I’ve been traveling to Greece almost every year since 1974 and the city that’s near and dear to me is Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. This gateway to the Balkans has had a history marked by Romans, Venetians, Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, Armenians, Turks and the ever-present Greek influence.
Nowhere is the multicultural tapestry more evident than in the cuisine of Thessaloniki. Although very Greek, once can taste and smell the these other cultures in the food of the city, from breakfast to night caps, meze to meat, seafood to syrupy desserts.
I have compiled a Top 5 of places to eat in Thessaloniki, perhaps Greece’s food city boasting of more eateries per square metre than anywhere else in Greece.
1. Begin your day with a Greek breakfast at Bantis Bougatsa near the church of Panagia Faneromeni. This family-run business makes all their phyllo by hand, throwing sheets of dough in the air until transparent and thin then folded to envelope fillings like custard, cheese, spinach and cheese and ground beef. No trip to Thessaloniki can be complete without trying some Bougatsa.
2. Nea Folia taverna. Located in a small alley on the north side of Kassandrou just west of Agia Sophia Street is this little eatery that reminds me of the old days in Thessaloniki, complete with old juke box. The young, friendly cooking staff and servers serve up unique dishes using Greek products from around the country and present with a simple panache that marries tradition with modern twists.
3. Imbros Fish and Seafood. Thessaloniki boasts of having some of Greece’s best fish and seafood and Imbros in the suburb of Kalamaria delivers freshness and quality for reasonable prices. Fresh fish and seafood are brought in daily to the restaurant from their exclusive sources and you may head into the kitchen to inspect the catch of the day yourself!
4. Duo Xoirous or “Two Pigs” is a small shop located just west of the Arch of Galerius on Egnatia Road. These guys specialize in rotisseries meats like beef and pork kontosouvli but the star is their Ellasonitiko – pork belly on the spit.
5. Patisserie Hatzi. This family has been serving Thessaloniki (now locations in Athens as well) Constantinople style sweets and treats at their many locations throughout the city. I recommend traveling out to Nea Epivates and taking in the view of the city whilst sipping on a Greek coffee and nibbling on an array of some Greece’s best desserts.
By: Peter Minaki