As you probably know, Thessaloniki is my city, the city where I was born and grew up. Thessaloniki has a rich history dating back to Alexander the Great’s sister, all the way to the Dark Ages and its liberation in 1912 to the present day. Thessaloniki was a home of Sephardi Jews since the 15th century, who have left some wonderful villas in the city centre. Along with its history, you can walk along the sea front, see other people walking along the promenade, watch buskers, old and young couples going about their way and people selling pop corn, cotton candy or caramelised roasted nuts.
If the sea-front promenade is a lovely way to get to know Thessaloniki, then grabbing a coffee or drink at one of the lovely coffee bars is necessary! I cannot recommend one of them (if you want me, I can create a guide), but you can easily find one to suit your needs. After that, getting lost around the cobblestone streets in the city centre is a must! Discover smells, traditional meats and cheeses at Kapani market, which is a historic market in Thessaloniki, and get a taste of Thessaloniki’s rich gastronomic tradition. A walk around Kapani market is also the best way to mingle with the locals and get some fantastic ingredients for all your dishes! Unfortunately, the nearby Modiano market – one of the biggest enclosed markets in the Balkans – still remains closed, until 2021, when its renovation will be complete.
Thessaloniki’s cuisine is well-known in Greece, the expectations of eating well while staying there are high, and I am always looking forward to the food there (obviously seeing my parents comes first). Maybe because Thessaloniki has always been a welcome home to refugees from Asia Minor and Constantinople, who had brought with them all their culinary traditions, maybe it’s because of its position between the sea and the mountain, but Thessaloniki is really a city to explore your taste buds! I have three suggestions for restaurants in the city centre and outside of it that I believe you will love. So, let’s go on with them!
If you are looking for an old style, Greek taverna, then I’d suggest to head on over to Athonos square in the city centre and look for “To Dixti” (in English Fishnet). The food is great, plus you can have all the best Greek alcoholic drinks, such as retsina, ouzo or tsipouro. It’s been years since I tried the meat, so I will only talk to you about the seafood. We had an excellent octopus, fried calamari and chips, along with zucchini fritters and a wonderful Dixti salad with lettuce, cucumber, rocket and crab meat. All these of course to accompany our ouzo! The decor reminds you of summer and islands, but it is not that cheesy. I think you will just love it!
I find myself quite an ouzo drinker – even though everyone is making fun of me and I don’t get why – as I really enjoy its anise flavour. I think by now ouzo – slowly drank mixed with ice – is one of my favourite drinks when eating at a Greek restaurant. But please none of these ouzo shots! It’s a sacrilege to consume it so quickly!
For the meatlovers among you all, I have the perfect spot! Around 30 mins away from the city centre, in the historic village of Chortiatis, you can find a hidden gem, called “Ta Kioskia”. This restaurant has been there a long time, probably serving the best meat in the area of Thessaloniki! I am not exaggerating my lovely readers; both the lamb and pork we ordered were fantastically cooked while the fried wild boar was super tasty! Yes, I know I said fried wild boar! As usual the chips were just fab (hand-cut, people!), the salads are very fresh and the wine was amazing. We ordered a dry one, which was nice but not really my cup of tea, and a semi-sweet one, which I loved! This is one of my problems with the wine here in the UK; wherever I go, I only find dry ones, but no matter the taste or flavour, I don’t enjoy drinking, and sweet ones are only for dessert. In Greece, we have dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines that we can drink with our meal, but it’s all a matter of personal preference.
Anyway at “Ta Kioskia” you can eat as much as you like, drink some very tasty wines and the staff is always there to help you with everything you want. I always enjoy eating at “Kioskia”, because the food is well-cooked and they always pay attention to the last detail! For example the millefeuil they serve after your lunch/dinner is just heavenly!
If you are in Thessaloniki, but are missing your English brunch, do not hesitate to visit Estrella! An all-day breakfast and brunch spot in the city centre, Estrella became Greek-famous, when their owners introduced #bougatsan, a curious mix of croissant and a local pastry with cream, called “bougatsa”. At Estrella you can have pancakes, burgers, eggs, pizzas and everything else you are craving, all prepared and served with a Greek twist. When we visited, we had red velvet pancakes with cheesecake cream and berries (which were so tasty) and a burger. Be prepared though to visit Estrella on an empty stomach; the portions are huge and even for two people, it is a bit much. Don’t worry about the quality, though. The quality of ingredients is excellent and the service is fantastic!
These are my top food suggestions in Thessaloniki. I could also mention other places, such as Brothers in Law for burgers, or the Noodle Bar for Asian fusion. Just get on your feet and explore what the city has to offer. We may not have metro or other means of public transport, but we do have a White Tower, the present Byzantine Walls and an amazing cuisine waiting to be discovered!
Till next time,