Traditional Greek cuisine is a country-style, simple cuisine. It has had many influences during the centuries from ancient Greek, to middle eastern and turkish, and regionally also (especially the islands) Spanish, Italian and Southern French. At its best (usually found at selected homes and rarely in restaurants) it can be pleasant and very few non-Greeks would dislike it.
Reality alas is harsher: When it comes to eating out (restaurants, tavernas etc) the quality of food is from mediocre to bad with few notable exceptions. One reason is that for the last two generations the culinary aptitude of the average Greek fell well below zero. Experience suggests that some small restaurants, where the "mother" cooks daily local dishes are the best places to eat on the island. One can find in later years a variety of "european" or "pseudo-Italian" restaurants. These are expensive places which typically have a nice/luxurious atmosphere, usually good ingredients but where the cooking art is in most cases simply unacceptable. Some exceptions, also exist.
The purpose of the list below is to give some suggestions to the visitors to the Physics Department. The list is arranged into an alphabetic order by name (spelled with latin characters) of the restaurant.
In order to be prepared with some common local fish you may find in your way, you should consult the following web sites: http://www.explorecrete.com/greek/fish-2gr.html contains pictures and translations of the most common fish between English and Greek. http://surfcastingmersois.free.fr/les_poissons.htm#alose has a large list of common fish names in French as well as their scientific names. http://www.sea-ex.com/fish/names1.htm contains the names of many fish in Japanese, Swedish, Hawaiian, French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Norwegian, Russian. http://www.agrino.org/fishing/gr/htmldocs/sltwtrfish.html contains the most common fish of Cyprus (that coincide with those of Crete).
This is a restaurant with traditional Cretan fare. It is housed in a building creating appropriately the atmosphere of a traditional eatery. Most of the fare is good to excellent. A special mention for the Cretan omeletes (omeletes with greens, zuchinni etc), "splinogardouma" (the "large" lamb intestine filled with spleen pieces and grilled) the best "gardoumakia" I ever had (the "small" lamb intestine cooked and served with a classic egg-lemon sauce) and superb lamb "ofto" (young lamb slow cooked in the wood-fired traditional Cretan oven, better order it in advance) If you want to have a cross section of traditional Cretan food, this is an excellent place. It is highly recommended.
<E. Kiritsis, Feb. 2017>
Although there are many "gyros" shops in Heraklion and in particular in the central area around the Morosini fountain, they are all making gyros (from pork or chicken) that is invariably (relatively) tasteless and expensive. There is only one exception, and this is this place. It is not less expensive compared to other gyros places but it is better. My favorite is kebab with pita bread, or the kebab plate. Inexpensive on a global scale.
<E. Kiritsis, Nov. 2017>
This is a very good fish restaurant, in the area of Herakleion near Agios Dimitrios' little church, in the center. It is a small place held by a family specializing in fish and seafood. The marinated anchovies are good, the fried and especially grilled calamari ("thrapsalo" variety) excellent (the best I have had in years). They have a ink-risotto prepared with cuttle-fish ink that is excellent. They have various types of seashells that are unusual for Cretan cuisine. The small scallops and the shiny clams (vernis in French) are strongly recommended, but ask them to serve them without any extra condiments. The white wine by the pitcher is also excellent. Highly recommended.
<E. Kiritsis, April 2017>
This is a restaurant housed in a neoclassic house with newly and well decorated interior. The food is traditional Cretan and is done very well. Extra mention for the Cretan omelletes with greens, splinogardouma (see explanation in the Erganos review above) grilled vegetables, kid with "askolymbrus" (a thistle that is eaten together with part of its root) It has superb Cretan "ofto" lamb slowly roasted in a traditional wooden oven, that is a must. It has a wide selection of good Greek wines, properly preserved and served at the correct temeperature in the correct glasses. In the summer you can eat in the garden. It is highly recommended.
<E. Kiritsis, March. 2017>
This is not a restaurant but a high quality cafe. It has very good quality drinks ranging from coffees, to infusions, to alcoholic drinks, it is smoke-free, with a small terace outside, and has a high standard of aesthetics. Last but not least, in my opinion, its "bitter" hot chocolate drink is definitely better than the same drink at the famous Angelina in Paris
<E. Kiritsis, May 2011>
This is by now a somwhat upscale place featuring local food. Cretan appetizers were good. The main fare are grilled meats that are mostly done well. The dessert (pitarakia and sarikopites with honey) was good. Their white wine by the pitcher can compete easily with more expensive Cretan bottled varieties, but by now they have an extensive wine list of good Cretan and Greek wines. Service is always on the weak side.
<E. Kiritsis, Dec . 2016>
This is acclaimed to be one of the top places for fish and seafood in the Heraklion area and from my experience here I tend to agree. A simple restaurant whose main strength is the choice of absolutely fresh, good quality fish. They are cooked simply but correctly (rather rare event in the area). Most of the year the varieties found are in order of frequency, Ροφός (Grouper (Eng.) or merou (Fr.)), Σφυρίδα (white grouper (Eng.) or merou blanc (Fr.)) Στήρα (Epinephelus-Costae), Μπαρμπούνια, (red mullet (Eng.), rouger barbet (Fr.)), Συναγρίδα, (Common Dentex (Eng.), Dente (Fr.)), Τσιπούρα ( Gilt-head Bream or Sea Bream (Eng.), Daurade Royale (Fr.)), Κωλοχτύπα, ( Scyllarides Latus, Slipper Lobster (Eng.)), Σαργός (White Sea bream (Eng.)).
Other local dishes are served (octopus, cuttle-fish is a must, sea-urchin salad, raw clams and a variety of green salads) and are done well. The service is excellent. Although the fish price is competitive, the starters are somewhat expensive.
<E. Kiritsis, Sep. 2016>
This is an excellent restaurant which serves greek and Cretan refined cuisine located near the Heraklion airport. The cooking techniques and presentation are modern, but unlike many other upscale places, here it is done very well. From the many excellent appetiser dishes I will single out the calamari-pasta with pistachio pesto: this is grilled calamari cut in pasta form with a pesto-like sauce where the main ingredient is grilled pistachios. This is simply superb! The place serves also an excellent risotto flavored with Cretan truffle slices (apparently they exist) in season. The restaurant has also a rather rich list of daily caught fish that are prepared simply (grilled or poached) but they are excellent. You must ask for the daily fish list to see what they have. They also have a daily fish soup that is very good. The restaurant has a rather lengthy and well chosen wine list and impecable wine service. This place is highly recommended.
<E. Kiritsis, Jul . 2017>