Besides those restaurants in the Fokionos Negri section there are dozens of other places to eat scattered around Kypseli. For those who are looking for a quiet neighborhood taverna, the kind that seem to disappear with every old house that becomes an apartment building, there are several I can recommend where neither the food, atmosphere
or the personalities of the owners and staff should disappoint you.
The first is called H Folia Tis Kypselis and it is on a little back street behind Fokionos
Negri near the Hotel Kypseli. Its run by an old couple who inherited it from the man's father and was at onetime the hangout of Theodorakis, Zambetas, Mbithikotsis and Hadzidakis and there is an old photo of them taken sometime in the early sixties. Very simple and delicious food, mostly grilled meats with inexpensive fish and several vegetable dishes and their own excellent rose wine. Very good paidakia and the world's most powerful sadziki. Finding it won't be easy but if you walk up Fokionos Negri and turn
right on Xaironeias St you will see
it on your left at #6 Barbogli Street. The sign outside just says H Folia. They have live music on weekends, just two old guys with a bouzouki and guitar, playing nostalgic favorites while old women dressed to kill listen adoringly and sing along or watch proudly as their husbands get up to dance. Actually one of the things I love about this restaurant is that I am always the youngest person here. It really is a neighborhood taverna for the old people and a fun place on weekends and Apokreas.
Across Fokionos on a tiny street called Xanthis which is just a block long and connects Lelas Kardiayianni and Tenedou streets is an old taverna under new ownership called Petalo. I love their menu which is illustrated by school children. Petalo is popular with the educated and sophisticated, though slightly bohemian crowd
and on Friday and Saturday nights it usually fills up so it might not hurt to call (210-862-2000) and make a reservation unless you get there before say 10pm. Its open on Sunday afternoon as well. It has wine barrels along the walls but they are now just props. But their house wine is
good, as is the food which is somewhere between Neo-Greek and traditional taverna food. Right next door in the basement are real wine barrels of retsina, red, white, ouzo, raki and other healthy spirits in an old cava called H Pigi Tou Dionysou (The Spring of Dionysious). Their retsina is excellent, and as many people have noticed, now that Greece has become a respected exporter of bottled wine, finding good retsina is like.... well, finding a good taverna actually. This cava is certainly worth
stopping in to stock up if you are in the neighborhood and some of their wines are worth going out of your way for.
Another nice little taverna is a half a block from Odos Kypseli on Strofaldon street between Evias and Skyrou, called Kalamia, and as the name suggests is adorned entirely in reeds, like bamboo. Its your typical neighborhood taverna, like H Folia, and like H Foilia probably won't exist once the current owner retires. But of all the
neighborhood tavernas in Kypseli this is the most neighborhoodly and in my opinion the best. Besides having good simple Greek taverna food, the interior of Kalamia is a marvel
of interior decoration, so meticulously adorned in reeds of all sizes and in a variety of patterns. You have to wonder if the guy who created it went mad from the effort. In fact, whoever he was (the current owner, Kostis Basileios, has only been here 30 years) Kalamia is one of three he created. Another similar taverna was destroyed and the third is in Tripoli. But this is the real thing, cozy in the winter, inexpensive, good retsina, friendly service and good recorded rembetika music played at a
The reeds actually give the music a nice full sound. Maybe they should use them for recording studios. The owners are from Preveza and those who have spent time in Hydra may remember George, former owner of Three Brothers. Try their home made Tsipuro from Preveza after dinner. Call for reservations though you probably won't need them. 210 8819923. Last time I went there it was closed but who knows if this is permanent?
If you want to walk a little farther go up Agia Zoni, another pedestrian street that starts near the middle of Fokionos and you will pass several ouzeries and souvlaki shops as well as a mental asylum before you come to a small square called Platia Platanos where there is an excellent neighborhood
taverna of the same name, as well as a nice tsipuradiko called Zaragana. The action is indoors in the winter but when the warm months begin the tables and chairs on
give you that island feeling in the middle of Athens. The Ouzeri Fidios on Agia Zoni serves ouzo and mezedes and is festive on Sunday afternoons, as are many places in Kypseli. If you are looking for a fish taverna without a view of the sea Ellinon Pelagos (photo) serves fresh grilled and fried fish and lots of seaside mezedes from a big old mansion at Agathoupoleos #15, just across Patission street from Fokionos Negri. In the summer they have tables outdoors in the garden.
