Eating well and cheaply in
Let's be clear about eating in Santorini. Chances are you will be eating tourist food. Santorini is a tourist island and the restaurants have one purpose and that is to sell food to tourists. Yes there are restaurants that locals eat at but it is unlikely that you will stumble upon them on your own by walking the streets of Oia and Fira.
This does not mean that the food is bad because it is made for tourists. On the contrary. Some of the tourist restaurants make very good food and are
proud of it and while some may see their restaurants as feeding troughs with cash registers, and tourists as cattle that can be satisfied with mousaka and pastitsio, others see tourists as guests and go out of their way to find the best ingredients to introduce them to the unique cuisine of the island. Santorini is an odd island and
its food is a combination of climatic factors and
the tastes of those who have occupied and lived here. In Fira and Oia you can find whatever
you want and at whatever price you can afford or
not afford. For good food at reasonable prices a
car is useful. As a rule we try to stay away from places
that are overtly commercial and go to the family
run fish taverns located near the smaller
beaches and communities. There are plenty of places to eat in Fira and Oia but we did not try them, mainly because our visits to the two towns were more like photo-sessions mixed with shopping for the girls.
When you are in Santorini there are several things you have to eat because most likely you won't find them anywhere else. Number One are the tomato-keftedes which are deep-fried patties of Santorini tomatoes, onions, flour and whatever ingredient each restaurant puts in that makes their's special. Probably there will be
in your entourage who will eat these every meal. Also unique to Santorini is their fava which are yellow split-peas, similar to the familiar green split-pea soup but served with onions and olive oil and eaten with bread. The white eggplants are also unique to the island, though of course now you can find them all over the world. There is something called a katsouni which is like a cucumber but has a dryer texture and a different taste. Capers are also grown here as are a round zucchini squash and
watermelon. But the most important food on the island is the Santorini cherry tomato which because it rains so little (like not at all in the summer) will probably be the most intensely delicious tomato you have ever eaten. When you go to a restaurant insist on Santorini tomatoes. You can recognize them because they are small and ridged. Everything else is pretty much the same as you will find on other islands in the Cyclades and in Athens though some restaurants have a few things they specialize in and it
does not hurt to ask your waiter what that is. The best food product in Santorini is the wine and there is no reason to drink anything but Santorini wine unless you are drinking Santorini tsipuro or you don't drink.
Matt's Favorite Santorini Restaurants
Metaxi Mas had been recommended by just about everyone we came into contact with in our travels around the island. We had called the night before to make a reservation but they were full which is why we ended up at Kyria Niki's. The next night my friends Dimitri and Patricia from Ocean Wave Tours had invited us to dinner
and said they had made
reservations at Metaxi Mas and then later that day when we went to visit Antonis at Artspace winery he told us he was going there as well. Antonis had discovered on Facebook that I was in Santorini and through clever detective work had tracked us down at the Volcano View Villas and sent us ten bottles of wine from his winery in thanks for the review I had written ten years ago which was a wonderful and generous gift except that we had come to Santorini carrying nothing but a small backpack which meant that we
had to either drink all the wine before we left, or try to find a hard suitcase to transport it back to Athens. After hours of searching we managed to find a bright red suitcase which would fit most of the wine. We figured we could sit on our terrace at the hotel and drink at least one bottle before dinner which we did. So when Dimitris and Patricia showed up at the hotel in their Puegeot convertible we were ready to party.
