When it comes to knowing the best of what a city has to offer, nobody knows the landscape better than a local. So when it came to the best food tour of Thessaloniki, a city with a long and proud and culinary tradition, we looked no further than Danai Spania, our hometown culinary expert from Epiculiar Tours. Without further ado, let’s see what Danai cooked up for us.
What’s your favorite food from Thessaloniki?
With a history that stretches all the way back to the Byzantine times, bougatsa is both one of my favorite and one of the most famous dishes from my hometown. Whether on the way to work, grabbing a quick bite for lunch, or looking for something to soak up a heavy night of drinking in the wee hours of the morning, this stuffed pastry is a staple of everyday life in Thessaloniki. For those seeking the best of the best, make sure to get your fill before 2 p.m., the time when all the decent bougatsa makers close up shop. And for those who can’t decide between sweet and savory, you can always get a half portion with feta and half with custard cream.
If somebody is looking for a sweet treat, what should they order?
No place in Greece (or the world) does sweets quite like Thessaloniki. The quality of this sweet brioche temptation comes down to the butter, mahleb, and, of course, mastiha, an aromatic spice from the island of Chios. While there are countless varieties, my favorites are covered in white chocolate and filled with chestnut or plain, freshly baked with Nutella. Don’t forget a glass of milk!
What’s the best option for street food in the city?
Walking down the streets of Thessaloniki, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself stumbling into the tempting smells of gyros and souvlaki. Like barbecue, this must-try street food of the city is seasoned and grilled to perfection. Whether made with pork or chicken, make sure you try your gyros and souvlaki with pita bread, tzatziki, tomatoes, onion, fries, ketchup, and mustard (and don’t forget to add some extra oregano).
For the more adventurous eaters, what does Thessaloniki have to offer?
Not for the faint of heart, patsa has filled the stomachs of people of Thessaloniki for over 60 years. Made with tripe (aka edible stomach lining) and feet from pigs or cows, people serve the soup with thickly cut meat (hontrokommeno) or finely-sliced meat (psilokommeno). For the most traditional option, order with kokkino (fat from the broth mixed with red pepper), finely chopped garlic in vinegar known as skordostoubi, and boukovo (chili flakes). For those nursing a hangover from a night of debauchery, patsa is the perfect hangover cure if you can stomach a little bit of stomach.
What kind of quick snack can people find to fill their stomachs while walking around the city?
Packed with proteins, nutrients, carbohydrates, this koulouri helps keep you moving all over the city. As the star of the circular bread, the sesame seeds are the essential ingredient that makes this bread so special. Nothing beats grabbing a fresh koulouri in the morning and heading to Kapani, the city’s open-air market, and picking up fresh olives and some feta or graviera cheese to eat together. Beware, the combination can be addictive!
Where can people find great food and a good time in Thessaloniki?
The cosmopolitan side of Thessaloniki comes out in the mezedopolia, the laid-back eateries where food is shared, the conversation is spicy, and the wine, tsipouro, resina, and ouzo are poured freely. Eating meze is all about sharing, which means ordering six or more small plates with a group of friends and not being shy about sticking your fork across the table to taste some delightful meat or fish.
How should people get their coffee fix while visiting the city?
One word sums up the rhythm and vibe of the Thessaloniki: “halara,” which means to take things as they come. In the summertime, you’ll see people strolling around the city taking this to heart, almost always with a frappé, freddo cappuccino, or an espresso in hand. Invented accidentally when someone had no access to hot water, the frappé is the perfect way to start the day. On a clear morning, make your way to the waterfront. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, in the distance.