8 Popular Greek Foods + The Best Places to Find Them in Athens

Throughout the years, Greece has rightfully earned its place as one of the premier travel destinations, drawing visitors with its rich history, stunning landscapes, and an abundance of delectable, popular Greek foods.

Athens serves as the central hub where you can discover the finest authentic and traditional Greek culinary dishes. From small hole-in-the-wall eateries with home cooked recipes, to sophisticated fine dining establishments, the capital has every level of cuisine.

Read along to discover the essential Greek foods you must try, and find the best places to enjoy them. Ready to dive in?

Can’t-miss popular Greek foods

a plate of traditional greek food including lamb and salad with veggies and cheese
Greek food is in a league of its own. Photo credit: Geoff Peters

Greek salad (Horiatiki)

This simple and delicious salad is known as a “village salad” in Greek, and is the backbone of all Greek cuisine. Made up of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, usually topped with Kalamata olives, rich feta cheese, and olive oil, this simple salad goes a long way.

Greek salad
Greek salad: a worldwide favorite from Greece and beyond. Photo credit: wEnDy

Where to get it: Diporto Taverna has all the best features of a hole-in-the-wall taverna experience–a door without signage that means most people pass it by, and made-from-scratch food served without frills and seasoned to perfection. This place has been operating since 1887 and so their recipes have been aged and refined to perfection. This is one of our favorite places for the classic Greek salad, served right. We recommend also trying their in-house wines served from huge wooden barrels that line the walls.

Moussaka

This classic Greek dish is made by piling layers of fried eggplant, on top of minced meat (usually lamb or beef), topped off with a thick layer of creamy bechamel sauce. Think lasagna, but Greek-ified!

Moussaka
Moussaka is often associated with celebrations and festive gatherings. Photo credit: Jaime Fok

Where to get it: You can find excellent moussaka at Esperides. Located near the charming central neighborhood of Anafiotika, this taverna is perched on the hill leading up to the Acropolis, and usually has live music in the evenings. Their moussaka is baked to perfection, and goes great with their calamari and red wine. If you’re looking for vegan moussaka or its close cousin pastitsio, check out Veganaki where you can get all those flavors with soy-based meat alternatives and almond-milk bechamel.

Souvlaki

Souvlaki are grilled skewers of marinated meat, typically served in pita bread with toppings like tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce. Souvlaki is the go-to Greek street food, and you can find souvlaki on almost every street corner and square of the city. However there are some places that don’t just do souvlaki but have elevated the simple dish.

souvlaki, meat with vegetables inside a pita
You can’t visit Athens without trying some souvlaki. Photo credit: Shabby Flanders

Where to get it: Kalamaki Kolonaki is a central Athens favorite for mouthwatering souvlaki, made with high-quality angus beef. Make sure you order this Greek classic with all the traditional accompaniments–fried potatoes, tzatziki, and a cold beer. If you’re looking for a twist on the traditional Greek menu, Kalamaki Kolonaki has you covered with dishes like a delectable chickpea and quinoa salad. For a host of top souvlaki options, check out our list of the best places for souvlaki in Athens.

Tzatziki

A refreshing yogurt, garlic and cucumber dip, this dish is served on the side of every meal and heartily heaped on potatoes, kalamaki, bread, and just about anything.

Tzatziki
Tzatziki—where creamy meets zesty. Photo credit: wEnDy

Where to get it: Seychelles is one of the best restaurants for meze or small plates in Athens, and thus they have some of the best tzatziki around. Made with rich Greek yogurt, local oregano and olive oil, and fresh cucumbers, we often find ourselves ordering two servings over the course of a long dinner. Seychelles changes their menu regularly to go with the seasons, but you can always expect elevated and innovative takes on Greek classics, like pork cutlets served with sweet and spicy sauce.

Dolmades

These delicious little morsels are painstakingly hand-made–but mouth-wateringly good–grape leaves wrapped around a mixture of rice, herbs, and sometimes ground meat.

grape leaves on a plate with tomato and cucumber
Dolmades have variations in various countries, including Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, and the surrounding areas. Photo credit: Shadowgate

Where to get it: Kriti Cretan taverna has a host of excellent meze dishes, but their hand crafted dolmades are next level. They make their dolmades fresh daily, wrap them with local herbs, and offer a delicate yet hearty addition that greatly complements salads, dips, and fresh bread.

Saganaki

Greece is renowned for its cheeses, and saganaki may be the peak of the peak. Saganaki can be made with graviera, halloumi, kasseri, or sheep’s milk feta, deep fried in a small pan until unreal melty goodness. It is served with a lemon that you squeeze on top of the dish, combining the rich cheesy flavors with a kick of tartness.

fried cheese
Fried cheese never disappoints. Photo credit: bionicgrrrl

Where to get it: Filema’s simple atmosphere may look unimpressive, but their dishes are anything but. Famous for their small meze plates, Filema can let you sample many traditional Greek dishes in one sitting. But their saganaki is absolutely to die for. They make their saganaki with a rich graviera, fried and then topped with warm honey for a salty-sweet combination that will truly blow your mind. 

Octopus

Greek cuisine is centered around the Mediterranean, and so of course is filled with fresh fish dishes from local waters. A particular Greek speciality is fresh octopus, often caught by local fishers early in the morning, and brought to the taverna for the evening dinner fare.

octopus hanging on a line
Octopus is a prominent ingredient in various traditional dishes. Photo credit: Simon Q.

Where to get it: For excellent grilled octopus, visit Klimataria. This tavern is over 100 years old, hidden between the winding streets of the central Athens fish market. They have all of the freshest Mediterranean fish dishes, grilled or fried to a crispy mouth-watering ideal. They have live traditional rembetiko music (Greek folk music) most nights of the week, giving you the full village taverna experience right in the center of the city. Their octopus is marinated and cooked in a homemade wine sauce, and served over steaming rice. We also recommend their other seafood dishes, especially the grilled salmon.

Loukoumades

These traditional greek doughnut holes are made with freshly-risen dough, deep fried until they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and usually drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon.

fried little donuts in a bowl
Loukoumades, the mouth-watering version of a Greek donut. Photo credit: Sarah Stierch

Where to get it: Hands Down the best loukoumades are at Krinos, which focuses almost entirely on the freshly prepared donut treats. They’re renowned for crafting some of Athens’ finest loukoumades, generously drizzled with either honey or chocolate.This confectionery has been delighting patrons since its establishment in 1923, and hasn’t changed much since then. This is one of our favorite places to go for breakfast for coffee and a bit of an early-morning sugar-rush!

Other popular Greek foods

Devour the quintessential flavors of Greece with these must-try dishes during your visit to Athens or any corner of this beautiful country. However, this list only scratches the surface, as there’s even more popular Greek foods waiting to be explored. Watch this space for more tasty suggestions and tips for exploring Athens, like the charming Plaka neighborhood.

If you want to explore popular Greek foods—and finest of Athens cuisine—with an expert guide, join us on our Ultimate Athens Food Tour. Experience over 13 tastings at 9 local hotspots, including the local market. Discover the rich history behind these dishes, and connect with the passionate shop owners who bring the magic to life and keep traditions alive. Whether you’re a dedicated foodie or just curious about Greek cuisine, you won’t want to miss it!