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Dining in Athens


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#1 Busboy

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Posted 16 October 2003 - 06:37 AM

I've been travelling to Athens recently for work, and am having a hard time finding truly good restaurants, either at the taverna or at the fine dining level. Some good fish here and there and one really good place near my hotel in Kiffisia (I can't transliterate the name from the business card, but it specializes in traditional, local food, updated, kind of an Aegean Chez Panisse). Most nights, I end up with a forgettable taverna meal or something non-Greek. Any guidance, particularly if it's near a subway stop or obvious landmark, would be appreciated.
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#2 Nimokmai

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Posted 23 October 2003 - 04:40 AM

Well, I've been to Athens more than my fair share, and these are two places that I think are excellent. Unfortunately, both take a little bit of walking.

1. I Palia Taverna tou Psarra - Located just under the northwest corner of the Acropolis. (Address: Erechtheos 16, Athens, Greece Phone: 01/321-8733)

2. Strofi - Located on the south side of the Acropolis (You are sitting right underneath the Parthenon so you should bring a camera for some fantastic photos.) This one is a bit of a walk from the Acropolis Metro Stop. (Address: Rovertou Galli 25, Athens, Greece
Phone: 01/921-4130 or 01/922-3787)

Unfortunately, these are the only two whose names I remember. Hope they help.

/\/

#3 theakston

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Posted 23 October 2003 - 06:21 AM

You might find this guide helpful:

matt barret's athens restaurant guide

#4 paulbrussel

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Posted 23 October 2003 - 08:36 AM

Well, I did enjoy the one Michelinstar restaurant Varoulko where you can go to by cab - and since cabs are very cheap in Athens, that should not be a big problem.
I was there lats August and then it was not located in the normal restaurant place in Piraeus.

#5 Busboy

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Posted 23 October 2003 - 08:42 AM

Well, I did enjoy the one Michelinstar restaurant Varoulko where you can go to by cab - and since cabs are very cheap in Athens, that should not be a big problem.

Except today -- cabbies out on strike (along with sanitation workers, university professors, health care workers and various other trades).

Am hoping to get to Piraeus and would like to dine there, but I can't stay out past midnight, when the subway closes. As it appears you know, that's like going to dinner and having to be back for the babysitter by 8 o'clock in the US.

Will explore the other suggestions and report back -- maybe we can build a database before hundreds of e-gulleters descend on Athens for the Games next year.
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#6 Busboy

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Posted 07 June 2004 - 08:20 AM

Athens has a pretty bad rep, some of it earned, but I’ve been spending a lot of time there for work and I love the place -- crawling through a warren of tiny backstreets in search of a bar that wouldn’t fill a two-story atrium in an American house -- apparently owned and decorated by two art students and a guitarist, and probably open until dawn – or eating good honest Mediterranean food under the stars, even paying tourist prices for drinks because the floor show is sunset on the Parthenon.

Not long ago I was sitting in one of the best restaurants in what is unquestionably one of the most exciting neighborhoods in Europe and my friend, who’s been expat-ing in the Kolonaki neighborhood for two years, damn near choked up at the thought of leaving Athens this fall. It’s not a sophisticated town, and the food’s not in the same league as Paris or London, but it has a lot of charm.

I started this thread because there is little about Athens on this board. I’m hoping to get a little information posted for the next eGulleter that travels through, and maybe draw a little knowledge from other posters. It is far from a complete overview, but it’s a start. And, though I may not be back in Athens until August, I will add and update whenever I have the opportunity.

For convenience, I will post by neighborhood, and add info via editing whenever I have a chance to update. Forgive me if I get carried away every now and again; I’ll try to be at least as informative as I am self-indulgent.

Yammas!

Edited by Busboy, 19 September 2006 - 11:59 AM.

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#7 Busboy

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Posted 07 June 2004 - 08:22 AM

GENERAL INFO

Other Help: http://www.gourmed.gr/

Tipping: My friends who live in Greece and the guidebooks diverge on this one. The guidebooks say the tip is built into the cost of the meal, my friends say that it is not, and we tip 10%, 15% for excellent service.

Cover Charge: Virtually all restaurants (as opposed to drinking spots) charge one, they range roughly from 1 to 3 euros. Sometimes this will get you some bottled water and a small snack, sometimes it won’t. I don’t know why.

English:
Many Greeks speak English, particularly younger Greeks. Nonetheless, the usual niceties apply, and learning a few words of Greek will stand you in good stead. As with France, taxi drivers seem particularly disinclined to speak English. Bring a map, with your destination circled.

Greek:
Please, you’re welcome, what would you like? pah-rah-kah-LO:
Thank you: Ef-khah-ree-STO
Do you speak English? mee-LAHS ahn-glee-KAA
Wanker: Malakah

French: A pretty useful language, particularly -- and not surprisingly -- in better bars and restaurants.

Service:
Relaxed but efficient. Greeks can linger for hours after dinner; Greek servers are therefore slow to bring the check, which can irk Americans.

Reservations:
A good idea, though not strictly necessary, especially if you’re eating early (before 9).

Hours: Many restaurants will not even have anyone on the premises when you call at 6PM to make a reservation for that night. 9-11 PM is the prime time to arrive.

Anti-Americanism: Every American in Athens is at risk…of a lengthy diatribe from their taxi driver on American foreign policy. This is why cabbies who speak only Greek are not entirely a bad thing. Other than being turned away from a trendy club one night (surely it was because the bouncers were anti-American. It couldn’t possibly have been that we weren’t cool enough, could it?), I have never encountered anything resembling anti-Americanism; friends who have lived in Athens for over a year confirm that, on a practical level – despite the universal loathing of George Bush and the Iraqi war – anti-Americanism is largely a myth.