We arrived at Metaxi Mas, which you get to by walking through the yards of a big church, to find Antonis waiting for us at a big table where we were joined by several friends, a bottle of tsipuro and many bottles of Artspace wine. Andrea barely made it through the appetisers which included pan fried crusted feta cheese with honey,
saligaria (Cretan style
snails), Santorini fava, a pomegranate salad with fresh spinach and lettuce, walnuts, dill, parmesan and who knows what else. By the time the main courses came Andrea was nodding out and Patricia took her home. Her place was taken by the village priest and we continued to eat and drink through the night. I believe I had Beef Filet with Vinsanto Wine and Mushroom Sauce. I can't remember exactly. I just remember that it was extraordinarily delicious as was everything that my friends were putting in front of
me to eat. Patricia came back in time for desert and to drive us home. They had an early morning tour and I had a flight to Athens and then a 12 hour ferry trip to Lesvos. But through the haze of my memories of that night I can tell you that Metaxi Mas is one restaurant that you should go to. You will need a reservation which you can do by phone or e-mail through
their website. By
the way it is not a strictly Santorini restaurant. It is a Santorini-Cretan restaurant with a bit of Italian thrown in. Most likely this will be the best meal of the trip so maybe go here first so you have time to go again. Metaxi Mas is in the village of Exo Gonia between Pyrgos, Kamari and Fira. If you don't have a car take a taxi. The restaurant can call one for you when it is time to go home. I really had to search to find a photo for this restaurant. I must have taken fifty that night and every one was out
of focus for some reason. This is the best one and it is of Antonis Argiros of Artspace Winery.
Kyria Niki's is a traditional psistaria (grill house) taverna in an un-romantic setting, not overlooking the volcano, or on a beautiful beach, but on the main road from Fira to the airport among bakeries, shops, light industry and whizzing cars. We drove here at night and were ready to veto the place
because of its location but once we went inside we were pleasantly surprised and actually ended up feeling right at home in this environment which was like being in the outskirts of Athens or maybe Lavrion or Keratea. Kyria Niki, the owner chef, has put together a large menu of Santorini specialties for reasonable prices and most of the people here were Greek. In fact I got the feeling that the only tourists here just wandered in because they were lost and hungry and just happened to luck out.
The best thing we had was the grilled eggplant which they treat with great fanfare the way a Greek taverna in the USA would serve a flaming saganaki, or a Mexican restaurant would serve carne asada on a sizzling hot plate. The eggplant arrives at the table and then is cut up into bite-sized portions by the waiter.
We ordered another one after the first and we might have ordered a third if there were not so many other good things on the menu. The island fava (yellow split-peas) were delicious as were the sun-dried tomatoes, the local hard cheese, excellent tomato keftedes, and a cheese-filled pita. For main course I had the lamb kleftiko which is lamb and potatoes cooked in
wax paper, very tender and delicious. Not something that I would normally order, but also not something I see on menus very often. My daughter had grilled liver. Don't ask me why. She was not happy with it but that had more to do with her than the liver which tasted, well, like grilled liver always tastes when that mood comes over you to order it and then you wonder why you would travel all the way to Santorini to eat liver. Anyway we were so filled up on appetisers that it hardly mattered. Her boyfriend
ordered mousaka but he had just arrived from the USA. They also serve their own bottled wine which I liked a lot. I don't think I had a bad glass of wine my whole time in Santorini. It was a Wednesday night so not much was happening besides the Spain-Portugal Euro12 football semifinal. But on weekends Niki's son plays live Greek music so if you want to come reservations are advisable ( 22860 25146). All in all if you want to taste Santorini food the way it should taste this is a good place to eat, despite
the setting. You can walk here from Fira in ten minutes but you take your life in your hands. And if you want something grilled order the paidaikia (lamb-chops) or the brizoles (steaks) or anything but liver unless you feel you have a vitamin B deficiency. Liver is not food. It is medicine. Unless you happen to love liver of course. (Please don't e-mail me about liver)
To this point we had eaten plenty of good food but had not yet found the restaurant that knocked us out, the small un-touristy place that would earn me praise from travelers who would not have discovered it otherwise. Until we went to Pirgos, an inland village with a small square and a labyrinth of houses
topped by a kastro. Most people opt for the taverna or the ouzeri in the square but we were intrigued by the sign that said To Penelope's. We found Penelope in a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant next to a church and realized that this has to be what we were looking for. Penelope is not from Santorini. She is from Arta, a town on the mainland but moved here with her husband who is from the village. We were the only customers so we had her full attention and she made us the best tomato keftdes in the world.
