A foodie’s guide to eating in Thessaloniki

Tested by a foodie.

Written by a foodie.

For use by other foodies.

 

As the largest city in northern Greece, Thessaloniki is home to some fantastic culinary delights.

I’ve tried and tested the best to bring you my top recommendations. Keep an eye out for options with a star (⭐) next to them – these are not to be missed!

The dollar signs ($) next to each name indicates a rough pricing.

 

Cretan Cafe ($$)

Dionisiou Solomou 17

As the name suggests, The Cretan Cafe offer traditional dishes of Crete, including the mighty famous Dakos salad. They serve a couple of large portion meals but most of the menu items are a meze style offering – small, snacking plates, designed to accompany a drink like Ouzo. This is perfect if you’re dining with a small group as you’ll be able to share dishes and sample most of the menu.

Being alone I wasn’t able to do this, but still tried 3 of their most typical dishes: smoked pork slices, Cretan cheese with honey and a Dakos salad. Combined, these plates cost me a total of €9 (£8/US$10). They didn’t quite fill me up but were easily worth the money; the use of quality ingredients shone through in the delicious taste.

By the way, a Dakos salad consists of soaked barley rusk (double baked bread made from barley flour) topped with chopped fresh tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, herbs and sometimes olives – aka, heaven on a plate!

Trio of Greek mezedes

 

Edessaïkó ($)

Agiou Dimitriou 140

If you’re after a cheap and filling meal then this no-frills taverna is your place! The family-run Edessaïkó serves up large portions of hearty food at ridiculously cheap prices. Choose from a canteen full of Greek classics – both meat and fish options – then get it piled high with carbs.

Each plate of food costs just €3 (£2.7/US$3.4) so it’s no wonder that there’s always a queue stretching out into the street! Edessaïkó is hugely popular with the locals but the owners also speak English and are more than happy to explain what is on offer.

Homemade burger stuffed with bacon and cheese

 

Choureál ($)

Paleon Patron Germanou 7

Forget waffles and pancakes – the next big thing is fresh profiteroles with delightful toppings! At Choureál the profiteroles are baked fresh throughout the day, filled with Madagascan vanilla flavoured cream, then completed with your choice of toppings.

Begin with two of your favourite sauces – such as passionfruit, praline, bitter chocolate or many more – then finish up with some fresh strawberries, nuts, and even more fresh cream if you dare. Individual portions average around €3.5 (£3.1/US$4) and are plenty sweet enough for one person, maybe even sufficient to share!

So many toppings that the profiteroles are hidden!

 

⭐ Bougatsa Bantis ($)

Panagias Faneromenis 33

Hands-down my favourite place to eat in Thessaloniki! Bougatsa Bantis is a family run bakery serving traditional pastries, pies and coffee in a quiet part of town. They’re most famous (genuinely quite famous) for their incredibly delicious bougatsa – layered filo pastry filled with a variety of sweet or savoury ingredients.

Flavours of fillings include: custard; feta cheese; traditional spinach & cheese; apple & raisin; cheese, fig & wine; chicken; pumpkin and minced meat. A single portion – enough for a small breakfast – costs just €1.7 (£1.5/US$1.9). You can also ask for ‘half and half’ to try more than one flavour.

The most popular flavours are available every day, but come on “special Sundays” for an even greater variety of unique flavoured pastries (for example the cheese, fig & wine flavour). The best time of day to visit is between 9am and 11am – after that they tend to stop making fresh pies so your favourite flavour may sell out!

It was also an absolute pleasure to chat with the owner of Bougatsa Bantis, Philippos, who took over from his dad and continues to hone their almost perfect recipe. He will most likely be the one serving you in the shop so be sure to ask for recommendations and get to know him a little! (Feel free to impress him by knowing that he was part of a Guinness world record for the biggest cheese pie!)