Nickel-and-diming: I have never encountered serious crime in Athens, even in what appear to be very iffy neighborhoods, but there is a lot of penny-ante bullshit: crusty old liquor store owners who tack a euro onto the cost of the wine you’re buying; cabbies who don’t use meters and charge what they think they can get away with; maids that refill your mini-bar vodka bottles with water and restock them. None of this is unique to Athens, and the vast majority of Athenians I have ever met have been wonderful, but someone jerks me around for a couple of euros every time I go. So, pay attention, try to look like you know what you’re doing, and be ready to let it go unless it’s a significant sum or you’re in the mood to duke it out in Greek.
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#8 Busboy

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Posted 07 June 2004 - 08:30 AM

DOWNTOWN: PSIRRI; MONASTIRAKI; PLAKA

The three neighborhood of Psirri, Monastiraki and Plaka sit next to one another; you can probably walk from the center of Plaka to the center of Psirri in less than half an hour. Plaka abuts the Parthenon and full of tourist and trinket-dealers, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s also the only place in the city where the stores are open on Sunday. Just to the north-west, Monastiraki has only recently become hip; it’s full of old buildings turned into new cafés with spectacular views. Psirri is the TriBeCa of Athens, full of hip clubs, hip people and hip restaurants.

The first night of my last visit we wandered down to Psirri, stopping for drinks at Therio -- “The Beast” -- whose address I unfortunately don’t have and can’t find. Even my friend had a hard time locating it on foot -- Psyrri is a warren of irregularly-signed tiny streets. Though we were too early for the crowd – at 9:30 there were four customers – I’d like to head back. It was captivating jewel box of a place with jazz on the stereo and a bartender who smiled.

Therio is just around the corner from Hytra, so you should make sure you get to that corner of the neighborhood, anyway. Dedicated to Cretan ingredients and French technique, by way of Spain, Hytra is fun, adventurous and good at what they do. The room is small, bright and spare, the walls hung with large, modern canvases and the tables close together, but not uncomfortably so. It attracts celebrities.

The menu was available in English. The wine list was Greek. But my friend – whose Greek is not exceptional – has learned enough to work his way through a Greek wine list with some panache. God bless him, his priorities are in order. The sommelier spoke English, the waiter spoke French, I speak food-French and since my friend speaks wine-Greek the four of us had a friendly little Table of Babel going in no time.

We ordered the “surprise” menu, but by the end of the first course we kind of knew what we were in for – and happy about it. First, there was a glass of raki, Cretan grappa, served with an eggplant amuse. Then came a demi-tasse of fish soup topped with olive oil and a lemon-carrot mousse. The soup was good – similar to a bouillabaisse. Once the mousse began to melt into it, it was great. Once they set a spoonful of raw sea urchin down, to be nibbled in between sips, it was spectacular.

Other highlights were an assortment of bite-sized Mediterranean fish, each prepared in a different way; and a salad garnished with small balls of ground chicken coated with pistachio and rosemary. I can still taste the entrée – loin of wild boar in pastry wrapping that had been liberally seasoned with allspice and cardamom, served upright in a bright yellow sauce of pureed bell pepper, dotted with chopped sautéed greens. It was a spectacular presentation and a taste that was oddly familiar and wonderfully different: half grandma’s baked ham with cloves; half Nieman Ranch tenderloin.

The desserts were fine, but not that fine -- we didn’t need three, and I can’t remember what they were. Not matter, it was a great meal in a fun neighborhood.

HYTRA 7 Navarhou Apostoli, 210 331 6767; dinner for two, with two bottles of wine, 170€

Friday night I worked late and didn’t have a chance to change before heading downtown and back to Psyrri. First stop was SOUL which my friend claims is a great place to drink until dawn, better than BEAST, but Soul was just too damn cool to let us in, either because we were too old or too American or I was in a suit or just because doorman can be arbitrary pricks wherever you go.

“This is a private club.”
“My friends and I have been here before.”
“It’s a private club on Fridays.”

Uh-huh.

I was too sober to curse the malaka in Greek – the delights of learning a language – or English and we decided to wander over to BAR GURU and at least get rid of the sobriety problem. Guru is beautifully done, the interior looked vaguely New Orleans-ish, lit up with fresh flowers and candles and light blue paint. Behind the bar, the DJ set-up was a captivating two-story column of stained glass mounted in a wooden frame, and the owner himself was spinning everything from Snoop to Tina Turner. The crowd shared the same range of vintages as the music, and dress ran from hipster-wear to old t-shirts and off-brand jeans. We fell in with a couple of drunken Brit journalists and two Greek academics and I enjoyed the place immensely until I left at the early hour of 3AM.

BAR GURU [10 Theatrou Sq. 210 324 6530]

Despite my having worked until noon and getting stuck in a traffic jam heading south -- Saturday is the big Greek shopping day – I made it back to my friend’s place before he was able to get out the door. Although I am a degenerate, my friend, “Ionnaki,” is whatever is more degenerate than a degenerate (a bourdaine?) and about 12:30 we knocked back a breakfast of wine and cheese and headed back into the streets.

CENTRAL MARKET bordered by Athinas, Sofokleous, Evripidou, and Filopimenos streets

After loading up on pastries we strolled over to Athens’ central markets: meat, fish and produce. The meat market was a sea of halved lambs hanging from hooks, strung sausages and enough offal for a thousand Bloom’s Days. Butchers in bloody coats wielded cleavers the size of canoe paddles, with lit cigarettes and five o’clock shadow apparently the mark of a true master.

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Housewives prodded lambs heads, sniffing them and poking eyeballs to check freshness while a hundred butcher’s assistants lurked at the fronts of their stalls chanting like carnival barkers, and touting (one assumes ) the superiority of their wares -- homing in on you if you so much as broke stride next to their stall.

