I'd be lying if I said the past two months were not the best weeks my taste buds have ever experienced. And I've lived in NYC/ Minneapolis my whole life where there is some GOOD food. I've been living in Athens, Greece attending school at Deree: The American College of Greece since the start of January and my oh my I am lovin all over these gyros. Before coming here gyros and falafel were about the only Greek foods I were really familiar with, Sheesh on Grand Ave. in Minneapolis usually does this fix for me. A gyro here is basically the Greek version of a New York halal guys or a higher quality Mickey D's burger. For a typical night out to dinner though, the Greeks eat a considerably more rounded meal.
Greek cuisine follows the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on a high consumption of meat, fresh produce, olive oil, and whole grains. The Mediterranean diet is a popular diet for westerners while they're trying to lose weight, it also boasts health benefits such as improved heart health, decrease in risk of cancer, protects cognitive health, and can overall health and mood improvement.
My apartment in Athens is in a suburb neighborhood north of Downtown called Agia Paraskevi. For being a generally small neighborhood it hosts a number of incredible restaurants that are visited often by the students of the college I go to. My absolute favorite is a taverna called Tsi Tsi, where you can get souvlaki or a giant pork gyro for less than 3 euro.
- Spanakopita: pastry with a flaky crush and cooked spinach (often feta too)
- Dolmades: grape leaves stuffed with rice and spices
- Souvlaki: meat on a stick, often served with tomato and tzatziki
- Gyro: pita sandwich with shaved pork meat, tomato, onion and tzatziki
- Greek salad: tomato, cucumber, onion, block of feta (no lettuce on salads here!)
- Moussaka: aubergine, minced meat, veggies, flaky crust
- Saganaki: deep fried cheese, basically the Greek version of a cheese curd
- Ekmek Kataifi: best dessert ever! custard and whipped cream cake with kataifi dough
Some things I've learned living in Greece:
You will often get free dessert. After receiving your check, most Greek restaurants will bring out a plate with dessert on the house. In the summers, it could be Greek yogurt with honey or a bowl of watermelon. I unfortunately found this out after my first meal here where I stuffed myself sick with two giant gyros and tzatziki and then was presented with a giant plate of five traditional greek desserts to share with friends. I didn't move for 12 hours after that meal.
They won't split the check. Most restaurants here won't split the check so make sure you bring small bills or euro coins to split the meal with friends.
Tipping. Like most European countries, tipping isn't completely expected here. If you want to, you can, but even then it's a very small amount compared to American tipping. For example, you would give five euro tip for a twenty euro meal. One or two coins maybe.
Another awesome part about this school is the cafeteria! For about 5 euro they offer huge salads, omelettes, traditional greek dishes, amazing sandwiches. While I do miss crispy chicken wraps at Wagner I am definitely going to go through souvlaki withdrawals.