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Eating in Kypseli

Kypseli Restaurants

o Bakalogatos restaurant, kypselisAs I mentioned on the Fokionos Negri page, the first restaurant you visit should be O Bakalogatos because not only is it the best restaurant in the neighborhood, it may be the best in all of Athens as some of the most well known chefs who eat there would agree. They have a large menu, in Greek and in English, and the staff does speak English. Order the mussels, either from Limnos, or Mytilini which come in a delicious broth suitable for dunking their whole wheat bread and paximadia. Save some for their white taramasalata which will make you forget the pink stuff. 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), order the best dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves) you have ever eaten, 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 waiter or owner to suggest something. Oh, and save room for desert, especially the chocolate soufle with home made ice-cream.

Chef George Kantelis and Panagiotis PapanicholauThe chef-owner is Giorgos Kantelis, disciple of 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 selection of good tsipuro, raki and ouzo as well as nice local wines by the carafe and fancier stuff by the bottle. Try the organic tsipuro from Limnos. They have also added some Greek micro-brews. Bakalogatos is at #72 Fokionos Negri and you can call +302108216598 or visit their Facebook page. I eat here as often as I can.

Oi Nostimies tis Maries restaurant, kypseliFor 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 lovely Mary, with lots of help from her mother, her husband Christos and her three sons, Nikos, Lefteris and Giorgos, 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.

Oi Nostimies tis MariesI 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 and the best fish soup. 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. I also want to recommend both her tiropita and her spanakopita which are large and filling. Order those for lunch along with a horiatiki salata or some vleeta or whatever other seasonal greens she is serving and you will probably be fine until dinner. Or try her aginares (artichokes) and potatoes. At night time they serve grilled meats too. The restaurant is in Platia Agios Giorgiou which is where Ithakis, Eptanisiou and Ydras streets all converge. You can also order by phone and they will deliver: 210 8229239. But really you should come in because all the food is on display in Greek estiatorion style and it all looks so good you probably won't know what to get.

Allotino Jazz BarThe small square (a circle actually) in front of the Agios Giorgiou church is an interesting one, sort of a village within a village with a couple psistaria-souvlaki shops, a mezedopouleion, a beautiful bar, an old-man cafeneon and a Dodoni ice-cream shop and maybe the best zacharo-plasteion in Kypseli. Afterwards go next door to Allotino Jazz Cafe for drinks or coffee. Or go there before dinner for a beer, wine or probably the best top shelf liquor you will find anywhere. Andreas is a connoisseur of fine wines, beers and liquor and searches far and wide for the best. He also serves snacks and salads with his drinks. Allotino is right next door to Oi Nostimies tis Mary's and they both have tables and chairs across the street in the square. There is also a small grocery store in the square that has a great selection of cheese from all over Greece.

H Pigi tou Dionysiou, kypselis, greeceAcross 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.

Platanos TavernaIf you want to walk a little farther go up Agia Zoni, another pedestrian street that starts near the middle of Fokionos Negri and you will pass several ouzeries and souvlaki shops as well as a mental asylum and the famous church of which the street is named, before you come to a small square called Platia Platanos where there is an excellent neighborhood taverna called of course Platanos Taverna, as well as a nice tsipuradiko called Zaragana right next door. The action is indoors in the winter but when the warm months begin the tables and chairs on the Platia give you that island feeling in the middle of Athens, or sort of like Plaka but without the tourists and better food, the way it used to be. Platanos has excellent paidaikia (grilled lambchops) and other meat on the grill and the family who owns the restaurant come from a village in central Greece so they serve many village specialties, most of which will be dishes that you will be familiar with. I also recommend their grilled plevrotas (mushrooms). Both restaurants are worth the walk, or taxi ride or whatever if you are looking for authentic Greek food. At Zaragana try the grilled sardines or the marinated gavros which both go nicely with tsipuro or ouzo.

Blasis Fish Market restaurant in KypseliIf you are looking for a fish taverna and can live without a view of the sea Ellinon Pelagos serves fresh grilled and fried fish and lots of seaside mezedes in a big old mansion at Agathoupoleos #15, just across Patission street from Fokionos Negri. In the summer they have tables outdoors in the garden. I had not been there in a few years but was happy to see it was still open during the summer of 2016. The owner is a very nice guy and they have a nice selection of fish. For a more commercial and popular fish restaurant Blasis Psaradiko-Psarafago on Fokionos Negri is a combination fish market/fish restaurant with a great concept. You buy the fish by the kilo and you pay them to cook it. They also have salads, vegetables and even some meat dishes and a variety of tsipuro and ouzos. The waiters are friendly and speak English. It is always good to have someone who knows what fresh fish looks like when you order at a Greek fish restaurant. If in doubt get the grilled sardines, fried gavros, or grilled or fried fresh kalamari and you usually can't go wrong.