For those of you who are traveling on a budget or live in Athens and want to go out to dinner regularly and not spend much more than what it would cost to eat at home there is a terrific choice and though it is off the beaten path you can easily have a nice meal here for under ten euros whether you come for lunch or dinner.
The restaurant is called Oi Nostimies tis Mary's and it is a family run restaurant that serves Greek traditional food that is as close as you will
find to village or island home-cooking. Run by the beautiful Mary, with lots of help from her mother, her husband Christos and her three sons who wait tables and deliver take-out, the clientele are a Kypseli mixture of working-class, poets, artists, pensioners, businessmen, famous actresses and people looking for large portions for prices that are a notch or two above a soup kitchen. I eat lunch here almost every day that I am working at home. They also make their own pizza and pasta dishes.
Mary makes the best bakaliaro with skordalia I have ever eaten. Great everyday restaurant if you need one. Actually with places like Mary's it seems silly to go through the trouble of cooking and eating at home. For 10 euros I can have a two course dinner with wine. It's in Platia Agios Giorgiou which is where Ithakis, Eptanisiou and Ydras streets all converge. The small square (a circle actually) in front of the Agios Giorgiou church is an interesting one, sort of a village within a village with three
psistaria-souvlaki shops, a beautiful bar, a large old-man cafeneon and a Dodoni ice-cream shop and maybe the best zacharo-plasteion in Kypseli.
Other working class estiatoria's include Myrtia at 34 Kerkyras which doubles as a souvlaki-shop psistaria at night and is usually filled with old men who have probably been eating lunch here for the last fifty years. Another good bet is the estiatorio on the corner of Kypselis and Skyrou that is so well known it does not even have a sign that is emmedietely visible but it is called H Geitonias (the Neighborhood) and they have excellent food. All the above restaurants starting with Mary's are the kind you can choose from by pointing at what you want through the glass, though they also have grilled food made to order. There are several ethnic restaurants including Lalibella, an Ethiopian Restaurant at 26-48 Naxou Street and the upscale Arabic restaurant Habiba at 224 Patission at the intersection of Astipalias. LBYB
is a Ukranian restaurant in an old house on Mythimnis street near the intersection
of Patission. If you are looking for somewhere fancy for a special occasion or an important date check out Stoa at 101 Patission street near the intersection of Alexandras. Its a remodeled arcade with an extensive menu of pasta, salmon and meat dishes and lots of nice salads and appetisers in an amazing setting. Owned by the son of a minister (who else can afford to open something as extravagant as this?), its also a popular bar as well. Definitely worth stopping in for a drink at least.
Many of the small cafes and cafeneons serve simple mezedes and a couple cooked dishes a day. The cafeneon at the top of Fokionos Negri has an assortment of mezedes for their ouzo drinkers and though they don't have a menu you can ask what he is serving that day
and it is usually something good. Allotino at Platia Ag Giorgiou serves little sausages with their draft beer and for such a small place it has a nice menu of salads and cheeses and ouzo mezedes. Though most of the Fokionos Negri cafes you are just as likely to get a bowl of peanuts than an actual meze with your ouzo it does not hurt to ask. But if you are looking for ouzo me meze you will have better luck on the back streets
or even at one of the Fokionos restaurants like Violetta or O Mpakalogatos. In fact don't forget the restaurants on Foikionos Negri which I have written about on that page and left off this one so as not to be too redundant. Argiris Argiriou(photo) and his father run the popular ouzeri-estiatorio Ippokampos (Seahorse) which serves mostly fish, in fact it feels like you are at a restaurant on the sea if you have a good imagination. They are at 83 Evelpidon, right across the street from the Athens Courts where all their customers come from. For this reason they are open only for lunch, staying open until 5 or as long as there are people there. They are closed weekends. It can be a pretty festive place depending on whether the lawyers and their clients who eat there have won or lost their cases. One of the best, if not the best, places for ouzo and mezedes. The area around it is a small park so like Fokionos Negri you can eat and drink and not be bothered by Athens traffic. The #15 Trolley from Amalias Ave in front of the National Gardens will take you right there if you get off at the Dikastirion (courts).