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Lamb, pork, intestines bundled together and knotted like garish macramé, the raw materials for uncounted sausages (down the street: a store selling nothing but meat grinders of every caliber), beef testicles the size of baseballs, slimy and compelling…you can imagine how disappointed I was to be dragged off to the Acropolis, but my friend says that when I return, I go back to the market – and cook something up in his kitchen.

Before the Acropolis, though, we made our way through the Athens fish market which, unfortunately, lacked sanguinary din that energized its next-door neighbor. Much of the fish – including lovely Med-types like dorade and rouget – had been frozen and looked sad and garish. There was, however, a strong selection of cephalopods – sea creatures with many arms were available in many sizes, and the upside of frozen octopus is that you don’t have to bang it against a rock 41 times to tenderize it before cooking.

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We emerged into the bright light of the produce market. There’s something about going to the market when you’re not going to cook that’s like going to a strip club when you’re not going to f***: it’s a damn good time, but frustrating. The fava beans heaped in the stalls frustrated me the most: they were bright green and dirt cheap, 75 cents a kilo, just in from Santorini.

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Across from favas was all the feta you could need crumble over those favas, plus a dozen other local cheeses with Greek names I haven’t yet learned; at the next stall there were lemons that looked like peasants had painted them in bold, real colors, waiting to be mixed with olive oil and tossed with the favas and chees. We contented ourselves with some glorious strawberries and pushed off for the flea market and the day’s cultural activities.

Staying on the subject of food, the flea markets offer a grand assortment of shipping line silver and old knives. We hade little time to look, as 2 o’clock was approaching, but, if I decide I need yet another set of place settings – and I may -- I will be back.

After a couple of hours meandering through timeless works of extraordinary beauty and historic weight and that kind of stuff, we had naturally worked up an appetite. Fortunately, Ionnaki’s favorite weekend lunch spot was mere footsteps away, so we crossed the pedestrian boulevard dividing the historic Agora from the hyperactive Monastiraki neighborhood, and sat down for lunch at CAFÉ AVISINIA

Avisinia Sqare an asphalt parking lot, with cars and motorcycles and a dumpster. Despite the large tree shading a few of the tables, Avisinia may be the only restaurant in Greece where the indoor seating is more desirable.

Downstairs was cool and dark and filled with a joyous racket made by a pair of musicians sitting at a table at the far end of the room. God knows I’ve never been particularly drawn to American folk music, much less the Greek stuff, but this couple was having so damn much fun -- as was everyone else in the place – that they were hard to walk away from. He was a long-haired cross between a garage mechanic and a male model, crunching the accordion with a delightful ease. She sat next to him and filled the room with a lyrical voice in between drags on her smokes. It almost looked like a tourist joint except it was full of Greeks, and every now and then someone would leave behind his grilled sausages and sit in for a song, adding another layer to the compelling music the duo were laying down.

I was disappointed, then, to be led to the upstairs dining room – a bright open room with tall windows on one side and whitewashed walls on the other two, decorated with flea market art apparently selected with an eye for the evocative and quietly surreal.

Food and wine began arriving quickly, family-style, and the wine began to flow. The appetizers were wonderful – filling, heartfelt and traditional, like the music. Mashed favas were topped with chopped red onion, capers and tomatoes and, of course, accompanied by a fresh lemon. I’m starting to think of them as Greek mashed potatoes, they’re so common and so good. We got a garden salad that looked like it came out of a garden and not a bag; dakos – stale bread with diced tomatoes, soft cheese and olive oil; snails “Fresh (sic) style”, in shells with garlic butter; marinated anchovies that tasted salty and clean, half olive grove and half sea; and feta cheese baked with paprika, gooey and delicious.

Before we could finish the appetizers, the kitchen started sending out main courses. Fortunately, we were famished from hours of walking and culture and the residual food lust from our market visits and we rose to the occasion, filling plates to overflowing and stacking empty serving dishes on the adjoining table, making room for the sardines baked in grape leaves (the one loser dish, fishy and dry) and the cabbage leaves stuffed with ground pork, which I found mediocre but the others at the table greatly enjoyed. The big winner was the grilled sausage assortment. It wasn’t on the menu, but we’d seen it at another table. Two lamb – one spicy, one mild – and three pork sausages, including a credible kielbasa that tasted disconcertingly like a Slim Jim, and a finely ground link larded with a strong white cheese.

The four of us shared three deserts. The balaclava was strong effort – though my expat friends said it wasn’t as good as usual. The accompanying ice cream was more interesting, being delicately spiked with mastic, the resin or gum of the mastic tree that is, in the Greek Islands, commonly chewed (masticated), they tell me, like chewing gum. It’s got a distinctive flavor, but one hard to describe – somewhere at the intersection of anise and cinnamon, with an odd but not unpleasant bitterness to it. You see it a lot in Greek desserts, Turkish Delight, and herbal remedy shops -- it is reputed to have medicinal properties. We also had whipped cream with candies fruit and nuts, and fine Greek yogurt with prunes in syrup.

CAFÉ AVISINIA 7 Kinetou St. at Avisinia Square (north side of the Acropolis) 210 32 17 047; Total damage for 4 people with 3, or maybe 4, bottles of wine: 160€

Ionnaki’s friend decided he’d had enough to drink and headed back to the apartment for a nap, but the other three of us decided that it would almost be immoral and certainly un-Dionysian to kill the high we were on. So we headed down to the acres of cafés that sprang up at the base of the Acropolis when they shut down traffic on the road around it and gave it back to the pedestrians. We wandered a bit, looking for the perfect spot and finally found one at DELFIS MCE.

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My view from the table.

The inside of Delfis looked wonderful and enticing, but we sat outside, of course, backs to the building with orchestra seat-views of the promenading Greeks and the Acropolis as backdrop to the scene below. I guess the tourists were over in Plaka, or perhaps no one promenades as well as the Greeks, so they get the best turf. Anyway, the whole place seemed curiously undiscovered.

