The taverna, a laidback, no frills, neighbourhood eatery, was where foreign travelers first got to know and taste Greek food, Greek retsina and the Greek way of having fun.

One of the characteristics of the old-fashioned taverna was the pleasure taken in the ritual of eating. Perhaps harking back to the old notion of companionship coming from breaking bread together, taverna diners eat as a group and share the food.

Instead of ordering a separate dish for each person, several dishes are ordered and placed in the middle of the table so that everyone can help themselves to a bite of everything as they choose, using either a fork or even their fingers, behaviour inconceivable in western culture.

Glasses of retsina clink, good wishes are exchanged, knives and forks meet in midair over plates as do diners’ eyes, while some gourmands vye to sop up the last drops of oil or sauce with chunks of bread.

These days the joy and fun in traditional as well as neo-traditional tavernas, ouzeries, meze joints and magerika (places specializing in home-cooked slow food) is often reminiscent of the good old days where food, good talk, jokes, singing, revelling and dance were inseparable. One of the characteristics of the neighbourhood taverna, especially in the countryside, is that you are likely to be served a lot of local produce, much of which may well come from the proprietor’s own vegetable patch.

Discover some of the most infamous Greek tavernas in every corner in Greece.

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