Kleftiko at the Plaka

The Plaka is Athens oldest neighborhood. It is centrally located, at the base of the Acropolis, and is a collection of touristy shops and restaurants. It reminds me of Little Italy, but not in the way that New Yorkers think of Little Italy; the way that everyone else thinks of Little Italy. A cute place with fun restaurants and the opportunity to get dressed up in traditional garb and take an old timey photo.

Okay, maybe I made up that last part, but it does have some very cute restaurants. They are super touristy and probably all use the same kitchen that just runs under the length of the neighborhood, but what do I care?

20140507_122834 Adrianos Restaurant couldn’t be cuter or more touristy if it tried. Every menu is printed in about 5 languages, there is everything from souvlaki to hamburgers, and the courtyard is shaded with large umbrellas and lovely greenery. It’s relaxing but looks onto the bustling Plaka, for a bit of dinner theatre as you dine. Word to the wise – learn the Greek word for no (o-hee) for when the women selling roses, pashminas, and other things made in China come around to your table.
20140507_124345 Grilled halloumi and vegetables

Why is the cheese so lovely here? Even at this restaurant where no Greek person would be caught dead, the cheese is mild and bouncy, with a salty crust taht pairs well with the sweet grilled zucchini and eggplant. It’s ideal with the accompanying olive oil and tangy balsamic vinegar. This could be a meal in and of itself.
20140507_124349 Tzatziki

But then you would miss out on this. Yeah, the tzatziki really does just get better and better in this country. This is the only time on the vacation that we cound the portion to be a bit paltry, but what can ya do? It’s thick and rich; loaded with shredded cucumbers and spicy garlic. The dill is quite restrained but there is plenty of cracked pepper. What do you want from me, I just love this stuff.  20140507_130018 Gyros

Avoid at all costs. Dry, rubbery, and tasteless. Though, to be fair, if you order a gyro at a sit down restaurant instead of from a little stand where you can see the meat roasted on a spit, you get what you deserve.  20140507_130022 Kleftiko

This lamb and veggies dish is one of my favorite things I ate during the entire honeymoon. Kleftiko is a dish that was invented by (according at least one story) Greek rebels during an Ottoman invasion. The rebels would cook lamb in a pit far below the earth so that the invading armies couldn’t see  smoke escaping, thus exposing the hiding spot. It’s DELICIOUS. My husband said that it looked like it came out of a garbage can. Then he promptly stole all of it.  20140507_130100 The meat is incredibly tender and pulls cleanly away from the bone. It’s dripping in fatty, rich, lamby juices and the edges are crunchy and caramelized. The carrots are wonderfully sweet all on their own and the potatoes absorb those meaty flavors. It’s savory, filling, and wonderfully hearty. I could eat this until my pants wouldn’t button.

Adrianos isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it was a cheap and tasty lunch. The service was insanely slow – so be aware! However, it’s Greece. And I think that any restaurant in the Plaka would do the same for lunch.

So, Athens had some good food, but not the best.

Luckily, London was right around the corner.