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Young promenader.


Almost as delightful as the view was the waitress. She not only looked as though she has been fashioned by the same hand that had carved the Caryatids -- but with more care and love -- she twice went out of her way to take care of us. First, by talking me out of drinking raki – Cretan firewater -- and second, by trying to return our tip (10 euros on a 75 euro tab) as “too much.” She apparently hadn’t gotten the “be mean to Americans” memo. [In fact no server I’ve met in Greece has gotten that memo.]

In between declining the raki and leaving the tip, we went through another three bottles of wine. Sitting where Plato, Socrates and Aristotle once trod, we naturally fell into a philosophical mood, talking of the same things they would have: love (and lust – the foot traffic was pretty swell); aging and mortality; travel; and body hair trends in pornographic films, gay versus straight. As the wine flowed, the passing show changed as the scruffy hipsters went home to rest up for their long nights clubbing, and the families and older folks took over, scrubbed for dinner, reveling in a warm spring evening, walking hand-in-hand. The setting sun turned the Acropolis the color of a glowing coal. Is was indescribably delightful.

DELFIS MCE the juncture of the pedestrian walkway – Apostolou Paulou – and Akamandos streets; 3 bottles of wine: 75€


Realizing that we had to move on I parted company with Ionnaki and Tom and wove in the general direction of HILTON to check out their legendary balcony, but the sterility and mock-grandeur put me off so violently and immediately that couldn’t even stay for a drink. The whole building stank of air conditioning and room freshener and buzzed with the kind of people who think Athens is a place to be protected from rather than embraced, so I fled back downstairs and hailed an uptown cab. No doubt they were as pleased to see me go as I was to leave.

I showered and shaved and sobered up enough to have a pleasant dinner at my hotel. Ionnaki and Tom slept until 1AM, had a tequila shot to wake up by and clubbed until 8:30 the following morning and were thus unavailable for lunch. Left on my own I meandered around the Plaka for a while and found a decent lunch at DIA TATYA. Not really worth a detour, but if you’re craving Greek basics like fried cheese and mashed favas, it’s a pleasant enough place to rest your legs. Exposed stone walls, friendly servers, a good mix of locals and tourists, reasonable prices for the neighborhood.

DIA TATYA; Adriavou 37, Monestiraki 210 321 2347; 30€ with a couple of glasses of wine.

Edited by Busboy, 15 February 2006 - 07:25 PM.

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#9 Busboy

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Posted 25 June 2004 - 07:35 AM

UPTOWN: KIFSSIA

I’d like to think that my home away from home is in Paris, or Manhattan, but it’s actually the Hotel Pentelikon in the Kifissia area of Greater Athens. A leafy refuge from the barely-controlled insanity of downtown, Kifissia is quiet, conservative and affluent. I it find too far from the action, a good 30-minute ride down the Metro’s Green Line from Monastiraki, anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour by cab -- closer to an hour between 9AM and 10PM. Nevertheless, the Pentelikon, with its mere 50 Greek-Deco rooms and 12-foot ceilings – swimming pool refurbishment is scheduled to be finished in time for the Games – is a very civilized place to spend the night.

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Lobby at the Pentelikon

In Kifissia, one is far more likely to be awakened by birdsong than by traffic, and the shopping district, though generically upscale-international, is considered one of Athens’ finest. In addition, Kiffissia is well worth a detour for the food-oriented traveler.

The Pentelikon – named after the mountain that supplied marble for the Acropolis -- itself has two restaurants of note.

VARDIS is one of only three Michelin-starred restaurants in the Greece. It claims to serve “distinctive Mediterranean cuisine” but, like everything else at the Pentelikon, the food is really trying to be French. My one meal there was fine – an excellent duck breast with honey and red wine – but memorable largely because the service was so stiffly formal that my dining companion almost fled the room. The enduring image of the evening was of the runner bringing the food to the gueridon (sp?) and pausing to watch as the waiter served it, under the icy stare, in turn, of the Maitre d’. It was like auditioning for a role as dinner guest. I would go back again, but only in a group large enough to outnumber the serving team, and only with Greeks, whose natural ebullience would go far to combat the chilled solemnity of the floor staff.

LA TERRASSE serves similarly francophilic food, but at a more bistro-like elevation. The room is open, light, with the terrace facing a shady, less-traveled street. It’s starchy enough that, after an all-day drinking and culture binge, I felt compelled to shave and dig out a sport coat before I could be comfortable there one Saturday night; but starchy in appearance, rather than attitude. The place resembled nothing so much as the grill room at a country club: the local gentry had shaved and dressed for a long, pleasant evening with their first wives, at a restaurant where they knew the waiters by name and the menu by heart. It was kind of wholesome, and I don’t mind cleaning up for a good meal – and the meal was good. The highlight was a lamb shank stewed with red wine and olives, wonderfully moist and deliciously rich. The waiter, in contrast to the crew across the lobby, was more than affable, and took the time to jot down the names of a few of the dishes in Greek, for my future reference. They also do a great duck confit.

HOTEL PENTELIKON; VARDIS RESTAURANT; LA TERRASSE RESTAURANT Diligianni 66, Kifissia, 210-6230.650-6

If you’re in the mood for Greek food, the Pentelikon is, obviously, no help. Fortunately, the excellent GEFSEIS ME ONMASIA PROELFSIS (Flavors with Appellation of Origin) restaurant is only a 15-minute walk from either the hotel or the Kifissia subway stop, and easily locatable by even the most clueless tourist or cab driver, given its location on Kifissias Avenue, Athens’ main drag. It is located in a lovely old antique-bedecked house; in the summer, the back yard terrace is even more delightful. The owner speaks English but seems to enjoy speaking French more He's recently decided to translate the menu into English, which is more convenient but perhaps less fun than having him walk you through the offerings himself. The chef is evidently notable, and evidently did a turn at a restaurant called Milos, in New York City. The restaurant is operated in conjunction with a wine shop, and offers a wide variety of Greek wines at every price level, and French wines including grand cru Burgundies and Bordeaux. The wine list remains untranslated, though the French listings and non-Greek varietal names are in French or English.

