For the Soul: Must-Try Street Food in Athens

For the Soul: Must-Try Street Food in Athens

Greece, Athens
From classic Greek comfort food to adopted cuisines tweaked with local ingredients, street food in Athens is a never ending adventure even for the most hardcore of foodies.

If you’ve ever had a meal with a Greek, you might have noticed that we like taking our time. When it comes to food, including street food, “fast” is not how it’s done on this side of the world. In fact, it is quite the opposite; to this day, the kalamaki (meat on a stick) is never pre-grilled, the perfect spanakopita and the fluffiest loukoumades take some sticking around, and our moms still scold us when we chose to snack on something sto podi (literally translating to “on one foot”, Greeks use it to say “in a hurry/on the go”).


Over the last decades, Athenian chefs have managed to combine this philosophy of slow living with all the wonderful flavours this city holds, and pack it into one of the tastiest, most creative street food scenes in the world. Here’s our list to help you make the right turns for the best street food in Athens.

Volvi

Of course, we’ll start with souvlaki. Named after a reference in the Greek cult comedy Let the Women Wait, Volvi is amongst the latest and most popular additions to a very very long line-up of traditional Greek street food eateries. The idea behind it was initially an inside joke between friends Aris Doukas, a successful bar owner, and Tasos Perdikis, renowned chef and son of a butcher. That was until an old souvlaki place shut down on fragrant Evripidou Street, right next to the Athens Central Food Market, which the duo took as a sign of fate. The menu consists of classic Greek comfort food picks such as the kalamaki tylichto; skewered pork or chicken meat (though Volvi only does pork) wrapped in pita bread, with tomatoes, onion, mustard, and boukovo flakes, the Mediterranean’s version of chilli. No potatoes. Their highlights are the homemade soutzoukakia (oblong meatballs with cumin and garlic) made after a recipe by Tasos’ grandfather from Aivali, Turkey, and also include Tasos’ paprika sauce made with sweet red Florina peppers and feta cheese, ideal for some extra flavour in your souvlaki wrap. 

Guerilla Chef Burgers

It was in 2018 when Chef Fahd first set up his burger stall at the Athens Street Food Festival, the country’s biggest outdoor street buffet. After eating his way through Greece, Fahd realised that the modest cheeseburger was criminally under-represented in our parts. So, against the trend of the times which favoured multi-patty burgers with foreignly accented toppings and ingredients, he decided to go for simplicity. By cutting down on ingredients and throw-outs, he was also offering a more environmentally friendly product. At first, Guerilla Chef Burgers appeared in pop-ups across town, until 2022 when it found its permanent home in Exarchia. You’ll find only two items on the menu: a single cheeseburger, and a double. This “small daily pleasure” as Fahd calls it, made with 100% beef patty, american cheese, ketchup, mayo and mustard, and honestly for its price (€3 for the single, €4 for the double one) has no business tasting this good and is arguably amongst the tastiest burgers in Athens. Guerilla doesn’t do deliveries, only take outs and sit-downs, the latter on flipped Coca-Cola bottle crates-turned-stools. They also serve a special edition beer in collaboration with Strange Brew, one of the finest local breweries, as well as offer merch which takes not-so-subtle jabs at the King Clown himself, Ronald McDonald.

Granello

Enjoy traditional Napolitan pizza with a twist in the heart of Athens. Founder and master pizzaiolo Kyriakos Liodakis customised his dough by switching the traditional yeast with natural sourdough, which is left to rest for 48 hours. Granello, which means "grain" in Italian, opened in May 2019 and instantly gained the favour of the locals for its top notch ingredients like the Caputo flour, the best for baking a Napolitan pizza. Set in a 1865 brick building, the interior has been given a futuristic revamp and boasts an eye-catching custom wood-fired oven delivered directly from Naples. Pizzas are available in slices or as a whole for takeaway, but if you have a moment you can always sit down and enjoy with a bottle of wine or local brew (Blame The Sun and Noctua are your Athenian beer choices here). The menu selection is wide featuring regular and seasonal pizzas: figs and prosciutto for the summer, pumpkin for winter. The latest addition is the carbonara one with parmesan cream, mozzarella, bacon crumble, stracciatella and chives topped with black pepper that will make you cry out “mamma che pizza!”.

