I spent the holidays in Thessaloniki this winter. On endless outings in Greece’s “capital of the north,” invigorated by the chill of the Vardari wind and the pink sunsets by the waterfront, I found myself in new groups of friends, instantly bonding over food, drinks, and the realization that while we didn’t know each other, we all knew the same people. I miss those outings, and I miss the flavors. Below are the best things we ate, in no particular order.
Morning espresso at Tom Dixon
Launching in a comfortable Wingback chair, I got the boost I needed for my endless city outings from the espresso, with thick beautiful crema, served in the experimental showroom of English furniture designer Tom Dixon.
6 Chrysostomou Smyrnis, Tel. (+30) 23102.290.90
Two stops for Bougatsa
No matter how many years pass, whenever I ask a local where I should go for bougatsa, the answer is the same: to Giannis or to Bantis. I always visit both, and always wash my bougatsa down with chocolate milk. I hope nothing ever changes.
Bougatsa Giannis: 106 Mitropoleos, Tel. (+30) 23102.573.75
Bougatsa Bantis: 33 Panagias Faneromenis, Tel. (+30) 23105.103.55
Kazan dibi at Chatzis
Let me just say three words: burned milk pudding (Turkish kazan dibi). And three more: Chatzis dairy shop. It’s like paradise in a bowl. You can thank me later.
16 Pavlou Mela, Tel. (+30) 23102.846.20
The Bao at Thess Bao
Standing on the curb on Kalapothaki street, we devoured three bao buns that put all other baos we’ve tried to shame. The pulled pork with dark beer and honey bun is a crown pleaser. As Athenians, we can’t wait for Thess Bao to open its second location at Syntagma.
3 Kalapothaki, Tel. 23102.352.25
Pizza Margarita at brand new Signora Trattoria
A tender pizza with enough nostalgic taste to make you close your eyes in appreciation of the healing gift that is Italian cuisine. Enjoy it with a glass of red wine.
38 Pavlou Mela, Tel. (+30) 23102.382.33
Aperitivo at Giulietta Spritzeria
This Spritzeria happened to be situated along the way between our hotel and the White Tower, making it the perfect pitch stop for aperitivo, at any hour of the day. I drank a lot, and remember less, but I’d definitely go back for another round of white negronis.
33 Palaion Patron Germanou, Tel. (+30) 23102.420.20
Chards at Sempriko
A dish at Sempriko brought joy to our day. Like a plate of happiness, bright and fresh, lightly boiled fresh chards came paired with cherry tomatoes, honey, ksinotyro (“sour cheese”), cream and fleshy olives. Simple and great.
2 Fragkon, Tel. (+30) 23105.575.13
Fish soup at Trizoni
On a particularly chilly evening, we cherished a thick fish soup at brand new Trizoni – wonderful flavors we knew from their first location in Kryopigi, in Halkidiki.
2 Lykourgou, Tel. (+30) 23102.688.80
The wine store that transforms into a bar
Friends gather on the sidewalk of Morkentao street, some find a seat in the liquor store Moby Dick or The Whale’s low windowsills while others mingle, all cradling crystal glasses of wine. I enjoyed a Naoussa native Makrovitis from 2015.
5 Morkentao, Tel. (+30) 23102.537.81
Satisfaction guaranteed at Mourga
I dread trying to describe the best dish I had at Mourga, because words are not enough. The whole table went silent. I’ll just say: shrimp, soft eggs, sheep milk cream, and garlic paste. And bread for dunking.
12 Christopoulou, Tel. (+30) 23102.688.26
Wedding pilaf at Charoupi
This traditional Cretan dish by Manolis Papoutsakis is simply delicious. Mr Papoutsaki, please deliver a gamopilafo (Cretan “wedding pilaf”) with sheep milk yogurt to Athens, because I’m haunted by it at night.
4 Doxis, Tel. (+30) 6988.526.262
An unforgettable meal at Salonica, Makedonia Palace
If only I could spend all my Sunday afternoons at Salonica. On the ground floor of Makedonia Palace Hotel by the waterfront, we had an unforgettable meal cooked by chef Sotiris Evangelou. I’ll dream of his spit-roasted lamb, served hidden under a stack of crispy French fries, for a long time. Not to mention the deer with chestnuts and quince, the giant (or normal-sized, for Thessaloniki) desserts, and last but not least, the excellent service.
2 Leof. Meg. Alexandrou, Tel. (+30) 23108.971.97
Milk Pie at Surfer Maya
An urban legend that proved even better than advertised. With crust made from croissant dough, the milky, buttery filling is just firm enough not to spill out as you cut it. It’s served slightly warm, like a baby’s bottle. What’s not to like?
8 Skra, Tel. 23102.350.33
Melomakarono jam at Olicatessen
A jam made with melomakarona (Christmas honey-cookies) by Yiam, which I found at Olicatessen, is unbelievable like a dream. I usually end my walks around town here, at my favorite deli, because I know I’ll be walking out with heavy bags.
4 Viktorias Ougko, Tel. (+30) 23130.302.86
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.