Gefseis is another Greek revival restaurant, selling only dishes prepared with Greek ingredients, though often with a “continental” twist. A favorite dish of mine is the millefeuil (Napoleon) of sardines – the little fishies are stacked like firewood, interlaced with oven-dried tomatoes and sauced with an herbed buerre blanc. On another occasion I was served a wonderful Greek version of coq au vin, the old bird having been perfectly braised in a good Greek red wine with olives, and served on a bed of orzo spiked with a cilantro puree. The richness of the cock and the freshness of cilantro set one another off wonderfully. One evening an Atkins-oriented friend of mine ordered a cheese appetizer that featured five spoonfuls each of two types of cheese – with each spoonful from a cheese at a different stage of the aging process. It was a delicious, and an educational, dish. And Gefseis has served me both the best octopus and the best fava puree I’ve ever had in Greece, or anywhere.

GEFSEIS ME ONMASIA PROELFSIS; Kifisias 317; 210 6202 158; 42.80 dinner alone

DOUVLAKIA, (the little pig) just a couple of blocks from Kifissia’s shopping district, is a friendly little place with a pig fetish so pronounced that I am half convinced the place is some weird Greek answer to Outback Steakhouse. Pigs are everywhere, the cute little tin kind you make clocks and wall-hangings out of, and the tasty grilled kind you make a meal out of. The restaurant itself is bright and friendly place, with a farmhouse feel, and open kitchen and…pigs, everywhere. Despite a certain kitschiness, the place was so damn friendly looking that I finally walked in one night, even though there was not a word of English visible anywhere. We were able to locate an English- speaker, who immediately apologized – “I’m sorry, we only have tables in the non-smoking section.” Welcome to Greece, where the apologize when they can't find a place for you to light up. They had an English menu and I ordered the salad, the kleftiko and a bottle of white wine. The kleftiko is a gyro variant: marinated, grilled pork cutlets served open –face on pita with onion, a roasted pepper sauce, and paprika. It was a great taverna sandwich in a friendly place, and welcome contrast to most blandly internationalized Kifissia establishments.

DOUVLAKIA, Othonos 99 (at Kifissas Ave.) telephone 8011093 23€, including much wine.

The KEFALARIO SQUARE AREA sports maybe twenty or thirty restaurants, all set cheek-to-jowl near and around the park. If you are staying in the neighborhood – or have just popped up to hit Ralph Lauren or Marks and Spencer, you may say to yourself, “surely, one of these restaurants must serve decent Greek food.” You will be wrong. There is a decent sushi joint and a Lebanese restaurant that is tolerable. Otherwise the food is aggressively bad. There is an Applebee’s there. Run away.

There are two other reasons to drop by Kifissia. The first is CAVA VINIFERA, the wine shop operated in conjunction with Gefseis restaurant. It offers a wide selection of Greek and French wines, from rather cheap to distinctly expensive, in a cramped couple of rooms. They didn’t speak much English when I was there, but all worked out well. For what it’s worth, I find inexpensive and mid-priced Greek wines quite drinkable and occasional delightful, with more expensive bottles being less satisfying on a cost/benefit level, but interesting, nonetheless.

The second non-restaurant reason to venture to the northern suburbs, is ERIC KAYSER, ARTISAN BOULANGER. Apparently Kayser is a renowned French baker who is opening a series of shops on France and elsewhere. Not realizing that his Athens boulangerie sits just a stone’s throw from Cava Vinifera, I did not hunt it up when I was on my wine run. But the Pentelikon serves the breads at breakfast; they are exquisite, and deserve to be explored at length, preferably in a degustation with Greek cheeses and wine from the shop just down the street.

CAVA VINIFERA, Kifissias 317, 210 8077 709
ERIC KAYSER Artisan Boulanger, Kifisias 321, 210 8089.105-6
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#10 Adrian York

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Posted 06 July 2004 - 05:13 PM

Good job busboy
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#11 Rogelio

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 03:33 AM

For those of you who haven't read it on the FT, here's an article about eating out in and around Athens by Nicolas Lander
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#12 Gifted Gourmet

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 05:49 AM

this from the Independent, UK which only says similar things in praise of the man, Costas Spiliadis, and his restaurant ... thanks, Busboy, for your great reports!

Edited by Gifted Gourmet, 12 July 2004 - 05:50 AM.

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#13 JennyUptown

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Posted 13 July 2004 - 06:07 PM

Very cool, Busboy.

#14 Busboy

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Posted 13 July 2004 - 07:19 PM

this from the Independent, UK which only says similar things in praise of the man, Costas Spiliadis, and his restaurant ... thanks, Busboy, for your great reports!

Looks like I'll have to journey into Hilton once again, though I shudder at the thought, just to check out Milos. Rumor has it that the whole place has been taken over Olympic consultants and early-arriving IOC bureaucrats, with the IOC scheduled to take it over completely for the month of August.
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#15 esperanza

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Posted 13 July 2004 - 09:00 PM

Busboy, what great reports you've been reporting. I've read them with a great deal of nostalgia for Athens and the food there.

Would you do me a favor? Ask around in the Plaka for a taverna called Kouklis. I ate there many times over a three-week period several years ago and still think fondly of the green beans, potato salad with fresh dill and lemon, the favas, the...*sigh*...sit upstairs on one of the tiny balconies and enjoy the afternoon.

