I found a really good website called Matt Barrett’s Travel Guides in which he has tons of information on different aspects of Greece. His piece on restaurant eating in Greece is very interesting and I am looking forward to their laid-back style of eating.
In Greece you can keep ordering. Its not like you have to sit down and order your appetisers, your main course and that’s it. If you liked something order another one. Try and get the waiter’s name so you can hail him as he passes your table (psssst Yanni, ena beefteki acoma parakalo – pssst John, another beefteki please). If you are drinking wine and just show them the empty carafe they will be right back with more. Greek waiters are very informal. They may even sit down at your table or squeeze your little girl’s cheeks (Greeks love children). They don’t care if you spend hours at your table. Unlike in the USA where they love turnover, in Greece you are expected to eat slowly and eat a long time and linger after a meal, eating fruit, smoking cigarettes and drinking more wine or a coffee. Never feel like you are under pressure to give up the table to someone else.
It is no secret between my friends and I that I do not eat much and I am a slow eater. I enjoy taking my time at a restaurant usually and I’d rather talk while I slowly eat then eat quickly and leave. A big drag to eating at the more commercialized restaurants is that it is very impersonal and they have a burn-and-turn mentality.
In Greece, the foods have most of the same spices as we do here in America and the olive oil they use heavily is very good for you. In one type of restaurant, it is highly encouraged that you go into the kitchen to see what fresh foods are being cooked. You then pick out what looks good and tell the cook or your waiter and it’ll be on your table within minutes. In restaurants that serve fish, it is expected of you to ask to see the fish to make sure that it is fresh. It is suggested that even if you don’t know how to tell if a fish is fresh, just by asking and acting like you know they will not show it to you if it is not fresh. If you’re not quite sold on it by looking it at, you can nod your head and ask the equivalent of “from today” and he will tell you yes or no.
Some things to expect from the restaurant:
–bread comes automatically to the table and will appear on the bill whether it’s eaten or not
–don’t not eat the bread and ask for it to be taken off the bill
–you get bread and it’s on the bill. period.
–carafe of water which is usually tap water but be careful, some restaurants will bring bottled spring water and charge for it
Usually the first guy who comes to your table will bring the silverware, bread and water and he may take your order for drinks. The waiter comes next and you should not be shy about taking him by the hand and showing him what it is you wanted if you can’t find anything that sounds like it on the menu. Some people have an ouzo and an appetiser before beginning and you are under no obligation to order your main course right away. In fact if you like you can sit there all night ordering ouzo and appetisers in most restaurants. When we go to eat I always look at the menu but most people just ask the waiter whats good. In fish restaurants they will tell you the barbounia because they are always good and always expensive, unlike the lobster which are sometimes good and always expensive. But in most restaurants they will push the most popular dishes. Many restaurants are known for something they do particularly well. For example Rolando’s in Kea is known for his technique of frying fish. Saita in the Plaka is known for his wine and his bacalliaro (fried cod). Taverna Psiri is known for their paidakia (grilled lamb-chops). Other restaurants are known for just having decent food, nothing special but everything pretty good for example Plaka, Byzantino, and To Hani in the Plaka.