By the way the above mentioned O Mbakalogatos is one of the best restaurants in Athens. They have a large menu, in Greek, but they speak English. Don't worry about the menu. Order the mussels, either from Limnos, or Mytilini. Order the makaronades with cheese and crispy onions, order the pasta with shrimp, order the sausage, order the sikotaria (liver and stuff in wine sauce), the grilled vegetables are amazing, the Kykladiki salad, or any of the meat dishes. I could go on but start with these and then ask the beautiful waitress to suggest something. The chef is Panayotis Papanicholaou, who is as close as you can get to being a genius in Greek cooking, drawing his inspiration from traditional dishes from all over Greece as well as the years he spent in Chicago. Pick an island and there is probably a dish from there. You could eat here every night and never grow tired of it and come away with a whole new understanding of the depth of Greek cuisine. If I had the money I would take this restaurant and move it to my town in the USA or even in New York because this is how modern Greek cuisine should be done. Great sellection of good tsipuro, raki and ouzo as well as nice local wines by the carafe. They are at #72 Fokionos Negri.
Next door is Faidra which is a sort of estiatorio-taverna with surprisingly good food which is more typical of Athens than Bakalogatos. It is one of the oldest restaurants on Fokionos Negri and one I visit regularly to eat their delicious Faidra Salad which is like a big tuna salad and one of my favorites in Athens. They also have very nice fish and oven foods as well as all of your favorite grilled meats like paidaikia and brizoles.
|Probably my favorite all around food and drinking hangout is the old guy cafeneon called Rena's on the corner of Skopelos and Spetson. Rena used to be a waitress at the Taverna Psiri, one of the best and most popular neighborhood tavernas in Athens, in the Psiri neighborhood, who drifted around for several years before opening her own place. The space is a former gambling cafe, like many you see in Kypseli, which she repainted, redecorated and as she started cooking food and serving the ouzo, cognac, wine, beer and coffee that the old place was known for, the old men started returning, as did a younger crowd and some of her customers from previous jobs. Rena cooks everything and has daily specials like stuffed chicken, roast lamb and potatoes and a number of smaller dishes some which change every day and some that she always serves. When I discovered Rena's I really had the feeling of 'this is the place' because it is the perfect combination of old man cafeneon and good restaurant. There are tables indoors but being a cafeneon that can get a little smokey sometimes so there are tables outdoors as well, and Spetson, one of the most ethnically mixed streets in Athens is a very interesting place to hang out and people-watch, day or night. I recommend her gigandes (large beans) which are slightly spicy, her fried gavros (anchovies), sikoti (liver and stuff) which goes great with ouzo, and maybe the best keftedes (meatballs) in Athens. Its not easy to find though. You can walk down Kypseli street from the platia and turn left on Skopelos and it is at the intersection of Spetson. If you are coming from Fokionos Negri walking up from Patission street turn right on Skopelos, one block before the Platia.
Kypseli must have more bakery-zacharo plastions (sweet shops) than anywhere else in Athens if not the world. At the intersection of Kypselis Street and Agiou Melitiou there are at least five within a block of each other. These shops have amazing looking pastries on display in the window or in glass cases inside and of course they have baklava,
kataiffi, tiropitas and spanakopitas of all different shapes and styles. They also have several different breads, from your every day horiatiko
(village-style)to dark brown whole wheat of different sizes and textures. Gone are the days when you only had to choose between two types of bread. Now the morning visit to the bakery requires decision making. Many of these bakeries are Albanian owned and stay open until 2 or 3 in the morning. Even when they are closed there seems to always be someone working hard in the back and the smell of baking bread and cake fills the air in Kypseli. Several, including one on Agia Zoni still used wood-burning ovens. My
friend Anastasia swears by the small bakery of Afoi Mandelou on Hydras street between Spetson and Odos Kypseli. They have wonderful little apple and cherry pies, whole grain breads and loads of cakes, cookies, spanakopitas and pastries. My wife likes the zacharo-plasteion owned by Dimitris Hatzifotiou on Sporadon near the intersection of Agia Melitiou. The brightly colored Bardaris at 54 Kypselis Street features bougatsas, tiropitas, spanakopitas and other specialities from Thessaloniki
and really only lacks outdoor tables to be a cool place to hang out and watch the people get off and on the buses. Perhaps the most famous of all the sweet places is the diples and loukoumades shop of Theodoros Tarkasis' called IDI ZACHROPLASTIKIS
at 185 Drossopoulou. And in Platia Georgiou, Skafaidis zacharoplasteon is known throughout Kypseli for their fancy pastries and galatoumbouriko-kataiffi and the amazing seasonal candy displays they create, especially at Easter.
