Midnight on a Friday in Kerameikos: the rain has stopped and Athens, covered in an atmospheric mist, is exuding a cinematic charm. The roads that were empty a while ago are slowly but surely coming back to life. Couples and groups of friends stroll the wet sidewalks as the night shift begins. We’re setting out for the after-hours foodie hangouts in Athens, to see what’s up. Following the lockdowns and, with the city’s nightlife having undergone a noticeable change – some places have shut down while many are no longer open until late – we seek out the spots where one can still find delicious food after midnight.
First stop is at Gialantra, whose courtyard set-up looks like a mix between a traditional church festival and a pop-art installation. There’s coarse white gravel, multicolored metal barrels, bright bunting interspersed with strings of lights and, in the back of this outdoor space, the food truck brought in last summer by chef Gogo Delogianni, working with Nelli Bofiliou (Ble Papagalos) and Michalis Dimakos. The surviving facade from the 1920s building that once occupied this plot of land adds a special charm to the open dining area. Gialantra is consistently busy from the early evening and stays open until late, serving grilled meatballs and thinly cut fries (served with tsalafouti cheese or tomato sauce), hot dogs with caramelized onions, fish and chips, or vegan rigatoni with mushroom and truffle ragout. The festival atmosphere here is often complemented by street musicians who get the crowds going.
4 Giatrakou, Avdi Square, Metaxourgeio
Tel. (+30) 699.717.2784
Mon-Thu 15:00-02:00, Fri 15:00-03:00, Saturday 14:00-03:00, Sunday: 14:00-02:00
We arrive at Elvis at around 02:00 and as always, it’s packed. This famous souvlaki place on the corner of Plataion and Kerameikou streets serves its signature pork souvlaki skewers all night, with customers patiently waiting their turn. When it opened in 2014, it immediately won the hearts of the city’s night owls with its late-night hours. The smell of meat grilling wafts over us and makes the wait feel like an eternity, but when it’s our turn we’re not sure what to order: pork skewers, mutton skewers, yummy traditional sausages or kebab? In the end, we ordered the pork skewers – the house special – with round-cut fries and toasted bread, and enjoyed the very flavorful meat, which had been marinated with various herbs.
Kalamakia o Elvis
29 Plataion, Kerameikos
Tel. (+30) 210.345.5836
daily until 02:30
We head towards Psyrri, looking for Crust on Protogenous Street, our destination whenever we’re in the mood for a slice of pizza – XL style! This particular street was busy even during lockdown, so you can imagine what it’s like now, with its cool bars and after-hours hangouts open again for business. We take a seat at one of the outdoor tables and enjoy our pizza. Which would you prefer? The Snow White, with parmesan cream, mozzarella, mushrooms, pancetta, prosciutto and parmesan flakes, or the Yellow Devil Sauce with tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, bell peppers, onion, sweetcorn, cheddar and chili flakes? Take your pick!
13 Protogenous, Psyrri
Tel. (+30) 210.325.7179
Our next food item is no show stopper – it’s just a sesame bread ring. But it’s always there when everything, from Syntagma to Thiseio, has closed for the night! To Koulouri tou Psyrri sources many of the city’s street vendors, and is never closed. They bake batches of rings constantly, and if you’re lucky, or patient, you can get yours straight from the oven. Those in the know ask for a small triangle of cheese on the side, sold separately. They also make delicious raisin bread, tsoureki and sugar donuts.
To Koulouri tou Psyrri
23 Georgiou Karaiskaki, Psyrri
Tel. (+30) 210.321.5962
open 24 hours daily
Food Str on Kalamiotou offers much of what you might want after midnight, including juicy, budget-conscious burgers on a brioche-type bun. They come with mushrooms, crispy vegetables and a delicious tomato sauce. The fried cod, served on bread made from carob flour and cuttlefish ink, is also a firm favorite. Order it with fries for a great version of fish and chips, Greek-style. The Hangover soup, made with vegetables and ginger, is another option, and hot dogs also feature on the menu.