Yes. IN THE WORLD. Also a beautiful Greek salad with Santorini tomatoes, feta and caper leaves, and delicious home-made dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), all served with bread from the local bakery that was made with wheat and corn flower. My only regret was that we did not sample more of her dishes because that night we were planning to go to Metaxi Mas which was rumoured to be the greatest restaurant in the history of Santorini, and we did not want to arrive there well fed. Anyway I am sure to get flak from
some of the x-pat locals for letting the cat out of the bag but if you want a simple, delicious, meal of Santorini specialties in a quiet setting go to Pirgos and wander the back streets until you stumble upon Penelope's. While you are there go to the traditional food shop in the square and check it out. He has a great selection of Santorini wines, ouzo, tsipuro, canned fruits, and even seeds for the tomatoes, fava and squash.
To Psaraki Psarotaverna (Fish Taverna)
To Psaraki, in the village of Vlichada, owned by chefs Chefs Thanasis Sfougaris and Angeliki Synetou, who have put together a menu of fresh fish and creative appetisers and is visited by many of the more cosmopolitan locals as well as anyone who loves good food that is not overpriced. It was so good we ate here
twice last trip and might have eaten here every night except we found other restaurants we liked as well.(more on that later). Order their white taramasalata which Thanasis spent 2 years perfecting the recipe and it is probably the best you will ever taste. His secret ingredient? I can't tell you but if you ask the waiter he may. I also recommend their tuna carpacio, cerviche, grilled sardines pandremenos, sashimi fresher than you have ever had, gavros marinatos, and any of the fresh fish
they offer, grilled or fried which you can see in the kitchen and choose for yourself. If you have never chosen a fish look for clear eyes. Prices on fish vary. Some you order by the plate but the ones you get by the kilo are between 35 and 65 euros. The barbounia are usually at the high end but half a kilo is enough for 2 or 3 people. Angeliki speaks English and can help you choose. They have a great wine list and even their table wine which they sell by the carafe is better than most bottled wines you
have probably had from anywhere other than Santorini. They also have a nice selection of ouzo and raki and if you behave yourself you may be rewarded with a glass of high octane raki at the end of the evening. Follow the signs for Vlichada and it is on the road above the marina. They are open for lunch and dinner. You should probably make reservations for dinner, especially if you want a view of the sea. E-mail or call +30 22860 82783
When our friend Antonis from Art Space Winery said to meet us at Afro for dinner we were worried. We wanted to eat at the best traditional and simple restaurants we could find on this, the most touristy island, and the name Afro sounded like it was going to serve soul food or Greek food with a modern touch served with a background of
soul, rap or reggae music. What we found was the most authentic, simple, traditional restaurant like something you would find in Lesvos. Not surprising since the owner, Christos is from the village of Montemados in Lesvos. We spent 2 nights here drinking Artspace wine and eating the best seafood of the summer including fresh sea urchins, lakerda Lesvos style, grilled skaros (one of my favorite fish and not very common), sun-dried and grilled skoumbri (mackerel), cuttle-fish and giant squid
grilled, and the best tomato-keftedes of the trip. Christos plays old rembetika and laika music, and even carries the local Donkey Beer. I also highly recommend their grilled local white eggplant, taramasalata, regasalata (like tarama but made with smoked herring, and their orzo with lobster sauce, which we didn't order but he gave us a taste of. If you are tired of fancy, expensive restaurants and want to eat somewhere that is like eating at the best place on a lesser known
island then I highly recommend Afro. It is in Perivolos in the opposite direction of Perissa, towards the end of the road, close to the old Tomato factory that is now the 41 club. They are open for lunch and dinner. They are one of the few restaurants that serves Artspace wine. You won't need a reservation. This place is undiscovered.
Below the ancient city, on the beach at Akrotiri is a nice fish taverna called Delfinia where you can sit right on the sea and eat fresh fish. It is reasonably priced and even the locals eat here. Kostas and Fanis, are two brothers who serve the food and also catch the fish which is cooked by their mother Evangelia.
