The Pie Shop
If you don’t want to go for the traditional Greek breakfast of coffee and cigarettes, grab a pie. The Pie Shop is a storybook-perfect addition to Athens’s competitive pie scene. Pies inspired by recipes all over the world allow you to take a breakfast trip to Jamaica, Peru, Korea and beyond. Apart from an extensive savory selection, you’ll also find divine patisseries (often in bite-sized samples at the register), the pastry for which is made fresh each day using French butter. The store’s motto is “bake the world a better place,” and who can argue with that?
BTW: The best seller is the Peruvian tequeño served with a portion of guacamole.
The Pie Shop, Voulis 16, Athens, 10563
If you didn’t know about the Underdog, you wouldn’t give it a second thought. In fact, if you didn’t know where it was, you’d walk right past it. But the Underdog is the runt of the pack that surprised everyone, thanks to a barista team that has won awards both locally and internationally. And it shows. If you didn’t think something as simple as a cappuccino could leave you fawning over its perfection, prepare to be surprised. This place unfolds before you in a cool industrial setting with an excellent musical selection. Breakfast is served from 10 a.m. (Note a no-laptop policy on weekends.)
BTW: All the coffee is roasted in-house, and the shop sells some of the team’s own coffee blends to help the flavors from your trip linger once you’ve left.
The Underdog, Iraklidon 8, Athens 118 51
Souvlaki is easily Greece’s favorite quick-fix food, and at Hoocut, the slapped-together, greasy nature of souvlaki has been replaced with an attention to detail that turns a simple meal into a delicious experience. The place is the brainchild of some of Greece’s most accomplished chefs, who added a slow touch to this fast food. The ingredients are top-notch and carefully sourced, and everything, including the pita wraps, is prepared on-site. It’s without a doubt the best place in Athens to try souvlaki that doesn’t compromise on taste or quality while still being surprisingly affordable.
BTW: There’s an art to eating souvlaki, so save yourself the spills and tear off the paper around your wrap in spiral strips as you eat.
Hoocut, Plateia Agias Irinis 9, Athens, 105 63
Set inside a glass atrium that contrasts the traditional (a living olive tree) with the modern (a wall mural by Greek street artist INO), Ergon Foods has a philosophy of showcasing the finest Greek ingredients in its artfully prepared food. Everything is prepared fresh in front of you. Smoked fish may not set your world on fire — that is until you try the sardine gyros at this place. The gently smoked sardines in a rich, slightly spiced tomato sauce served in crispy pitas will change your mind.
BTW: Finish off a meal here with a short walk down the road to La Greche for freshly made ice cream.
Ergon Foods, Mitropoleos 23, Athens 105 63
Zisis has placed itself firmly on the Athenian food scene with its simple concept of seafood served in paper cones. You can either take the cones away to eat while you walk, or enjoy a sit-down dinner with a wider menu. But it’s not just the cute gimmick that won over the city’s foodies; the seafood here is top-notch and very fresh. Even the portion of salad stuffed into the bottom of the cone comes with a delicious dressing! Try the fried prawns or sand smelt with lashings of their chili and mayonnaise sauce, grab some napkins and hit the road.
BTW: Combine your seafood cone with a take-away cocktail from Take Your Cocktail Out, which is less than a block and a half away.
Zisis, Athinaidos 3, Athens 105 63
If you get to eat only one meal in Athens, pick Nolan. Chef Sotiris Kontizas has drawn on his Greek and Japanese roots to create a fusion menu that’s earned this place a well-deserved spot in the Michelin Guide. Some of the food combinations seem to make little sense at first glance, but when you take a bite, you realize how the flavors work in harmony, like bitter greens with bonito and sausage. Also try the soba noodles in tahini sauce, a well-balanced symphony of Greek and Japanese tastes. The desserts are pretty spectacular, too, and all for a wallet-friendly price.
BTW: Nolan is extremely popular. Lunchtime walk-ins are possible, but for dinner, book a minimum of four weeks in advance.
Nolan, 33, Voulis 31, Athens 105 57
Baba au Rum
Gone are the days when a cocktail in Athens meant sticky floors and rainbow-colored monstrosities poured from ready-made mixes. Baba au Rum was Greece’s first bar to make it onto the list of the world’s 50 best bars in 2013, ushering in a new age of finesse and expertise in the city’s bar scene. Rums are at the heart of the cocktail menu here, but so is a whole spectrum of carefully selected spirits from around the world. Sitting at the bar and watching the bartenders at work is something akin to alchemy and magic combined, and they spare none of the flair when it comes to preparing their luscious mocktails, too.
BTW: Try the Spicy Baba, the bar’s most popular cocktail, which combines aged rum, ginger, berries and lime.
Baba au Rum, Klitiou 6, Athens 105 60
Kokkion Ice Cream
Athenians love their ice cream, and this artisanal shop, tucked down a graffitied side street in Psyri, has won itself a cult following. Its rich, lively flavors crafted from fresh ingredients and a very Instagrammable store keep both locals and visitors milling around at all hours. Try the thick, aromatic kaimaki ice cream made with fresh buffalo milk, aromatic masticha resin from the island of Chios and orchid roots (salepi), but be sure to ask about the daily specials before you order. It has a good vegan selection and also does coffee.
BTW: Not done for the night? Then hit Psyrri, Athens’ lively bar district, which is around the corner from here.
Kokkion Ice Cream, Protogenous 2, Athens 105 54