That Hangover soup notwithstanding, it seems that while you can get your fair share of other items on late-night menus in Athens, it is getting harder to find warm bowls of soup in those hours when, arguably, we need them the most. To fill that void, here comes So So So on Apollonos Street, which serves steaming bowls of ramen until one o’clock in the morning on the weekends. We also recommend the tonkatsu, a soothing pork broth served with noodles and thinly sliced meat. Those with a hefty appetite should opt for the spicy miso beef, with minced meat and an irresistible aroma! The vegetable ramen is also a great vegetarian option, a rarity at this time of night. You can also go for a variety of smaller dishes, such as the gyoza and the yakitori.
So So So
Amerikana is our next stop, the street food place in Mets that serves American hot dogs in a leavened brioche bun, and makes their own mayonnaise, as well two kinds of sausages. The desserts available depend on the season. We’re lucky enough to try their delicious pecan pie, a great energy boost to help us as we continue walk the city.
Amerikana, 15 Anapafseos, Mets, Tel. (+30) 210.924.2966, Tue-Wed 13:30-12:30; Thu-Sat 13:00-01:30
In search of something more “Greek”, we head to some of the classic after-hours traditional eateries. As a rule, it’s best these days to call before heading out for your favorite post-midnight place, as many of them have curtailed their hours in light of the pandemic and its effects on the city’s nightlife. Until further notice, it appears that the iconic Oinomageireio Epirus (4 Filopimenos, in the Athens Municipal Market, Tel. (+30) 210.324.0773), is only open from 06:00-19:30 (Sundays closed), while To Aftoforo (152 Alexandras, Τel. (+30) 210.646.1377) is now operating only from 10:00 to 00:00.
The eatery aptly named To 24oro (or “The 24-Hour”) on Syngrou Avenue is one of the few places still serving steaming soups, including patsas (tripe soup), and other homemade dishes to starving night owls. Since we’re already on Syngrou Avenue, we check in with the always-busy Ciao Italia, too, and confirm that its wood-fired oven pizza is still going strong, and its Italian-style pasta dishes are, indeed, still available around the clock.
To 24oro, 44 Syngrou, Koukaki, Tel. (+30) 210.922.1159, 210.922.2749, open 24 hours daily, delivery from 11:00 to 02:30
Our next stop is Piraeus, where opposite the Church of Agios Nikolaos, we find Story Streat, which specializes in sandwiches – the type of sandwich that needs to be held with two hands! We’ve considered weighing their creations many times, but we’ve never been able to pass up eating it instead. This “gourmet” snack bar on Akti Miaouli offers a variety of options, including their huge sandwiches, burgers, pork skewers, traditional sausages made with with leeks, pancetta, pork chops, Armenian soutzouki (air-cured beef with cumin) and even kokoretsi (lamb or goat intestines wrapped around seasoned offal). The truth be told, we have never dared try this last item, but the fried chicken – marinated in buttermilk! – served with plenty of fries in a gigantic soft bun truly is delicious.
We’re retracing our steps now as we head home, and we find ourselves back on Syngrou Avenue, where it’s time for the most celebrated hot dog in town! Kantina sti Syngrou is still a landmark for nocturnal diners, even though the days of overcrowded nightclubs and bustling sidewalks, when lines here stretched to the next block, are over for the moment.
Thanasis Kavvadas opened his hot dog shack in 1992, bringing a classic American taste with him when he moved back to Greece from the States, and he still offers the “best hot dog in Athens,” as the sign on his shop proudly declares. He serves good quality frankfurters and sausages with optional rich mayonnaise sauce – which, according to him, his chemist son has actually patented – and a secret onion mixture that have made his hot dogs famous. The recipe, and the toppings, have stayed the same over the years, and Kavvadas still chops the carrot and cabbage garnish himself. It seems fitting that it’s here, with Kavvadas greeting us with open arms and two hot dogs and the clock at almost 04:00, that this story and this night out come to an end.
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
Kantina sti Syngrou
338-346 Syngrou, Kallithea
Tel. (+30) 694.315.0900