As you walk in Varvakeios Agora (Varvakeios Central Market) from its main entrance, at approximately 50 meters on your left, you come across the Fish Shop “Korakis”, owned by Spyros Korakis, the Nestor of the fish market, president of the Market’s fishmongers for years, a man who knows his trade inside out. Take the narrow alley which starts at the corner of this shop. Well, you’ve made it! Ouzeri Karayiannis, the ouzo bar of Varvakeios Central Market, is just across the Fish Shop “Korakis”.
Ouzeri (ouzo bar) is a no-frills place to drink ouzo (an anise-flavoured spirit) that always comes with food attached, the savoury mezedes (Greek appetizers, pl. for meze) that Greeks like to share with friends. This 3.50m x 5m small-sized, narrow ouzeri has been operating for four decades now. The mezedes served here help satisfy the hunger pangs of the Market’s faithful clientele who are always content and in high spirits when here. Make yourself comfortable at the narrow counter placed against the wall and sit, if you are lucky enough, on the wooden beer barrels used as stools. A useful tip before you go that will save you disappointment: this ouzeri hardly accommodates more than 10 standing persons!
If you happen to see people standing on the corridor, well, it’s those who haven’t been able to secure a table and are on the look-out for friends to treat them with a shot of tsipouro.
Kyr-Giorgos (kyr, added before the name of an old man, is a way to speak about, salute, address him in a respectful way, an informal word) is the owner of Ouzeri Karayiannis. The long menu is not what makes this ouzeri so famous. The mezedes are really few, but all exquisite, and come as an accompaniment to tsipouro, ouzo or beer. A glass or a shot of one of these spirits only costs €3.30 (VAT and municipal taxes included!) and gets you one serving of mezedes.
Mezedes coming in small helpings to enjoy include a few slices of bread, that have been cut so small like the holy bread offered after Holy Communion in the Greek Orthodox churches; a few keftedes (pl. for kefte, the Greek style deep-fried meatballs), a yummy treat so hard to resist, one savoury sausage, a few slices of tomato and pickled pepper sit on top of the bread slices. If you are two, then you get two servings of mezedes into one larger plate.
Now, an insider tip: the more tsipouro you consume, the richer is the variety of the meze platter (poikilia in Greek); dolmadakia (miniature grape leaves stuffed with rice), saganaki (fried cheese) or savoury crawfish could be the new entries in your plate. That sounds attractive, doesn’t it?
Keftedes are definitively the star of the show. Cooked according to a secret recipe from Constantinople, these delicious meatballs have been prepared here for over 40 years now, i.e. ever since kyr Giorgos, 28 years old back then, took over this place when the former owners, Vrachnakis and Christakis, two Cretan from Constantinople, decided it was time for them to retire.
Kyr-Giorgos says that he will never forget the moment that the former owners, old enough and tired by then, gave him the keys on one condition: “you must let us come here for a couple of hours every day; this place has such an invigorating effect on us”.
Kyr-Giorgos, Karayiannis is the last name, feels content. His two children, Kostas, 36, and Apostolos, 37, are now at the helm of the ouzeri. Everyday, from 08:00 to 15:00, i.e. during the Central Market’s operating hours, they are at the ouzeri ready to keep their clients happy. Kyr-Giorgos is there with them everyday. He is full of life; this daily routine is the reason!
- AddressVarvakeios Agora, Athens
- CategoryTraditional Cafés
- LocationAthens - Attica