By James Mallios
Perched above the gradient blue of the Aegean, Kiki's serves fresh, colorful food beneath the shade of a thatched roof and ancient, arched olive trees. The plan is simple: proceed inside the beach hut-cum-prep kitchen to request three or four colorful salads from a display case. Place your order quickly, because when it's gone, it's gone. Then sip rosé while waiting for your pork chop or whole branzino to finish grilling on the open flame.
Kiki's is quintessential Mykonos, from the unparalleled views of the ocean, to the black cat slinking from table to table for a forgotten chicken bone. You'll want to arrive promptly at 1pm when the restaurant opens. If you do have to wait in a queue, you can pass the time on a private beach with a box of cold rosé until a table opens up.
Agios Sostis Beach
84600 Mykonos, Kikladhes
Offering the same spectacular views as Kiki's, but in a lower-key setting, Fokos is a beachside tavern with Cretan-leaning cuisine and a phenomenal wine list. After ordering a bottle of rosé, like Petit Fleur from Parparoussis Estate (rosé is to Mykonians as beer is to the Irish), order meze like the creamy broccoli salad with golden raised and caramelized onion, baked tomato with kalamatas and xinomizithra cheese, and whole grilled barbounia with slaw and a baked potato. Before you leave, make sure to do two things. First, thank the grill master manning the brick-lined barbecue on your way out -- he can teach even an experienced chef a technique or two to bring home. Second, check out the beautiful homemade pottery from the daughter of the owners of the restaurant.
Fokos Beach, 84600 Mykonos
T: +30.6944.644343 | www.fokosmykonos.com
Sea Breeze Bar
Sea Breeze Bar is an oceanside venue where locals and tourists gather on a cobblestone terrace to watch the sun sink into the blue waters. A limited number of tables are available on the outdoor patio, so you'll want to arrive by 7pm to secure a prime spot for sunset-watching. The staff is cordial and after just one visit, you'll feel like a regular. As the hours go by and the sun inches closer to the water, the town slips silently into evening mode. You might see a clown on stilts who stops by your table to pressure you into a third round of shots, or you may dance to 25-year old music with a 21-year old girl. Needless to say, memorable (or perhaps not) nights in Mykonos start at Sea Breeze Bar.
Little Venice, Chora, 84600 Mykonos
It's 5am and you've just danced all night with a gaggle of Brazilians. You want greasy, dirty street food. Only one thing will do: a double meat order of pork gyros made with sliced tomato, garlicky tzatiki and french fries, all wrapped up in a steaming pita. Jimmy's is the obvious finale to the prosecco and vodka-fueled party that inevitably ensues nightly in Mykonos. Lining the walls are glamor shots of Jimmy himself posing with everyone from Liza Minelli to her drag queen impersonator (side by side). Feast at Jimmy's enough and you might just get lucky and end up on the wall yourself.
Lakka, 84600 Mykonos
At Ornos beach, Lefteris is open for dinner only and serves the best kontosouvli (roasted pork collar). For less than five euro, you can feed four people well. They serve the Easter speciality kokoretsi (sweetbreads wrapped in stomach lining and roasted on a spit) every day. Oui, chef.
T: +30.22890.27185 | www.grillhouse-lefteris.com
The best dining in Santorini is outside the typical tourist areas of Oia, Thira and Imerovigli. Here are two favorites.
Behind a church, down a path and in the small town of Pyrgos lies Metaxi Mas, which is Greek for "among us" or "for ourselves." Unlike most of Santorini, Metaxi Mas is about the food, not the view. Reservations can be hard to come by, but once you are here, expect that the server will have strong (and informed) opinions about your selections, as well as the quantity of them. The food is meat-driven, unique and a mix between Santorinian cuisine and Crete (where the owner is from). I recommend the meat and vegetable dishes, and any dish that highlights Greek cheese (there is more than just feta). Great for a long, leisurely lunch.