As a testament to Bougatsa Bantis’ quality, Rick Stein (English celebrity chef) came here to cook keema bougatsa (minced meat flavour) for his television cookery programme. If that’s not a reason to visit then you may as well stop reading now…

Half & half of two classics (apple & raisin on the left, feta cheese on the right) seated outside the shop

 

Cannula ($$)

Raktivan 8

Cannula is a cosy restaurant serving excellent quality food at reasonable prices. The owners are also very friendly and even give you free desert (common practice in certain Greek tavernas). Rather than Greek classics, the menu consists more of a Mediterranean influence, with cheeses, nuts, risottos & salads – ideal for healthy eaters or those of you wanting to avoid moussaka and gyros!

I tried the wild rice (mushrooms, pine nuts, walnuts & raisins) and the secret salad (rocket, tomato, parmesan, hazelnuts & honey), both of which were delicious. They were served with a generous portion of soft fresh bread and a personal bottle of olive oil. In total, the meal cost €9.5 (£8.5/US$11).

A healthy lunch

 

Extravaganza ($$$)

Episkopou Amvrosiou 8

With a constantly changing menu, Extravaganza is the place to come for fresh ingredients, unique dishes and new ideas. They embrace a very modern concept of restaurant, with a minimalist decor, alternative cooking methods and sharp attention to detail.

The food is presented impeccably and all cooked fresh to order (so be prepared to wait). My ‘chicken extravaganza’ was no exception to this rule – looked sumptuous, tasted sublime. The portion sizes aren’t huge but in my opinion it’s good value for money; I was more than happy to pay €10 (£9/US$11) for a dish of this calibre.

Side note: Extravaganza can get busy during evenings and weekends, so making a reservation is recommended to avoid disappointment or a long wait.

Chicken extravaganza

 

⭐ Terkenlis $

Tsimiski 30

This place is heaven to sweet lovers; a posh bakery with delightfully decorated cakes, pastries and breads – plenty to tempt you to indulge! They’re famous for something called tsoureki – a sweet bread traditionally eaten at Easter (but available all year round). Terkenlis have put a unique twist on their tsoureki, with a variety of fillings and coatings.

While most flavours are only in large loaf sizes, they do offer individual portions  (€2.9/£2.6/US$3.3) of the two most popular tsourekis – a chestnut cream filling with white chocolate coating or chocolate cream filling with chocolate coating. Opt for takeaway then wander down to the White Tower and enjoy a sweet treat with a view (although mine had started melting by the time I reached the tower so maybe a brisk walk is needed)!

Sweet perfection

 

Ergon Agora ($$$)

P. Mela 42

Ergon Agora is an interesting food concept in central Thessaloniki; it’s part delicatessen, part health food shop, part bar and part cafe! As well as dining in to a variety of fresh, healthy meals or snacks, you can buy all the ingredients direct from their food market – perfect if you just can’t get enough of one particular dish.

The food is fresh and of a high quality but prices are noticeably higher than most places in town. However, I’d still recommend visiting in order to experience this concept in action – even if it’s only for a plate of marinated anchovies at the delicatessen bar.

Health food market slash cafe

 

Gyros Aristotelous ($)

Aristotelous 24

The best gyros place in town. Simple.

Go large for €3 (£2.7/US$3.4) – you won’t be disappointed (or hungry afterwards).

Packed to the max

 

⭐ To Tsai Tea $$

Karolou Ntil 27

Okay, so To Tsai Tea is more of a tea house and coffee shop than eatery, but is still one of my top recommendations in Thessaloniki. Specialising in tea, they stock an incredible range of different infusions from all over the world. Most are from Sri Lanka and China as those are the places where tea originated and is produced.

What makes To Tsai unique though is the fact that these teas can be prepared in many different ways – as cold brews, as hot brews, as coffees infused with tea flavours, as pure melted chocolate infused with the flavours, as cold smoothies and as fresh lemonades. There’s so much to choose from!

They also serve a variety of salads, sandwiches and sweets to go with whichever drink you choose. Prices aren’t cheap – average €4 (£3.6/US$4.6) for a drink – but the quality is high and it’s a welcome change from your everyday coffee shop. The decor is also great, with all the teas on display in huge glass jars which cover the walls, plus cabinets full of traditional tea brewing equipment from China, Japan and Sri Lanka.

