I am not a very good tourist. I always feel a bit weird and guilty when I return to my hostel after a long day and the staff asks me what I did. Because usually the answer is just some combination of the following three things: 1) worked, 2) wandered around, 3) ate. There are many places where all I do is eat. While I did a great deal of hiking in Santorini, it was by and large one of those places where I only planned as far ahead as my next meal.
The good news? I can now tell you what’s worth putting on your plate on the most popular Greek island.
The cornerstone of cheap eats in Greece, gyros fill a warm and toasty pita bread with thinly shaved chicken or pork, salad, chips, and a healthy dose of tzatziki sauce. There are probably dozens of places all over the island where you can grab one for just 2 or 3 euro. I never did manage to find the famous Lucky’s Souvlaki in Fira, but I gave several other stands and restaurants a try. Obelix is conveniently located next to some of Fira’s popular bars, and thus always has a long line at night. Personally, I think their pita gyros are basic, but not the best. The tucked away Meat Corner is somewhat higher quality with more seating. They are the only place I found that really toasted the pita well, even if they were a little overly liberal with the red onion. In the end, it was Yogi Gyro on the main square in Fira that was worth becoming a go-to. They consistently got the right balance of ingredients. (Are you sorry you asked me about gyros yet?)
Greek salad is one of my favorite meals to make at home when I want something fresh and easy. But nothing compares to the salads you get on the islands with a whole block of feta covering the tomato, cucumber, and olives underneath. This particular iteration, with a local Mythos beer, can be found at Taverna Syrtaki on Fira’s Old Port. (Side note: This is perhaps the only restaurant in Europe where getting my check did not take a fricking act of Congress.) I also heard good things about a cafe right across the street from Fira Backpackers- I typically steer clear of restaurants that have staff out on the street begging you to come in, but apparently I missed out in this case.
For more middle of the road dining – neither cheap takeaway nor fancy meal – I found plenty of places to enjoy more general Mediterranean fare like pizza margherita or a sandwich piled high with Mediterranean ingredients. A caprese sandwich at Volkan, overlooking Fira, was massively underwhelming, but they had cheap wine and screened nightly movies in an open-air cinema. A great stop when you need something different to do. Skiza in Oia (pictured above) won out for quality. I had a baguette piled with grilled zucchini and eggplant, roasted red peppers, Greek cheese, and balsamic vinegar.
Eating local specialties instead of international food is a great way to save money on the road. When the time came for me to enjoy a ‘splurge’ night at one of the fancier restaurants overlooking the caldera, the moussaka was the most reasonably priced menu item at Rastoni. Moussaka is a rich, comfort food casserole of ground lamb and veggies. It’s almost like a Greek shepherd’s pie. I have no complaints about the meal itself, but strongly recommend solo travelers steer clear of Rastoni. I realize solo dining is not common in Greece, but the staff at Rastoni were painfully obvious about not giving me the same level of service they would other diners because I was by myself. (I had a better solo experience at the Italian Elia restaurant.)
There are plenty of gelato stands all over Fira. Cremalatte on the main square is pricey, but good quality, large servings. Zotos and Yes Cafe are directly across from one another and relatively close to a prime sunset viewpoint. Either makes a good basic go-to when you need something sweet. For a splurge, pop into LouYo, near the top of the Old Donkey Road, for a priced-by-weight frozen Greek yogurt. There are flavored yogurts to choose from, but I prefer to keep it simple with plain yogurt and fresh fruit and honey off the toppings bar. Chillbox on the main square has a similar setup, but you’ll get much better service at LouYou – particularly if you take the time to learn a few Greek words. The staff here was so excited to be greeted in their native language after a long day dealing with cruise passengers. It’s the kind of courtesy you should extend everyone in your travels, but in a place as touristy as Santorini, it really makes a visible difference.
How much should you expect to spend on food in Santorini? See my detailed budget for three weeks in Greece!
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