Eleni Kougia-Tsagri’s restaurant
Exactly opposite the Archaeological Museum of Aigio – housed in the exceptionally attractive building of the town’s old market designed in 1890 by the noted German architect, Ernst Ziller – you’ll find the taverna called “I Palia Agora tou Aigiou” (The Old Market of Aigio). For the locals, it’s simply Eleni Kougia-Tsagri’s restaurant and without any doubt it boasts the best cooking in the whole Aigialeia region.
Every midday, Kyra Eleni and her children, Maria and Andreas (except Sunday’s when they’re shut) welcome mainly customers who work in the market, the nearby shops and offices but also Athenians here on business. It’s no accident that there’s not a single personality from the worlds of art, science or politics who has not stopped here for lunch if they happen to be in the area. (It’s not open for dinner.) And there are many reasons for its popularity: Exceptional home cooking with classic Greek slow-cooked dishes and casseroles, including chicken with noodles, stewed veal with tomatoes and potatoes, pork with garlic and herbs, sardines wrapped in vine leaves and more, not to mention the region’s signature dish, salt cod with currants. The portions are more than ample and the ingredients always fresh.
The place has a folksy atmosphere that also manages to be in excellent taste and refined at the same time. Period photos, a beautiful old mirror, Viennese bentwood chairs, marble-topped tables and a fireplace embellish the interior, while in spring and summer the Stoa tou Gatou, the Arcade of the Cat, that serves as the restaurant’s entrance, is also a pleasant place to sit.
Eleni, besides being a gifted cook – she is virtually alone in the kitchen – is also a fantastic story teller. When business is quiet, she may sit down with you and recount stories about the town and her own life. She seems to have an inexhaustible fount of fascinating stories. Now and then customers interrupt to say hello or goodbye and thank her for the gastronomic pleasures she’s given them. And that is her own greatest joy: to look after her clientele and take energy from their remarks to keep doing it.