Of course when we arrived we threw Santorini tradition out the window and headed for Ginger, a sushi restaurant owned by Greek -Americans Ted and Dina Stathis. I was told it was the best Sushi in Greece and one reviewer said the best in the world. Greece? Probably. The world? Not likely but if you have eaten nothing
but Greek and Turkish food for two months you are willing to believe and accept anything. We called a taxi from the hotel and it took us to the entrance to the village of Firostefani and instantly found the restaurant and were very pleased to see an actual Japanese sushi chef standing behind a real sushi bar, where there were authentic Japanese people watching him. We were four people so we got a table, ordered some local wine and told ourselves we did not care how much it cost, we were going to have a nice sushi
dinner with appetisers, miso soup, sashimi and as many rolls as we could fit in our stomachs. The menu is set up with the assumption that there are people in the world who have never eaten sushi, so there are three suggestions of combinations that go together, which we chose one of and then improvised the rest. Half way through the meal Ted, the owner walks in looking like a baseball player in exile, carrying a big tuna he had just bought from a fisherman, which he hands to the sushi chef who expertly begins
cutting and slicing. I am pretty certain that was the freshest sushi I have ever eaten. Does that make this the best sushi restaurant in the world? Well I give it points for freshness. I am certain that where I live in central North Carolina I have never had sushi less than a day or two old, no matter how good it tasted, and to be totally honest I think that when I eat sushi the thing I taste mostly is wasabi so I may as well be eating vegetable rolls. But Ginger was good by any standards and the four of us ate
for about a hundred euros which is half of what we spend at home. And at the end of the night Ted gave us a ride back to our hotel. Where else but Greece would that happen? By the way Ted is the owner of Blue Lagoon Catamaran Tours and does daily trips around Santorini which includes a gourmet meal, possibly with some sushi involved. Oh, yes, and order the steak cooked on a hot rock. It is so good you will want to eat the
rock. If you are coming from the USA you will find Ginger very expensive. But if you are paying a thousand euros a night for a room what’s 10 euros for a couple pieces of sushi? So if you need your sushi fix and can’t wait til you get back home (or even to Athens) where it is cheaper then go ahead.
From Santorini Food Critic Amarandi Barrett
Taverna Geromanolis was the first restaurant I saw in Santorini that looked like something you’d find in Kea or some small mountainous village with no tourists. I was thrilled. I came to Santorini to work for the summer season (season seems like the wrong word- it’s living in Santorini
for seven months followed by a 5 month long winter vacation back in Athens). Santorini is one of the most expensive islands in Greece and I figured I would be living off of spanakopita and Oreos until November, so when I saw the normal Greek taverna prices on the Geromanolis menu I was relieved. The tavern is in Megalochori, a small town about 5 kilometers south of Fira. I have yet to explore the village but it is about a three minute drive from my house so I should be able to make it over there for a
quick look around in the next half year or so. Or not, knowing me. Anyways. The place is obviously family run- I didn’t ask but everyone was calling each other mother and father so I assume that’s what that meant. It was early in the season so the menu was limited to appetizers, salads and tis oras (that’s meat on the grill). The woman working told me they had paidakia (lamb chops) and my mouth watered but I was getting food to go and only an animal would order lamb chops to sit at home and eat
alone so I opted for tzatziki, a horiatiki salata and some tomatokeftedes (those are fried tomato balls- a specialty on the island). Everything was great. The tzatziki was good (okay that’s easy, if your tzatziki is not good there is a serious problem somewhere in the kitchen), the horiatiki was nice with good tomatoes and not those weird pulpy pink disaster spheres you sometimes find in the early spring and winter. Also it had these giant green funny shaped olives that
were fun. Olives are always fun though, aren’t they? The tomatokeftedes were great, definitely made to order and nice and chunky with onions, tomatoes, etc. I will definitely be going back, probably 5 times a week for the next 7 months.
Restaurant Favorites of my Santorini Friends
If you want to know the best restaurants who better to ask than Captain Ted Stathis, a Greek-American living on the island who takes people
out in his catamaran for day trips and overnights, serving them gourmet meals cooked by he and his wife.
