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://www.epirus.de/fische1.htm contains a list of local fish and their names in english, greek and for some in German. http://pagesperso-orange.fr/salmon-est-france/Dictionnaire2_poissons.htm 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. The food is done mostly well (good pitarakia, splinogardouma and salads) without peaks of excitement. The service is good.
<E. Kiritsis, Feb. 2007>
This is a taverna with traditional Cretan fare and a few new recipes. The atmosphere is simple and the service excellent for such an establishment (it helped that the owners worked in Germany before). We tasted several appetizers (dolmades, eggplant with cheese, dakos etc) all excellent. The Cretan risotto (pilafi) was also very good. A good white wine by the pitcher. This place is good and is recommended.
<E. Kiritsis, Feb. 2004>
This is considered the central spot of Heraklion by many, and there is a point to that belief. ``Pagopiion" translated as ice-factory is housed in the building of a old and long defunct ice-factory that has been renovated with taste by the owner. (Visiting the toilets is a must!)
It houses a room serving as the restaurant as well as another one serving as the bar (with very interesting music, although too loud). During most of the year people can also sit out. The menu has very inventive names and oscillates between the traditional and the pseudo-Italian cuisine so much in fashion lately. Some of the dishes I applaud while others are uninteresting. There are two musts in my opinion, the crepes with roquefort sauce and the ``galatopita" (milk pie) with its superb milk/caramel sauce.
The restaurant is expensive and most of the dishes are more fancy that good. They have a good selection of some of the best Greek wines, but unfortunately, they charge three times their retail value. I find this practice (common in the fashionable greek restaurants) unjustified, since they all invariably serve wine that will be drunk in the coming year (thus no cost overhead), in invariably bad glasses. In this case the glasses could be better.
Not-withstanding, this is one of the best places in Heraklion to have a drink, a coffee and nibble something. It is recommended.
<E. Kiritsis, June. 2006>
Although there are many "gyros" shops in Heraklion they are all making gyros (from pork or chicken) that is invariably 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 much better. My favorite is kebab with pita bread, or the kebab plate. Inexpensive on a global scale.
<E. Kiritsis, Nov. 2009>
This is an old restaurant on Demokratias street in Heraklion, counting various illustrious visitors among its customers. I have eaten there many times so far, and that's where we do most of our wine tastings.
The food is mostly traditional and done mostly well. I did like a lot the aubergines stuffed with feta. This place has been upholstered recently. The service is excellent by any standards. It is on the expensive side.
<E. Kiritsis, Nov. 2007>
This is a very good fish restaurant, that after a recent time-out reopened and is now in the ouzeri area of Herakleion near Agios Dimitrios' little church, in the center. It is a small place held by a family from Salonica, specializing in fish and seafood. The marinated anchovies are good, the fried and grilled calamari excellent (the best I have had in years), and the white sea-bream of superbe freshness and cooked well. 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 more than honorable. Highly recommended.
<E. Kiritsis, April 2012>
This is a well priced and very popular new taverna near the old port of Heraklion, at the end of the central street, 25 August. Its fare is mostly good, but it is always crowded (for a good reason) and noisy. The white wine by the pitcher, is a fresh moschofilero (from Mantineia, Peloponese), that has its rose aroma intact. Sometimes food quality can be spotty.
<E. Kiritsis, Nov. 2010>
This is a restaurant housed in a neoclassic house with newly and well decorated interior. The food is traditional Cretan and is done well. It has superb Cretan 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. It is recommended
<E. Kiritsis, March. 2011>
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 one the "in" fish places for the locals. It is a nicely but simply decorated place. It specializes in fish and seafood. In general, dishes tend to be fancy mixes, but most of the time are not particularly successful. Get a simple fresh fish grilled to be sure. The wine list abounds in good (and some less good) Greek white wines. In fish places you typically order whites and whites are problematic in Greece. Test the house wine first. This is an expensive place.
<E. Kiritsis, May. 2009>
This is a small traditional taverna in the wine-making village of Peza. It is on the road to the south, some 18 Kms from the center of Heraklion. Excellent "anthogalo", zuchini-balls, cabbage dolmades, and various grilled meats. Good home-made red wine by the pitcher. On the expensive side.
<E. Kiritsis, Nov. 2009>
This is a down to earth taverna with local food. Cretan appetizers were good. The main fare are grilled meats but the pork and lamp chops tasted were not at their best: cut very thin they were not juicy enough. The dessert (pitarakia and sarikopites with honey) was good. Their white wine by the pitcher can compete easily with more expensive Cretan bottled varieties. The service was not very good.
<E. Kiritsis, Dec . 2007>
This is acclaimed to be the best place 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 (55 euros/Kgr), the starters are expensive.
<E. Kiritsis, Sep. 2009>