What is a Greek Taverna?

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Cretan taverna mealThere are many types of eating establishments in Greece, but none are as iconic as the taverna. When people first visit Greece, they often use the words “taverna” and “restaurant” as if they go hand in hand. However, thinking of a taverna as simply a “traditional Greek restaurant” doesn’t tell the whole story. The truth is, Greeks make a distinction between a restaurant (estiatorio) and a taverna. Here’s more information about what a taverna really  is in Greece:

Difference Between Restaurants and Tavernas

While restaurants usually have an extensive menu and are usually open long hours, tavernas often have a limited amount of foods and usually serve what they have available. Restaurants are also looked at as more of a daytime activity, but many are open throughout the day. Tavernas are primarily enjoyed in the evening and often involve entertainment, dancing, and alcoholic beverages, such as local wine. While a restaurant is simply a place that you eat, a taverna provides not only food, but also a good time.

Food Served at a Taverna

Depending on where you are in Greece, tavernas may serve different types of foods foods. They also have limited menus and serve what they have available. For instance, areas that are by the sea may specialize in seafood. In this case, these are usually referred to as Psaro Tavernas, or Fish Tavernas.

The basic characteristics of the simple taverna are still in place but the main fishes revolve around seafood. Foods that are normally served at tavernas include grilled meats, simple seafood dishes, and various mezedes, such as stuffed grape leaves (dolmades), Greek cheeses such as feta, and dips and spreads such as taramosalata, which is made from fish eggs, and tzatziki. There’s also more than enough bread to go around!

When you’re in a traditional taverna, the menu usually isn’t printed. The people working there tell you what food is available that day and you can choose to order it or not. If you do choose to eat it, however, you will be treated to some of the freshest and delicious food available in Greece!

Beware of Touristy Tavernas

Tavernas that are located in heavily touristed areas may not even be considered a taverna at all! These are often restaurants that are labeled as tavernas so that visitors can feel as if they are getting an authentic experience. In some cases, they maybe started out as a traditional taverna but they maybe grew as more and more people began to visit them. If you want a truly authentic taverna experience you may need to go out of your way a little bit, and you definitely want to ask the locals where the best, most authentic tavernas are located.

Tavernas are usually looked at as local establishments. City neighborhoods, larger towns, and villages throughout Greece usually have at least one taverna. In many places, they are a hub of activity and when dining there, you may find that the unexpected often happens – such as spontaneous traditional dancing or impromptu musical performances put on by locals.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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