Anyone who loves souvlakia, rotisserie chicken, kokoretsi, kontosouvli, gyros, kalamaki, beefteki, loukaniko, or any other meats that they sell in fastfood places, Kypseli has more than its share, and with the slow economy these seem to be where everyone is eating, whether its to-go or standing only, or an actual sit-down souvlaki shop-psistaria with tablecloths
and even wine from the village and a half dozen oven-cooked dishes. You can live on 5 euros a day if you have a tiropita for breakfast, and a souvlaki for lunch or dinner. In fact there are probably a lot of people in the neighborhood who do just that. And almost every restaurant delivers. There is an army of guys on motorcycles bringing take-out from the restaurants to apartments and houses all over Kypseli. At Apolausi, my local souvlaki shop at 50 Kypseli Street you can sit and watch Kypseli life as it passes by the window and eat fegaropita which they are famous for, which is sort of a cross between a souvlaki and a pizza. In fact for orders of 18 euros you get a gift of one fegaropita and they deliver if you call them at 210 882 4009! You can also dine-in and they feature home-made wine and all the grilled meats you will find at a taverna but cheaper. (click on Fegaropita photo to see full size)
At the top of Fokionos Negri on Platia Kanaris are several psistarias including Kot-Kot, an old taverna with a small dining room and an outdoor area, run by Kyria Vasso and her family.
Grocery Stores and Markets
Kypseli is dotted with ethnic grocery stores that serve the needs of its large African population as well as Albanians, Pakistanis and Russians. Some of these shops carry only a few items and you wonder how they stay in business, but they are supported by the people from the country or village of the shop's
owner. They usually stock normal everyday items that you would find in any small grocery store in Athens plus products from their home country and each is somewhat unique. Of course there are a number of small Greek grocery stores like the one owned by Ioannis Mazarakis (photo) who was the fruit and vegetable seller at the
old market and now owns Frutti del Mondo, a small fruit and vegetable shop next door on Zakynthou Street. There is a herb shop, fish market, meat market and other shops within a stone's throw of the Demotiki Agora and scattered throughout Kypseli. The most interesting food shops are the Polish Deli-Pantopoleio (everything store) which have popped up and sell items you might find in your local gourmet store. Kielbasas and various smoked meats and sausages, different types of pickled and smoked
herring and other fish, sauerkraut, pickles,
soups, frozen pirogis, vodka, Polish beer and hundreds of canned items. The best in the neighborhood is probably Delikatesy Polonaise at the intersection of Spetson and Skyrou near Platia Kanaris (Kypselis). Below Patission street there is Pantopoleio Baltik at 168-170 Aristotelou which is similar. My favorite places are the shops that sell nuts like the one at 54 Kypselis street where you can get fresh pistachios, roasted almonds, peanuts, cashews, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and all
different kinds of chocolates and liquors.
Along with the various ethnic and Greek markets and vegetable shops there are several chain supermarkets in the area. There are also three very large laiki agoras (people's markets or farmer's markets) which go for blocks on different streets on different days of the week. On Thursday the market is on Sporadon and Tinou streets for 4 months and then moves
to Hydras street starting at Platia Georgiou for the next four months. On Tuesday the market starts
at the top of Fokionos Negri and goes down Lelas Kardiayianni all the way to Patission, and of course on Saturday there is the Organic Market in the Demotiki Agora. Altogether you have plenty of opportunities to buy fresh in season fruits and vegetables, eggs, olives, fish, plants and other edible and non-edible goods if you live in the neighborhood. For those who are just visiting Athens these markets are as fine an example of the laiki markets and worth coming to see at any time of year. Fruits and vegetables
seem bigger, better and healthier looking than
your normal supermarket variety and they are a lot cheaper too. Bargain hunters come at the end when the prices drop because no farmer wants to bring his vegetables back home with him.
See Kypseli Market Photos and for those of you who are confused by the names of all the dishes served in the above restaurants you can read more at www.greecefoods.com
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