See if the food is as good as I remember it, or if my nostalgic mind has upped the ante.
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#16 Busboy

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 04:43 AM

Busboy, what great reports you've been reporting. I've read them with a great deal of nostalgia for Athens and the food there.

Would you do me a favor? Ask around in the Plaka for a taverna called Kouklis. I ate there many times over a three-week period several years ago and still think fondly of the green beans, potato salad with fresh dill and lemon, the favas, the...*sigh*...sit upstairs on one of the tiny balconies and enjoy the afternoon.

See if the food is as good as I remember it, or if my nostalgic mind has upped the ante.

On Sunday I fell into a discussion with a woman who is half Greek and travels to Athens regularly, who made me promise to find a Taverna in Plaka called (as I remembered) "Skolastica." Upon googling "Kouklis" I find that another name for the place is "Skolario" and the description on the site is exactly what she described to me -- looks like a "must eat." It's a small world -- unless you're navigating Athens at night by foot with a Greek map. At any rate, I'll hunt it down if at all possible and report back.
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#17 Adrian York

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Posted 30 July 2004 - 08:46 AM

Can anyone suggest somewhere suitable for my mum's 70th birthday in or around Athens. We wil be up to 20 people, Greeks and British with a very wide age -range, and I want somewher with a great food/atmosphere and view. Thanks, Adrian.

#18 unreserved

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Posted 31 July 2004 - 11:35 AM

Milos restaurant has now opened in Athens. Although I have not eaten at the Athens location, I have had the pleasure of dining at the original restaurant in Montreal and I know the New York location is a town favourite. The food is authentic Greek, which does not mean souvlaki!

I include the website for your benefit: www.milos.ca

If this kind of thing is important to you, then you may be interested to know that when in Montreal, most Hollywood types frequent the restaurant.
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#19 nikko

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Posted 01 August 2004 - 12:28 AM

DOUVLAKIA, (the little pig) just a couple of blocks from Kifissia’s shopping district, is a friendly little place with a pig fetish so pronounced that I am half convinced the place is some weird Greek answer to Outback Steakhouse.  Pigs are everywhere, the cute little tin kind you make clocks and wall-hangings out of, and the tasty grilled kind you make a meal out of. 

Hi,
I live in Athens and go there quite often. It's official name is "Souvlakia Kiffisias" (aka Gourounakia).
Unlike other souvlaki places, they offer wide variety of dishes.
My favourites are:
-kondosouvli (pieces of marinated pork, roasted slowly until tender)
-chicken gyros (comes with mustard mayo, the best so far)
Both seem to taste better wrapped in pita rather than 'merida' (plate).

#20 Adrian York

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Posted 02 August 2004 - 03:14 PM

Thanks for that Anthony, I'll check out the website.

Regards

Adrian

#21 Busboy

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 01:37 AM

DOUVLAKIA, (the little pig) just a couple of blocks from Kifissia’s shopping district, is a friendly little place with a pig fetish so pronounced that I am half convinced the place is some weird Greek answer to Outback Steakhouse.  Pigs are everywhere, the cute little tin kind you make clocks and wall-hangings out of, and the tasty grilled kind you make a meal out of. 

Hi,
I live in Athens and go there quite often. It's official name is "Souvlakia Kiffisias" (aka Gourounakia).
Unlike other souvlaki places, they offer wide variety of dishes.
My favourites are:
-kondosouvli (pieces of marinated pork, roasted slowly until tender)
-chicken gyros (comes with mustard mayo, the best so far)
Both seem to taste better wrapped in pita rather than 'merida' (plate).

Ahhh -- those Greek lower case letters threw me off. Too the unitiated, the Greek lower case "d" looks a lot like the lower case "s" (δ, σ), hence my error. Thanks for the help, Nikko.

More important, though, I am spend the next month in Exarhia (sp?) and would love to hear your suggestions -- for souvlkaki or fine dining -- in that neighborhood or over with the blue bloods in Kolonaki.
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#22 Al_Dente

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 07:12 AM

Man, am I jealous.

Great job Busboy!
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#23 nicos

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 05:12 PM

i wish i was there!!! :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

Edited by nicos, 06 August 2004 - 05:14 PM.


#24 John Talbott

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Posted 11 August 2004 - 04:24 AM

Jean-Claude Ribaut, who writes for Le Monde, wrote an article over the weekend on several Athenian restaurants. He says that To Ouzadiko, Karneadou 25-29, 210-72-95-484 maintains a tradition of appetizing food that used to be found in tavernas, now replaced by big brasseries on the slopes of Lycabette. He followed by saying if you've got a big apetite go to the 100-year-old Papandreou, Kendriki Agora, 010-32-19-470 open 24 hours a day in the heart of the meat market which serves tripe soup for 10 E. Then there's Spondi, Pyronos 5 near Varnava Square, 210-75-64-021, dinner only. It got a Michelin star in 2003 and serves atypical sweet-sour cuisine for a cost of about 70 E. Finally, he touts the year-old 48 The Restaurant, Armatolon & Klefton 48, 210-64-11-082 which has a contemporary art collection and a Dionysian wine cellar. He says it's the most hip establishment of Ted Margellos, Joël Robuchon's partner in Paris, and that its chef Christoforos Peskias did a stint at El Bulli near Barcelona with Ferran Adria, and as a joke "deconstructed" stuffed grape leaves.
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#25 Busboy

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Posted 13 August 2004 - 06:27 AM

UPDATE

Athens has become an Olympic City, and the Greeks are in a great mood.

