεζεδοπωλείο-Ψησταριά), didn’t open until after our visit.)

For a late dinner on our first night in town, we went to Panorama Fish Tavern on the restaurant and bar strip that residents call The Sidewalk. Every dish we ordered — the calamari, horta, grilled local cheese, and meatballs — was tasty and enjoyable, while the service was very good.

The next night we chose Artoinos Mezedopolio, which had received great reviews on travel websites and restaurant apps. Our selections there included skordalia, gigantes, chick pea balls, spetzofai sausages, fried pork in white wine, and pleuvrotos mushrooms. We loved everything and would be hard-pressed to list a favourite, but all of us agreed that the sausages and mushrooms were stand-out dishes.  The wine and service were excellent to match. Artoinos would probably be the first place we’d go for dinner next time we return to Marathopoli.

And what about the Marathopoli nightlife? We didn’t experience any of it ourselves, but the town does have a lively bar and nightclub scene, especially during the main summer travel months. Popular spots for drinks, music and partying include:

♦  Albatross Seaside Cafe-Bar

♦  Aithrio Music Cafe

♦ Animus Wine Bar and Cafe

♦  Rodanthos Club

♦ Puerto Club

♦ Loco Bar, and

♦ Diva Club

If we had stayed out late for a night on the town, though, we certainly would have enjoyed coming back to the Artina Nuovo to crash in our super-comfy beds and awake to the calming panoramic views of the harbour and sea.

Below are panoramic photos I shot on my iphone, showing the interior of our spacious room at the Artina Nuovo as well as the morning and sunset views from our balcony:

 

Artina Nuovo Hotel room interior

Artina Nuovo Hotel room view

Artina Nuovo Hotel sunset view

 

More photos of our room and its views, plus pictures of the hotel, can be viewed on page 2 of this post. Of course, more photos and information about the Artina Nuovo, and its sister Artina Hotel, as well as online booking, can be found on the official hotel website.

For customer reviews of the various places to eat in the town, check the Marathopoli restaurant listing on TripAdvisor.

 

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KateRina’s traditional Greek cuisine hits the spot

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KateRinas Taverna

KateRinas Taverna

Exterior views of KateRina’s Restaurant in the Romanos area of Messenia, a short drive from Voidokilia beach and the town of Pylos

 

Late lunch: We felt famished after our hike to the Old Castle of Navarino and a long walk during our visit to Voidokilia beach, and all of us agreed that a hearty lunch of traditional Greek cuisine would really hit the spot. KateRina’s Restaurant near Romanos had been recommended by several reliable sources, and was only a 10-minute drive away, so we piled into the car and headed right over.

We arrived shortly before 3 in the afternoon, so the lunch crowd had moved on and the few customers still in the taverna were all close to finishing their meals. Restaurant proprietor Katerina greeted us with a warm welcome and showed us to a table at the edge of the veranda where a light breeze — plus beer, wine and water — helped us cool off after our half day in the hot sun.

 

KateRina's Tavern Restaurant

The main entrance to Katerina’s Restaurant

 

KateRina's Tavern Restaurant

Tables in a cozy corner of the open-air dining veranda

 

Given our ravenous appetites, we weren’t sure how much food to order, but KateRina assured us that our selection of Greek salad, tzatziki, zucchini balls, meat balls and a local pork dish would be probably be just the right amount for four hungry people.  So we sat back to relax and enjoy our beverages while KateRina and her kitchen staff prepared our lunch.

The taverna was celebrating its milestone 50th anniversary in 2017, and once we tasted Katerina’s traditional cuisine we immediately understood why her restaurant has been highly recommended for so long: the food was superb.

The zucchini balls — a house specialty which has long been a customer favourite  — were delicious, as were the pork (served in a yummy tomato sauce) and the tender, juicy meat balls (accompanied by a heaping side of scrumptious fried potatoes)We also loved the large horiatiki , which included two ingredients we’d never seen before in a Greek salad: cooked beets and potatoes. (They added nice flavours and textures to the dish.) Then there was the restaurant’s signature tzatziki, served with a platter of grilled bread. It was simply outstanding. Tzatziki has never been one of my favourite starters, but KateRina’s version was almost to die for. 

 

KateRina's Restaurant

Katerina’s tzatziki was divine (and the portion was huge, though it’s not obvious in my photo)

 

KateRina's Restaurant salad

KateRina’s Greek salad includes chunks of tasty beets and potatoes

 

The service was excellent and Katerina was a delightful hostess. At the end of our meal, she took time to join us for some conversation about her taverna and the local area before returning to the kitchen to prepare for a very busy night — a group from a nearby resort had booked the entire restaurant for dinner.

 

 

If you’re travelling in the southwestern Peloponnese, plan to stop by KateRina’s for a lunch or dinner of fabulous Greek cuisine or delicious fresh fish. It might be wise to make a reservation, though, since the restaurant is quite popular with tourists visiting the nearby town of Pylos or Voidokilia and other close-by beaches. Large groups from the five-star Westin Costa Navarino and Romanos Luxury Collection Resort often bus over to the taverna, as well, so the place can get very busy or even completely booked out.

Contact information and hours of operation are indicated on the KateRina’s Tavern website.  If you want to read what other people have said about the restaurant, check the Katerina’sTavern listing on TripAdvisor, where more than 250 customers have posted reviews.

KateRinas Restaurant

A red marker pinpoints the location of KateRina’s Restaurant on this Google image of the Navarino Bay area of the Peloponnese. The taverna is very close to the Westin Costa Navarino Resort (top left) and is a short drive from the town of Pylos (bottom center).

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