Bioletta Restaurant, KypselisFaidra at Foikinos Negri # 70, right next to O Bakalogatos is an excellent neighborhood estiatorio-taverna-mezodopouleon with a large menu of fresh seafood, grilled meats, oven dishes and lots of appetisers. Stuffed cabbage, tender grilled octopus, and reasonably priced fried barbounia They even have mayeritsa. 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 favorite healthy things to eat in Athens for those of us who think eating tuna is healthy. They also have oven foods as well as all of your favorite grilled meats like paidaikia and brizoles. Another great place in Fokionos Negri is Bioletta at #60. It is a Mezedopoleo-Ouzerie that specializes in fish but has a very wide menu and delicious food. Like Faidra you can sit outdoors or indoors. If you are inside you will feel like you are in a cozy Greek island fish taverna on a cold day. Outside you can watch the parade of people walking by and enjoy fried gavros, grilled octopus, boiled beets, and so many varieties of fish you will start looking around for the fishing boats. They also have a large selection of grilled steaks, chops and salads. This restaurant has been here since 1961 and if you are adventurous enough to get out of the tourist section of Athens I think you will be quite pleased. This is another of my regular eating places and it is popular with the older Greeks of the neighborhood and even some who left and come back for lunch or dinner.

Kypseli KalamakiAnother decent restaurant on Fokionos is called Mezedomaxies. Similar to Violetta and Faidra with an emphasis on fresh fish and grilled meats as well as a large selection of salads and mezedes this combination mezedopoulion-estiatorion is a great place to come on a sunny afternoon to have a lingering lunch with some wine, beer, ouzo or tsipuro. The people who own Mezedomaxies also own Blasis Fish Restaurant, a souvlaki shop/psistaria called Kypselis Kalamaki, and a sort of tsipuradiko/ouzeri called Pame Tsipuro-Pame Kafeneion or something of that nature. It is not strictly a mezedes place and you can order stuff that looks like it comes from one of the other restaurants they own. It probably does because they are all next door or across the street from each other. The food is not bad, though slightly formulaic but any of the above restaurants in this family will have better food than just about anything you will find in the Plaka. I came once for a meze and they gave me so many potatoes with my meze I could not even think of having dinner.

H Geitonias, Restaurant, KypseliAnother good bet is the estiatorio on the corner of Odos Kypselis and Skyrou that is so well known it does not even have a sign that is immediately visible, but it is called H Geitonias (the Neighborhood) and they have excellent food. Like Mary's it is the kind of restaurant you can choose what you want to eat by pointing at it through the glass, though they also have grilled food made to order. It is a typical working class neighborhood restaurant and it is not open at night. But the food is great and the couple who have owned it for ages are very nice too. Right behind it on a small back street at 6 Barbogli Street is a small restaurant called Folia (Nest) which used to be called H Folia Tis Kypselis and was the hangout of Mikis Theodorakis, Giorgos Zambetis, Grigoris Mbithkotisis and Manos Hatzidakis in the fifties and sixties. It is totally indoors and only open in the winter months but it is one of the last of the old Kypseli tavernas, which began disappearing as single family houses were demolished and turned into apartment buildings. The only problem is finding it. But if you walk up Fokionos Negri and turn right after Violetta and right again at the Hotel Kypselis you will see it.

Ouzo and Meze

Rena's Ouzeri in KypseliMy favorite place for ouzo and meze in Kypseli was called Rena's on the corner of Skopelos and Spetson street. Named after the beautiful cook and owner who was a long time waitress at Taverna Psiri, she sold it in 2015 and I have been without a favorite ouzeri for the past year or so. But Giorgos at Bakalogatos has filled in admirably for Rena so that is where I go since not only does he have a few dozen meze dishes but if I ask him for something particular to go with my mood he will make it. Otherwise Argiris Argiriou 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). If you want a simple traditional meze go to the old man cafeneon at the top of Fokionos Negri at Platia Kanaris. But if you want something special go to Stou Stratou at 57 Fokionos Negri which is the Athenian version of a really nice ouzeri in Serifos. Anyway you can get ouzo and meze at any cafe, cafeteria or restaurant on Fokionos Negri. Just ask.

Souvlakia and Psistarias

Olymbos Souvlaki, KypseliAnyone who loves souvlakia, rotisserie chicken, kokoretsi, kontosouvli, gyros, kalamaki, beefteki, loukaniko, or any other meats that they sell in fast food places, Kypseli has more than its share, and with the slow economy these seem to be where everyone is eating, whether it is 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. Olympos, the souvlaki shop closest to my apartment is AWSOME. They have about 50 different types of souvlaki, plus kontosouvli, kokoretsi, roast lamb, roast lamb heads!!!, rotisserie chicken and whole grilled chicken, ouzo, wine, tsipuro and magerefta. And it is owned by the butcher shop next door that has the reputation of being the best in the neighborhood! It is at #60 Kypselis Street. 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. Then from the bottom of Fokionos to the top of Platia Kanaris there are at least a half dozen other souvlaki shop/psistarias.

Bakeries and Zacharoplasteions (Pastry shops)

bakery on odos kypseliKypseli 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.

Kypseli bakeryMy 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. I probably don't need to mention that like most cafes in Athens, those on Fokionos Negri have amazing traditional deserts, ice-cream and fancy pastries. And for those with a super sweet tooth will be happy to know that along with the usual Dodoni and Haggan-Das ice-cream shops on the lower part of Fokionos, there is a big Max Perry Chocolate Factory.

Grocery Stores and Markets

Kypseli fruit and vegetable marketKypseli 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 small fruit and vegetable shop 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. 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.

laiki agora kypseliAlong 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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