The days of going out to eat – and going out to eat in Thessaloniki nonetheless – feel like a dream of the past. In reminiscing on the ease, lively ambiance, and gastronomic wonders that go along with a meal out on the town, I’m sharing with you my favorite restaurants from one of my favorite cities.
This past fall was my second semester working in Thessaloniki to facilitate a study abroad program. I was lucky enough to be blessed with another three months to feast on fried feta cheese, melt-in-your-mouth bougatsa, soutzoukakia, and gyros in “Saloniki” – the food capital of Greece.
There are so many things that I love about the food in Thessaloniki – its freshness, the diversity of its origin, and how there’s no shortage of amazing cheese. But just as much as I love the food itself, I particularly love the culture surrounding meals in Greece: meals that span over two or three hours, house wine, and the loved or despised Greek liquor, ouzo, that so often entertains midday lunches. Greeks, perhaps more than any people whom I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with, know how to enjoy. Don’t rush. Enjoy your food. Enjoy the people around you – your family, your friends, and your conversation. Relax, slow down, halara..
When you find yourself in Thessaloniki, don’t miss these spots!
Best Restaurants of Thessaloniki
Near the Rotunda, Ouzeri Lola consistently reclaims its title in my heart as the best meal of my life. This restaurant is always my first choice as somewhere to bring visiting family and friends, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone who asks.
In the best way possible, it feels like you’re eating at your aunt and uncle’s restaurant. The same man always sat us, and I came to recognize all of the staff rather quickly. This restaurant felt familial very quickly as the first time I came here, the cook came out to take our order herself. She asked what we were looking for and brought out her favorite dishes based on our tastes. It was an incredible culinary and cultural experience.
Expect to see big families enjoying food, couples on a romantic date, and lots of beverages – whether they be wine or ouzo – at all hours. Make sure you call ahead, as you need a reservation for a table in this restaurant. (The man answering the phone speaks English!)
Do order the Shrimp Gnocci and the Fried Feta! They also have amazing, fresh fish, lovely salads, tomato fritters.. just promise you’ll order the whole menu on my behalf.
This restaurant has a classy and posh vibe. It has an excellent location – just one block up from the boardwalk and near the White Tower. To Elliniko has so many delicious ορεκτικά – or appetizers – more colorful and delicious dips than you could dream of. This restaurant also has wonderful seafood. On my first visit here, I had grilled octopus and it was delicious. Their fried feta may be a close-second. They have a massive wine menu and an extensive cheese menu. Sit outside or inside – it will surely be a blissful experience.
This restaurant exists in the midst of a little market with fresh produce and imported goods from all over Greece. The secret has gotten out that Ergon Agora is the place to go – so make a reservation whether you wish to visit for brunch, lunch, or dinner. The ambiance is a 10, and the food is divine. This is a posh place, and reminds me of a fancy restaurant in Chelsea Market.
Great things come in small packages. This tiny yet trendy restaurant is modern and incredibly delicious. They also have a standalone cheese menu. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be fresh. I had the best mushroom risotto of my life here, and have had more delicious cheese platters than I can count. Don’t be fooled by its size.
This restaurant came recommended to me by my Greek friend, Maria. Haroupi is on the fancier end of restaurants that I explored, but is still incredibly affordable based on what I’m accustomed to paying for fine dining in the U.S. Their pork steak was divine, and I enjoyed an incredible salad, and of course, cheese. This restaurant is located in the hip part of town called Ladadika, so you’ll be in a great location to hit the bars next door!
Sadly, I didn’t get to try this gyros shop firsthand but completely trust the source – my friend, Maria – so here it is! When a Thessalonian tells me it’s one of the best gyros shops in town, I listen. It’s on my list for my next visit!
Rosticceria Di Salonicco
My experience at this restaurant was especially memorable because it is owned by the husband of my first rowing partner, Ourania! After rowing and working out with her a dozen times, she casually mentioned that she and her Italian husband owned a local restaurant. I booked a reservation first chance I got!
Order wine, order the chef’s special, and don’t forget dessert!
Grillo has my heart. This restaurant embodies Greek hospitality and serves a helluva gyro. Located in the Vasilissis Olgas neighborhood, this gyro-heaven was steps away from my abode. I personally like my gyro best with everything on top – including ketchup and mustard – which sometimes surprises Americans. Give a warm hello to Anka and her husband if you go!
Also in the Vasilissis Olgas neighborhood, Othos Delfon is a quaint restaurant/cafe. It has a gorgeous interior and great outdoor seating, and is a place you’ll want to sit and enjoy your coffee or wine for hours. This is the perfect spot for brunch, and if you didn’t know, Greeks do brunch really well. Their meat and cheese board was to die for – the jams that they provided took the spread to the next level.
I once had a heated debate with a Greek man. It was over the best bougatsa in Thessaloniki. This lovely young gentleman, who was dating my colleague/friend/neighbor (I miss sharing your wall, Grace!), insisted that it could not be the best bougatsa in Thessaloniki, because he knew the best bougatsa was at the shop of another male Greek name ending in an s. I, with the confidence in the fact that my Greek friend, Nikos, introduced me to this place and had never led me astray when it came to Greek food, combined with firsthand knowledge of what amazing bougatsa tastes like with a few added pounds to prove it, suggested that we head over to Yannis that very instant.
Thirty minutes later Dimitris was begrudgingly retracting his statement and I was smiling ear to ear.
The beauty in bougatsa is that you can order sweet or savory bougatsa. If you order the sweet version, you can even request nutella on top (or rather, the Greek version called Merenda). Oh, how I miss bougatsa!
Other things to know before embarking on your Greek food tour
- Restaurant staff are not being rude if you don’t get your check at a moment’s notice. In fact, they are being quite the opposite in allowing you to relax and enjoy your table for as long as you please. Be patient in waiting for your check!
- Dessert is often complimentary. Yes – you heard correctly. At many restaurants, they will bring out a complimentary house dessert just because. Another highlight of Greek hospitality.
- If you go out for a drink, you will inadvertently also be served snacks: chips, peanuts, popcorn, sometimes crackers and cheese if you’re lucky. It’s dreamy.
- Greeks eat dinner late. You will notice that restaurants do not get crowded for dinnertime until maybe 8, usually 9pm.
- If you attempt to use your Greek, it will be appreciated. It’s a difficult language and chances are you won’t get it perfect, but you likely will get smiles from servers and a token of appreciation for trying.
Cute cafes, bars, and coffee
Thessaloniki’s got them! There are so many to explore, and they’re fun to discover on your own. But I’m listing just a few of my favorites below.
- TOMS Flagship Thessaloniki (yes, like the shoe)
- Ánōthen – LGBTQ friendly
- Treehouse (Δεντρόσπιτο) – Some of my most fun nights were spent here. They have great live music nearly every night
- Coffee Island – a favorite coffee shop of a Greek professor that I worked with, and I have to say I agree. And you should know that Greeks take their coffee very seriously
- Karma Cafe – Go here for a coffee reading! This place is popular so plan to wait for an hour to be seen (there is no wi-fi here)
For more information on the BEST of Thess, follow @thess_del_food on Instagram!
I hope that you enjoy exploring the best restaurants of Thessaloniki!