If you particularly enjoy one of the teas, you can buy the dried tea leaf flavours for between €4-7 per 100g.

My chilli-tea infused pure melted hot chocolate!

 

Diagonios ($$)

Str. Kallari 13

Meat-eaters, pay attention! Diagonios are famous for making some magnificent meatballs (known as soutzoukakia in Greece), kebabs (gyros) and meat skewers (souvlaki).

Their signature dish is the soutzoukakia, which is the one I tried. It differed from other soutzoukakias I’d previously tried in that the meatballs weren’t drenched in a thick tomato sauce. Initially I was sceptical as I’m a big fan of sauces and can’t stand dry meat. However, when I sank my teeth into these delightful chunks of meat, all my worries evaporated, for these were some of the most moist and tasty meatballs I’d ever tried – and by far the best soutzoukakia I’d had!

Another potential downfall – and the main reason why Diagonios doesn’t earn itself a gold star – is the price. At €8 (£7.1/US$9.2) for 5 meatballs, it doesn’t sound too bad. But the meat is literally all you get (plus a pile of chilli flakes!); the main dishes here don’t come with any salad or side dish so you have to purchase these separately. That makes the prices soon add up and thus the value for money isn’t great for me.

So, if you’re an avid meat-eater or money isn’t an issue for you, definietely visit Diagonios! If you’re neither of these though, maybe pick a different option from my list…

Diagonios’ soutzoukakia meatballs in all their deliciousness

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Read more: Santorini – the Ultimate Guide to the Ultimate Island.

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Hatzifotiou ($)

P. Mela 37

Another place creating irresistible sweet treats is Hatzifotiou. They have all the patisserie classics like fruit tarts, chocolate eclairs and colourful macaroons. But what sets them apart from other patisseries are their famous chocolate cigars, known as pourakia.

These snack size chocolate wafers are filled with a variety of tasty ingredients, from nutty praline or nougat to salted caramel or fruit cream. Each one comes individually wrapped in foil, making your pourakia experience all the more special. They’re also pretty cheap at just €1.3 (£1.2/US$1.5) each.

Pourakia on display

 

⭐ Giok Balik ($$)

Eth. Aminis 34

This was another one of my favourite places to eat in Thessaloniki. It won’t win any prizes for atmosphere but the food is simply sublime! I tried two typically Greek dishes – iman bayildi and bougiourdi – both of which were bursting with flavour.

If you fancy a quick bite or something to takeaway then they’ve also got a delicatessen bar where they make fresh salads, pitas and sandwiches. As if you needed another reason to visit, the prices are reasonable too – I paid €8 (£7.1/US$9.2) for my whole meal and the sandwiches average €3.5 (£3.1/US$4).

Iman Bayildi (back right) is one of my absolute favourite Greek dishes

 

Mpakaliarakia Sto Limani ($$)

Fasianou 1-2

Close to the marina, this fish restaurant is most popular for its classic fish & chips. However, being from England (where fish & chips is considered a national dish), I decided to try something a little different.

After some recommendations, I settled on mussels saganaki and was not disappointed! The mussels are served with peppers (capsicums) in a creamy tomato sauce and topped with crumbled feta – certainly a dish rich in flavour. At €7.5 (£6.7/US$8.6) it wasn’t bad value either.

Mussels saganaki

 

Other places to check out

Already exhausted the above list? Depending on what you’re looking for, here are some alternative ideas.

For…

…delicious pastries – Elenídēs

An array of mouthwatering bakery goods; you must try their signature Trigona Panoramatos.

…live music – Prinkēpéssa

I missed their live music nights but was recommended this place by some locals (so it must be good!).

…great burgers – Brothers in Law

Despite being dubbed the best in the city, the burgers lacked in quantity of toppings for my personal liking. Still, tasty & cheap so check ‘em out!

…white tower views – Doré Zythos

You’ll struggle to find somewhere in the city with more iconic views (even if you do end up paying a slight premium for it).

…atmospheric drinks – Mr Jones Cafe

Plays great music, ranging from country & western to funk and everything in between. Situated next to the archaeological site of Galerious.

Views from Mr Jones Cafe

 

 

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