Oinomageirio Ipiros (Epirus Taverna)
Athens night life has its rules; having patsa (tripe soup) at Varvakeios Central Market before calling it a night was a deep-rooted habit that survived for decades. There, down the corridors of the Central Market (also called Varvakeios Agora, agora standing for market in Greek), among the butcher shops, closed during night hours, the Market’s traditional tavernas, such as the legendary “Sideris”, the famous “Papandreou”, the coveted “Salonikios”, “Epirus Taverna”– one of the latest entries- and many others, used to serve thin or thick-cut patsa (tripe soup) or patsa with pork leg to all those who needed desperately a bowl of this soup, such a balsam for soothing one’s stomach after having had enough to drink and a clever way to prolong a little bit longer time shared with friends!
Suddenly, one fine day, the crisis came. Partying on every night of the week was over and people in Athens said goodbye to their appetite for having fun.
Currently, “Epirus” is the only eatery preparing tripe soup (patsatzidiko in Greek) in Varvakeios Central Market that managed to survive the crisis.
Back in 2001, Dimitris Karatzenis, an award-wining chef and owner of the famous Jimmy cooking restaurant at 36, Loukianou Street, downtown Kolonaki, a well-known unique figure of his time, opened “Epirus”, a taverna that managed to win over the market little by little and develop its own devoted clientele.
This is no fancy eatery; just a simple, no-frills taverna, hidden amidst the numerous butcher shops.
The taverna has two live stages, its two unbeatable advantages. If you have been fascinated by the bustling life of the Agora, the taverna’s large glass windows offer direct view to the Market and will surely provide you with more enchanting colorful images to gaze at! On the other hand, the taverna’s open-plan kitchen – a pioneering idea which came long before modern open-plan kitchens became such a trend – will definitively leave you amazed; succulent dishes cooked in huge cauldron pots on one of the biggest baking stones in Athens and hundreds of hot plates of food served.
Be prepared! Before this drool-worthy sight, you won’t know what to choose! For anyone who has been raised in Greece, the images and the ambiance inside the taverna is enough to bring tears to the eyes. These dishes bring back such comforting memories, past recollections of partying, sleepless nights, night reveling and boozing.
Occupying a prominent place on the wall, a framed photo of Pramanta, a village nested on the mountain chain of Tzoumerka at the north of Greece in Epirus region, entitled “My village”, reveals the village where Jimmy came from.
The tradition inaugurated by Jimmy, who left us for good in 2012, is continued in the most loving way by his daughter, Rania Karatzeni. Rania has studied Finance and Management in Switzerland for years, as well as International Relations and Political Sciences, holds a Master’s Degree on International Monetary Policy, and speaks English, French, Italian fluently and another 5 foreign languages fairly well. Nevertheless, when she was called to be at the helm of the eatery, she started working here putting heart and soul into it all. Rania is always there; day in day out. She never gets tired, not even for a second; she is talkative and serves clients having always a warm smile on her face.
Epirus Taverna has a multi-culti clientele. On weekdays, the eatery is open from 5 in the morning till 8 in the evening, while on Fridays and Saturdays from midnight till 8 in the evening. On Sundays, the eatery is closed. The ones to arrive first are those working late shift hours; then, the eatery is populated by people working in the Central Market, while a little before midday, tourists rush here to taste all the delicacies and thus, the 8 foreign languages that Rania speaks do not get rusty after all. Finally, the Greek clientele is the last to arrive.
Patsas (tripe soup) is not the only dish you that will leave you satisfied in this eatery. Choose one from the other eight soups starring in the menu (fish soup, chicken soup, goat soup, veal soup, magiritsa-the traditional soup with lamb’s intestines, heart and liver and various herbs. Greeks eat it on Saturday night after the church service observing the resurrection of Christ), as well as a series of yummy casseroles: lamb braised in lemon, lamb fricassee, orzo with goat and tomato sauce, orzo with veal, etc.
Don’t miss out such a fabulous eatery!