Exploring the delights of
"The Greek Taverna"

The "joie de vivre" of the Greeks is infectious. An evening out, whether it be in metropolitan areas or in an island village, will prove to be memorable and economical.

Greeks in all walks of life use evening dining as a principal source of entertainment.

They dine late and enjoy open-air places during the warm summer months, even if air-conditioning is available. In most establishments that cater to Greek clientele, service is likely to be friendly, warm and informal. Formality is found in the deluxe restaurants only.

A meal in Greece is highlighted with a selection of hors d' oeuvres, hot and cold (referred to as mezedes), which are served in small plates placed in the center of the table family style. Greeks are not connoisseurs of soup but the few available are meals in themselves.

Mezedes are comprised of such items as melitzanosalata (mashed eggplant with oil, lemon and garlic), taramosalata (Greek caviar spread), dolmadakia (meat or rice rolled in grapevine leaves), kalamarakia (deep fried squid), tyropitakia (cheese wrapped in strudel leaves), kolokithakia (deep fried zucchini) are usually served with tzatziki (cucumber, yogurt and garlic spread), keftedes (meatballs), stuffed peppers and tomatoes, pickled octopus, and more.

The main course is a casserole or grilled fish. There are also many delectable meat stews to choose from, as well as plain grilled cuts of meat and of course the well-known charcoal grilled lamb or pork called souvlaki. Fish and shellfish are excellent when caught, cooked and eaten the same day.

Salad is usually ordered with the main course and can be prepared with fresh vegetables or cooked dandelions (greens are boiled in water, drained and served with oil and lemon). Horiatiki, the usual Greek salad, consists of tomato slices, cucumber slices, olives and feta cheese dressed with oil and vinegar. All seasonal vegetables, such as artichokes, beans, peas, carrots, and zucchini are often cooked and served together in the casserole dishes rather than separately.

There is a variety of cheeses produced in Greece. They include some very interesting regional specialties. But the most commonly offered in restaurants are feta (white semi-soft and salted), kasseri (yellow semi-soft), graviera (hard) and manouri (unsalted creamy and fattening). Cheese is usually consumed with bread which can vary tremendously in flavour depending on the particular region.

Desserts are a delectable treat, including baklava (consisting of strudel leaves and walnuts) and kataifi (which consists of nuts wrapped in shredded wheat with a honey sauce).

In the summer, however, sweets give way to fresh fruits such as large peaches, melon, watermelon, grapes and pears. Greek coffee is similar to Arabian coffee. The important thing to know when ordering are the words pikro (bitter), metrio (semi-sweet), and gliko (sweet). Coffee is usually served with a glass of water.

There is a wide variety of eating establishments in Greece, usually characterized by certain well-defined features.

Estiatorion (restaurant):
A conventional eating establishment with tablecloths. They tend to be in the upper price range.
An offshoot of the traditional countryside eating place. The owner and family members can often be seen preparing meals and serving food. A taverna places a great deal of emphasis on the mezedes and traditional cooking. The upper price range tavernas can be very sophisticated establishments in food, service and decor, even though they rarely are as expensive as the deluxe restaurants
A barbecue-style eating place with a large spit conspicuously in the center of the entrance. Here one can inspect the roast pork, lamb and chicken. Your selection is priced according to the weight. Salad, french fries, and cheese compliment such a meal.
Psarotaverna (fish taverna):
They specialize in fish and seafood and are almost always found by the seaside or harborside. In a psarotaverna, one will find fresh fare of the day, usually the owners' morning catch.
Prices and Tipping:
In Greece a 15% service charge is usually included in your bill. However, if it is not, or if you are very happy with the service follow the custom of your own country, as things appear much the same worldwide. Waiters, for instance, will expect a 10% tip or less for large bills.
The G.N.T.O. has tried to come to grips with the confusing tipping problem. Menus are usually presented with two parallel price charts. On the left, the price of the food and drink only. On the right, the same price with service and tax added. The service charge is ordained by Greek law, so additional tipping is really a recognition of special service for special requests. The current Greek custom is to leave some change on the plate with the bill and a smaller amount on the table. The tip on the plate is for the waiter. The tip on the table is for the busboy who served the water, brought extra bread, wine or beer and so on. Busboys work for tips alone.


Bouzouki is the most popular entertainment for the great majority of the Greeks. Bouzouki music is similar to the American Blues, with many adaptations and intensities. The analogy is not accidental either. Bouzouki like the Blues emerged from a sub-culture of unemployed city dwellers persecuted by the authorities and treated as outcasts by the more prominent middle class. Their refuge was born from the small dens and coffee houses they created in the less desirable areas of the city. They found consolation in the music they created which reflected the hard times and their experiences in pain and pleasure, in love and friendship. But the music composed had a unique quality and pathos, as related to the Blues era. It was later adapted and patronized by the wealthy class and in time underwent many changes to emerge as the typical Greek music of today.
Bouzouki nightclubs can be very expensive. Before you join in the traditional breaking of plates, ask the management as to the charge per dozen.

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