Overoll

This third generation pastry shop on busy Praxitelous Street has managed to have its devoted customers form queues even before opening time. In 2020, three pastry chefs, Alkis Zervas, Giannis Kikiras, and Spyros Pappas, all with experience in five-star hotels or next to prominent French bakers, decided it was high time for Athens to have its own space dedicated exclusively to the world’s most favourite viennoiserie. An open-plan croissanterie lab, Overoll offers sweet and savoury takes on the croissant. Their finely selected ingredients, especially their high quality butter, make all the difference along with the fact that every single one of their croissants takes 72 hours to make. “It’s actually funny how people are surprised by the flavour and then realise that they have never tasted a real croissant,” says Giannis. Next to the undisputed stars, the classic butter croissant and the pain au chocolat, Overall dishes out various creations every month like the mac ‘n’ cheese, or the one filled with delicious handmade pistachio cream.

Magic Kitchen

This vegan spot on grungy Themistokleous Street in Exarchia is a crossroads of cultures. Since 2021 Sanem and Zelal have managed to form a multi-ethnic collective of Kurds, Palestinians, Syrians, and locals, all of whom co-run their version of a meze bar from inside their small kitchen. The 10-man crew take turns in the kitchen and bring their own traditional recipes and flavours to the table. Their highlight is the Turkish gözleme: thin crepes, crunchy on the outside and silky on the inside, stuffed with greens (spinach, leeks, chicory, fennel), mushrooms, onions, sauces and spices. Enjoy a glass of their red lentil soup with a side of ekmek (Turkish for “bread”); handmade buns filled with vegan Smyrna meatballs. Here, everything is very budget-friendly as their philosophy is to provide healthy, responsible and affordable nourishment for everyone. Before leaving make sure to sip some of their homemade lemonade, kefir, kombucha or hibiscus tea.

Galiantra

Food trucks are always cool. Celebrity Chef Gogo Delogianni and her two partners Nelly Bofiliou and Michalis Dimakos (co-owners of Blue Parrot right next door, one of the most popular all-day cafés in Athens and a firm LGBTQ+ hub) wanted to blend the old with the new, so they came up with Galiantra. Tucked away at the back of a roofless 1920s mansion plot on Avdi Square (food trucks are not allowed on the streets of Athens) Galiantra does for many set the example for contemporary street food in Athens. Inspired by Greek summer, the ground is set with white-washed gravel and the space is decorated with colourful tin barrels that make for seats and tables, young bitter-orange trees, and hued lights and flags. Everything is homemade here, from the dip sauces to the bread rolls. Her famous meatballs (not fried, but grilled) and french fries reign over the creative menu that also includes great vegan options such as sloppy joes with braised soy mince, sautéed onions, cucumber and vegan mayonnaise, or the traditional souvlaki with mushroom gyro. Whatever you order, the house says to wash it down with a frozen margarita.

Guarantee

After quitting sea life back in 1988, Lieutenant Giannis Karambelas came across this small rundown corner in Koukaki where he decided to open a small sandwich shop. Thirty five years later, it’s not only Giannis’ warm heart that has gained Guarantee its legendary status in Athens’ street food scene, but also his enthusiasm and desire to constantly improve on his products. “When we first started, customers were asking for ingredients that we didn’t have back then, like tuna or blue cheese. If people are asking for more, I thought, we should offer more,” Giannis recalls. Now, the shop offers over ten different kinds of bread delivered daily from three bakeries in the area, 20 types of cold cuts and 20 cheese types from around the world. You really don’t want to miss out on the handmade fillings, such as rosbeef, grilled vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms and more), salmon gravlax and pesto sauces. Guarantee’s menu has 36 sandwich combinations, some of which are ideas suggested by its customers. Take your pick, or have them make your own, then pair it with a freshly made juice and you’re good to skip your next meal.

Source: thisisathens

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