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Greek Food and Wine Guide

Greek Appetizers (mezedes) or Starters (orektika) and Salads (salates)

How to Order Greek Food

grilled octopusDealing with the Greek waiter you wont need to know Greek in order to order food in a restaurant. Often, depending on the type of restaurant available to you, In a magerio for example, a lot of the dishes are prepared a bit earlier in anticipation of clientele and held warm.

You may indicate your choice by pointing directly at it. When you are hungry this is the fastest way to get food. Often mageria will also have, fish on ice, or meat in a refrigerated case, which will be cooked for you 'to order' or ths ores. In which case you'll have to wait for it to be cooked. These types of restaurants are sometimes also known as tavernas.

Menus are often printed in Greek on one side of the page and English one the other, or ask for an English only translation menu. Hipper places catering to foreigners will have them.

Mezedes are a type of appetizers and can often be ordered in conjunction with the famous Greek aperitifs Ouzo, which is made from grape stems and flavored with aniseed or tsipouro which is double distilled as above. In Crete you'll be more likely to be drinking Raki which is similar to Tsipouro.

Types of eateries that specialize in this type of light fare are called Mezedopoulia, ouzopolea and tsipoudadika respectively. Snacking in one is a often a prelude to eating a bigger dinner somewhere else later, say at a taverna. These are potent drinks so do eat while drinking!

totally fresh sardine mezedA meze, served on small plates may be anything available ranging from pieces of tomato, cheese, fish, octopus, eel or olives or a mixture. You'll come across Mezedopoulia on islands and in mainland villages where some sort of 'in season' local delicacy will hopefully be on offer. In Lesvos (right) its wonderful sardines. In Santorini its small tomatoes. In Aegina its pistachio nuts. Mezedes vary with the locality and season of the year.

The one 'must have' Greek meze experience you absolutely have to have is grilled octopus or octopodi ths skaras and its best eaten outside by the sea to enjoy it fully. Calamarakia or fried squid rings are a close second but you can get those all over the world frozen. I far prefer grilled octopus, when I can get it, to stewed octopus, which is far easier to find, as it can come out of a can. Some restaurants may have both mezedes and full dinner dishes. Most wont. You'll need a taverna or magerio for more sustaining fare!

OREKTIKA are appetizers which you will come across again and again in tavernas, with some slight variation, all over Greece. In Greek, OREXI means 'appetite'. Orexi may also be used in general conversation as in: I am not in the mood, or I have no appetite for: Den eho orixi or as a toast Kali Orexi; "I wish you good appetite".

Some other Greek dining phrases you may want to impress your friends with include:

  • Den Pee-naou: I am not hungry
  • Pee-naou: I am hungry
  • Diep-Sao: I am thirsty
  • Stin ee yia sas: to your health as a toast
  • Pame na faa-me: lets go eat

More about Greek Salads and Appetizers: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4