"When we go out we usually like to go out for dinner. Fish is my favorite as
well as Dina's and the place where we like to have it is in Ammoudi. Every
visitor that we meet really enjoys the place because it is an exceptional place
to dine regardless of the fact that it has become a popular site. Another
very good restaurant that we like is Ambrosia Nector in Oia. The owner is
Tony Mosiman an excellent host and a great guy. He serves a Greek Infused
menu that has unique flavors. Also Anogi, in Imerovigli is great. It is next to the basketball courts. The food variety on the island is getting so much
better than 15 years ago, it makes living here a lot more satisfying."
Here's a possible addition to restaurants in Santorini (& I know you have a lot of them listed). We had a great meal in October at Salt & Pepper in Fira. It's on the main driving street (Eikostis Pemptis Martiou) & just short walk (3-5 mins) north of the square. It's on the west side of the street & is quite small. Owned by the chef & his wife, who is also the maitre d' & waitress, it seats about 20. We were lucky to walk in early & get a table without a reservation, but saw
many folks get turned away. So, if you post it, advise to make a reservation a day or two in advance. The chef creates different meals every night. Ours, although not large, was just 45€, included a salad, two entrees & wine, all delicious (we spent a year in Greece, so I don't say this lightly!). Quite a bargain for Santorini & its a white tablecloth kind of place. Much attention paid to us & all patrons by the owners/staff.
Hope you are well & doing your best to enjoy Carrboro!
Betty Haskin (Chapel Hill, NC)
These are from Dimitris from Ocean Wave Tours
“Skaramagas” Traditional Family Tavern, fresh fish, fava, and the best tomato-fritters on the island, Monolithos opposite the Airport right next to the old tomato factory, nice sandy beach and shallow water with umbrellas and cabins to get changed.
“Dolphins” Captain Giorgos the father, his sons Kostas and Fanis supply their Tavern daily with fresh fish, Akrotiri a few meters before the parking for the Red Beach.
“Mamas” The best breakfast on the island, omelets with spinach and feta cheese!!! In Fira, right next to the Taxi Station on the main road.
“Kyra Niki’s” Local specialties lamb and pork on charcoal various salads with Santorini products, Karterados, 10 min walk from Fira on the main road to the Airport.
“Almyra” Large menue for all the tastes and reasonable prices, on the promenade of Kamari.
“Ouzeri” Greek Kitchen, Mezedes (Greek word for starters) and dishes from all over the country, Fira Shopping center Fabrika.
“Metaxi Mas” Mezedes for Ouzo, Raki from Crete, and Wine, Exo Gonia, opposite the large Byzantine church with the clay tiles roof.
“Marmita” Greek kitchen, nouvelle cuisine, Chrisanthos, chef and owner he is not just cooking he is creating!! In the village center of Megalochori, highly recommended.
“Nychteri” Gourmet dishes and more, Kamari on the promenade close to the parking place.
“Ochre” The best sunset view with hundreds wines from all over the world, Oia at the very end of the island.
Be sure to visit Ginger in Firostefani which some say is the best sushi restaurant in Greece. Some have said it is the best sushi restaurant anywhere!
Restaurants at the Beaches
Airport. It is small bay shallow water, fine sand
some trees you can lie under there are also
umbrellas and benches to hire and a small shop to
get cold drinks and ice cream or a snack.
is the famous
Black Sandy Beach and it ends down South in
Perrisa the second biggest resort after
Kamari.Here are hundreds of Cafes, Restaurants,
mini markets, and a few Beach Bars where through
the day are full with youngsters drinking shots,
(sfinakia) dancing, sunbathing, playing Beach
Volley, swimming, or do water sports like Jet ski
Parachuting, Water ski, and maybe Wind Surfing
(what I do but not in the summer!!)
. It is on the road to the light house before the
Village of Akrotiri turn right3 Km. I start going
to this place this winter it is like Skaramagas
the family runs the place fresh fish,varius
mezedes (starters) and home made wine rose or
white that you can drink a barrel!!
Hi Matt. Hope your readers enjoy these places. Remember to
tell them that if they need someone to show them
around the island to visit my website