Beneath the surface, there’s a bitterness about the way their country was portrayed in the international press during the run-up to the Games. Fortunately, the excitement of the moment, a belated press recognition that the Athens Games have the potential to be truly spectacular, and the opportunity to throw – and attend -- one hell of a party seem to be sweeping the bad karma aside. Old-timers tell me that the city is cleaner and more livable than it has ever been, traffic is moving, the locals are friendly, and the tavernas recently received official permission to stay open 22-and-a-half hours a day…and all night Friday, Saturday and the eves of saints days.

The Greek government is trying to monitor price gouging at hotels and restaurants, and turned up widespread inflation in the tourist areas around Plaka. My spies report that swell restaurant Pillpull (sp?) has hiked prices to ridiculous levels – 40€ entrees, 20€ salads. The quarters I’ve been in have held the line, though. Further from downtown, most of their customers are Greek and I expect that words would be exchanged if prices suddenly shot up.

This is my fifth trip to Athens in the last year-and-a-half, and I’m coming to think of Athens as a merely good food town, but a great place to eat. Hearty, well-prepared fare, accompanied by decent wine and low checks is widely available. Dining is done outdoors whenever possible, in spaces that are artfully assembled and carefully maintained. People eat in families – and are served family-style -- or in groups, and linger, unhurried, as long as they like. And the servers seem genuinely pleased to be entertaining out-of-town guests, if occasionally baffled by our early dining habits and need to rush away from the table after a good meal. It’s not Paris. But I’ll eat out in Athens any time.

GURU Update: A second visit to Guru (see post above) reveals that it is, in fact, a Thai restaurant, though all agree that it does have a vaguely French Quarter vibe to it. I still haven’t eaten there, as I tend to show up after the tables have been shoved aside in favor of the dance floor, but friends say it’s “pretty good Thai for Athens.”

YOU NEED THIS WEBSITE The Athens Survival Guide if you are going to Greece. This guy covers a lot of ground – including non-food advice, as though that were important -- with affection, wit and enthusiasm. In fact, after you read Mr. Barrett’s work, you may never need this thread again.

Mr. Talbot: thanks for the Le Monde link. The restaurants in the meat market are legend, there are several and each apparently has its own partisans. I have yet to find myself in a position to see any of them in their best light – at 4AM, either coming in from a club or going to work in the market – but am eager to do so soon.

Edited by Busboy, 13 April 2007 - 12:32 PM.

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#26 mrbigjas

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Posted 13 August 2004 - 06:31 AM

busboy, i wish i had had your guidance when i went to athens six years ago! this is great stuff.

#27 Busboy

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Posted 13 August 2004 - 06:46 AM

THE COAST AND SEAFOOD

All you oyster snobs – I got you beat. You can have your drab Blue Points and your fey Kumimotos, your effete Belons and your good ol’ Appalachicolas. For I have been to MILOS, in Athens, and now I dream only of Peloponnese: fist-sized oysters covered with barnacles and wrestled by divers from their beds in 10 meters of water, that taste of seaweed and bright colors. Or maybe the monsters from the coast of Evia, near Attika, where the size and beefy taste of the local bivalves almost makes one call for a red wine and a carving knife.

I posted somewhere that Greeks seem to like to accompany seafood with more seafood. At Milos, aside from the unavoidable Greek salad, a fine one, that’s what they did. From oysters and clams, on to octopus – my new favorite version, tasting of char, lemon and olive oil – and then fried calamari. Both, like the oysters, were exquisitely fresh, simply prepared, and delicious. If only we had stopped then.

As in may Greek restaurants, we had been led to the kitchen to select our entrée, a delightful little red snapper, nestled in with dorade, Maryland soft-shells, sardines and a whole little multicultural fish school of other potential entrees from all over the world. It was sad that our fish had to leave such exotic company only to be thrown on a cold part of the grill and served up skin under-charred and flesh overcooked. At 63€ a kilo, it was sad for us, too.

The service deserves a mention for its enthusiasm and competence, and the sommelier – the understudy, actually – turned us on to some excellent Greek stuff, including a truly spectacular Syrah from Thrakia/Macedonia in Northeastern Greece. At 9€ a glass, it went down like velvet and perfectly accompanied the robust seafood Milos turns out – and seemed like the only bargain of the night.

MILOS Athens Hilton, Vassilisis Sofias 46, Athens, tel: 00 30 210 724 4416. Open for lunch daily and dinner Monday to Saturday 225 € for two, and we didn’t have that much wine.


I once mentioned that I enjoyed the seafood in Athens to Greek friend and he said “oh, you have to go down to the coast to get good fish.” A funny statement, given that you can see the ocean from the Acropolis.

So, we retraced the steps taken by Socrates and his disciples during the discussion that became The Republic (when your co-worker is a St. John’s – Annapolis – graduate, every meal risks becoming a lesson) and headed down to the coast for a traditionally Greek 4:30 “Sunday lunch.” JIMMY AND THE FISH is about 15 minutes from downtown, next to Piraeus in the town of Microlimano. Once you get onto Microlimano’s main drag, you run a gauntlet of dozens of restaurants, each with kitchen/dining room/bathroom on the shore side of the street and outdoor dining rooms built over the water on the harbor side, with the waiters dodging traffic top bring you your meal.

Rather than select the fish itself, my friend merely suggested a weight and left it to the waiters. He then ordered the rest of the meal on our behalf and the usual suspects were rounded up – calamari, huge shrimp, a tasty risotto, octopus in red wine sauce – all of it good B-level seafood -- by Greek standards -- B+ or A- in the U.S. Interestingly, you see a lot of tartar sauce over here – tastes pretty good, too, as it’s apparently made with real mayonnaise and is heavily spiked with lemon. It goes down very well with fresh langoustines.

The wine was a tasty, if pricey, oaked white from Santorini and it flowed freely as we waited for the fish – a three kilo beast that no one seemed to know the English name for and I couldn’t identify. Sadly, the fish was again overdone. Fortunately, it was a big enough thing to shake off the overcooking with only a modest loss of flavor. The waiter presented the fish and then tok it to a sideboard and parcelled out.

