The first time I went to Greece in 2010, I had never eaten any Greek food (I know, shame on me). At first, I wasn’t very adventurous and basically ate a lot of grilled chicken breasts. But as the trip progressed, I quickly got tired of eating grilled chicken twice a day (although it was delicious). So for the first time in my life, I ate a Greek salad with feta cheese and I loved it. I also tried olives for the first time and those I did not like at all (I still don’t). By the end of my trip, I was eating Greek salads with feta as if I’d been deprived of them my whole life (which, in a way, you can say I was, since we’d never eaten that at home) and one of my favorites, gyros (pronounced “yi-ros”). By the time I came back to Greece in 2014, I was a huge fan of Greek food (and still am).
One of my favorite Greek dishes in Greece is gyros. Gyros consist of sliced rotisserie chicken or pork, or both (I don’t think I’ve ever seen beef as an option in Greece) served in a Greek pita (thicker than the typical pita bread) with toppings like: tomato, lettuce, red onions, tzatziki and french fries (yep – in Greece, they put french fries in gyros). What makes this meal even better, is that it typically costs about 2 euros, so it’s the perfect meal for a backpacker. Needless to say, I’ve eaten my fair share during my days in Greece.
Another one of my favorite Greek dishes is a traditional Greek salad. One of the things I dislike about Greek restaurants in Montréal, is that a Greek salad is never prepared the traditional way. A Greek salad is meant to have 6 main ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red onions, olives and feta cheese (with an olive oil, lemon juice and oregano dressing). In order to cut costs, many restaurants add in other ingredients, like lettuce, which is still good but not traditional. This is why my favorite Greek salad in Montréal is the one I make myself (okay, the one from Jardin de Panos is also really good, although not traditional).
Greek cuisine is also recognized for its mezzes, which are the Greek equivalent of Spain’s tapas. Some of these include: tzatziki (yogurt, garlic and cucumber dip), saganaki (fried cheese), Kolokythokeftedes (fried zucchini and feta balls – yes, I had to google that one), tomato and feta bruschetta and many others.
The first time I ever ate octopus was in Greece, in 2010. I’d always loved seafood (see the grilled shrimps) so I figured, why not give this guy a try too. It was served charcoal grilled, sliced and covered in olive oil. It was delicious and definitely made me an octopus lover.
A cousin to octopus is calamari. I’ve eaten my fair share in Greece, whether it be fried with a bit of lemon juice or grilled over a charcoal BBQ. So delicious!
When I went to Paros, we got to sample a bunch of typical Greek dishes at one of the local restaurants (organized by Busabout). Although it was pricey and the quantities were small, the food was delicious. Many of the samples were seafood based, like: octopus, shrimps and mussels. At the end, we even got to smash plates!
The next day in Paros, we went on a sailing day trip, where our crew prepared a delicious meal of charcoal grilled meat kebabs and octopus. There was also Greek salad and booze, which made this a perfect lunch.
Wherever I go, I also have my fair share of pasta dishes. This I did in Santorini and Ios’ Far Out Beach Club restaurant, which was very good. I had their mushroom risotto and their seafood linguine. I also had a quinoa salad with grilled vegetables, grilled halloumi cheese and a lemon vinaigrette, which I’ve tried to replicate a few times since but have never nailed.
To finish things off, why not a sweet and yummy dessert called baklava? Baklava is not reserved to the Greeks, as it comes from the Ottoman Empire (many other countries along the Mediterranean make their own baklava, like Turkey, Serbia, etc.). Regardless of where it is from, it is always delicious. If you like honey and nuts, you’ll definitely love baklava.
UP NEXT: let’s take things back home to Montreal for a restaurant review of Pizzeria Magpie!
*All photos are my own (or taken by someone with my device)