Exo Gonia Santorini
T: +30.22860.31323 | www.santorini-metaximas.gr
Selene | Selene Meze and Wine Restaurant
Selene has been the archetype for fine dining in Santorini (and arguably Greece) for almost 30 years. I also recommend its baby sister, the newly opened Selene Meze and Wine Restaurant for dinner. The homemade bougatsa (breakfast pastry) with cinnamon ice cream (any of their ice creams, really), fennel pie and appetizer plates are all standout dishes. One of the few fine dining restaurants that showcases how technique can elevate humble food without betraying its origins. The wine list is as strong a list as exists on the island. I often see winemakers eating dinner here.
Santorini, Pyrgos, Pyrgos Kallistis 847 00
T: +30.2286.022249 | www.selene.gr
Maroussi is not the sexiest neighborhood in Athens, but if you want a professional, adult setting with food cooked by talented young chefs, take the 20 minute cab drive here. The music is fun and the tables are spaced apart so you can have a conversation. The food is inventive, soulful, and approachable. The highlights are the delicious desserts. The owner is charming, the music fun, and getting out of the cacaphony of Athens proper can be a welcome relief. Their menu changes weekly.
Str. Lekka 19, Marousi 151 22 | T: +30.21.0806.6700 | www.aneton.gr
Souvlazidiko's specialize in the cooking grilled meats like souvlaki, gyro, kalamaki or kontosouvli. While the rest of Greece snickers behind Athens' back as to their preferred style of sandwiches (the North swears by mustard, the South adds a hot sauce to their tzaziki), this style is most familiar to the American palate and these two restaurants are worth the trip.
Some call Kolonaki the Soho of Athens. Bon vivants, locals and serious eaters flock to this bucolic restaurant for "kalamaki" or "meat on a stick." The menu is much more varied and broad than a traditional souvlatzidiko. It is inexpensive -- for under 12 euro a person, you cannot eat better.
Ploutarchou 32, Kolonaki, Athens 10675 | T: +30. 21.0721.8800
Skip the tourist traps on Monastiraki. Kostas' souvlatzidiko is packed with informed tourists, Greek construction workers and, by my count, two bishops. A stick of pork or beef served with either sketo or in a pita sandwich. Order it "with everything" to make sure you do not miss the homemade spice blends.
5 Pentelis, Syntagma, Athens 10560 | T: +30.21.0322.8502
By the Glass
Closer to the Acropolis is By the Glass, which offers a wide range of classic Greek and European producers at an excellent price point. One of the few Greek restaurants where you can walk in and grab a great grower champagne for a comparative steal. By the Glass is near the Parthenon and open late. It also offers live music in their courtyard.
Souri 2, Athens 10557 | www.bytheglass.gr
Oinoscent: Wine Bar + Shop
Wine bars are the newest trend in Athens and Oinoscent is a quirky one. Walk into their cellar, poke around and pick any bottle you'd like (the reasonable price comes later). They specialize in lesser known, Greek producers with a natural wine bent and have a deep selection of Greek and non-Greek vintages.
Voulis, Athens 10558 | T: +30.21.0322.9374 | www.oinoscent.gr
Thank Yianni Economou, the eccentric farmer, winemaker and car builder for this recommendation. At the base of an old monestary, this restaurant grows its own produce and cooks recipes from grandmothers -- their grandmothers. We know because the grandmothers were there plating. Expect a mix of family and ancient recipes made in a three hundred-year old oven (and recent renovation). On an island with over 300 microclimates, this will be a meal to remember.
Palekastro 723 00 | T: +30.28.4306.1546 | www.metohi-vai.gr
Having grown up visiting family in Greece, James Mallios draws upon the inspiration of the Greek tavernas from his childhood for the food and feel of his Upper East Side restaurant Amali. Mallios is partners with Nicola Kotsoni and Steve Tzolis of Il Cantinori and Periyali.
"The name Amali is inspired by a historical region that encompassed much of the modern day Mediterranean. One of the highest compliments a Greek can say is that food is katharo - clean. Our menu emphasizes the food people actually eat in the Mediterranean - seasonal vegetables, olive oil, cheese and grains. We don't sell a Greek salad in the winter, when local tomatoes are not in season. When they are, we will serve it the traditional Greek way: just olive oil and a little lemon juice (tomatoes, not vinegar, provides the acid when you eat this salad in Greek homes)." - James Mallios
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