Posted Image
Not Jimmy, but certainly a fish.

Greek restaurants will often send out a digestif or a glass of sweet wine after dinner, on the house, to regulars and free-spenders. At Jimmy’s, they send six chilled bottles -- I recall grappa, Jagermeister, Limoncella among them -- and a cluster of thimble-sized shot glasses to the table. And, as the sun set and the harbor lights began to blink on (did I mention that the setting was beautiful, with cliffs on one side and the crowded harbor before?) I discovered a new vice: Jimmy’s raki.

Raki is Cretan moonshine, distilled, like grappa, from what’s leftover after you press grapes from wine. Like grappa, the taste varies with the quality of the product: from undrinkable to merely bad, but strangely compelling. At Jimmy’s, they flavor it up with honey and digestive herbs and serve it up in thin rectangular bottles holding maybe 200 ml. We went through three of them before we lurched into the night.

JIMMY AND THE FISH 46 A. Koumoundourou Str., Microlimano, Piraeus 210 41 24 417. Expensive (I didn’t pay the check, but the fish was 63€/kilo and the wine 50€/bottle, though I know that cheaper and possibly even better bottles are to be had).


ISLAND CLUB AND RESTAURANT is a hot ticket. The Guardian newspaper called Island "the finest sea view in the capital" and one of Athens’ top celebrity magnets, along with the rooftop deck at the Grande Bretagne. I'm glad we had chance to eat there before we had to fight Jack Nicholson and Leonardo di Caprio to get a reservation.

The restaurant is in another suburb, Vougliagmeni (sp?), that also bears exploring for the undeveloped stretches of seashore, where the locals apparently picnic on the beach until all hours of the morning. The cab ride was endless, but inexpensive – 15€ or so. It may be cheaper to ride cabs around Athens all night than to book a decent hotel room during the Games.

The restaurant is immense – it’s really a complex, with a dance floor, cocktail lounge and – I assume, but it was too dark to confirm – lounge chairs set up along the beach. All set up on decking under the stars, natch. The meal was very good; marinated rouget filleted and served up rich, oily and standing like little fishy tents, tail up, atop paper-thin courgette cross-sections that cut the richness just enough.

The main course was a braised lamb shank served atop a credible mushroom risotto, a nice meaty contrast to all the fish I’d been eating.

By 12:30 or so, the music was getting loud and the place was beginning to move into a higher gear, so we left the restaurant to those who like that sort of thing, and headed back into the city – 20 minutes now that the traffic was calm.

The food was good, and Greek, but I’ll remember Island for something else. Just before the main course went down, a burnt-pumpkin moon began to rise from behind the hills across the bay, huge and ghostly translucent on the horizon – and continued to rise, gaining heft, changing slowly from pumpkin- to butter-colored and throwing a bright band of light across the waves as we finished our meal. It was like watching a sonnet being written.

“Finest sea view in the capitol,” indeed.

ISLAND CLUB AND RESTAURANT; Limanakia Vougliameni 16672; 210 9653 563-564. Expensive.

I had the chance to show the flag for my company at a posh reception at another seaside restaurant/club, Balux. Sadly, it was a press reception and – journalists being journalists – nobody got far enough from the bar to sit down for a formal dinner. The buffet was execrable. But someone had shipped in a gaggle of models, who spent the whole time together in protective knots that no reporter could penetrate, drinking club soda and taking pictures of each other with their cell phones.

Posted Image
Eye candy can be hazardous to your teeth (if your wife reads your posts)

Avoid the hot food here, but look for the sweets.

Edited by Busboy, 15 February 2006 - 07:40 PM.

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#28 johnnyd

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Posted 13 August 2004 - 08:12 AM

All you oyster snobs – I got you beat. You can have your drab Blue Points and your fey Kumimotos, your effete Belons and your good ol’ Appalachicolas. For I have been to MILOS, in Athens, and now I dream only of Peloponnese: fist-sized oysters covered with barnacles and wrestled by divers from their beds in 10 meters of water, that taste of seaweed and bright colors. Or maybe the monsters from the coast of Evia, near Attika, where the size and beefy taste of the local bivalves almost makes one call for a red wine and a carving knife.


Grrrrrrrr! :angry: :biggrin: ...lucky bastard!

Busboy,
I hope you have time to keep up your posts. I speak for all those stuck stateside when I say you provide us with the greatest "inside scoop" to a city in Olympic thrall, and what better city than Athens? Thank you ever so much!
Feast well, JohnnyD
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#29 hillvalley

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Posted 16 August 2004 - 01:41 PM

As in may Greek restaurants, we had been led to the kitchen to select our entrée, a delightful little red snapper, nestled in with dorade, Maryland soft-shells, sardines and a whole little multicultural fish school of other potential entrees from all over the world.


You had to go to another continent to get soft shells? How were they? Your report on the oysters is killing me. Are you inhaling them daily? You gave the guys some eye candy. When do the women get ours?
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but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

#30 Busboy

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Posted 16 August 2004 - 10:42 PM

You think that was eye candy -- you should have been at Women's Beach Volleyball yesterday. I shared a cab back to town from the venue with a 6'4" (+) blond Austrian Beach Volley competitor, but felt that asking him to partially disrobe for a picture might have been misinterpreted.

We skipped the softshells and other imported fish in favor of the local stuff. Aside from Milos, I haven't seen any oysters around, but I am keeping my eyes open. The big day-to-day seafood is tentacled creatures -- had some cuttlefish last night, and barely a day goes by without squid or octopus.

A lot of roast meats, too; I know just the place if you've got a taste for pig's head, and I'll be sure and post as soon as I find a little photogenic beefcake, as well.
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