While updating my Thessaloniki Guide, I realized I had so much more to say about food in Thessaloniki that this post became inevitable. From street food to fancy restaurants, here is all you need to know about food in Thessaloniki.
Thessaloniki is the food capital in Greece, and that’s saying something because it’s hard to find a bad place to eat in Greece. Restaurants, taverns, coffee-shops, and bakeries are everywhere in Thessaloniki. I’ll try to get you through a few meals, from breakfast to dinner with snacks and street food in between, and inspire you to try some of the best Thessaloniki has to offer.
Breakfast in Thessaloniki
A good day should start with a good breakfast. Especially when you’re traveling and you need that energy for a long day. No worries, there are plenty of excellent choices to be found in Thessaloniki.
A typical Greek breakfast can contain savory or sweet pies, creamy yogurt, honey, tahini, eggs, cheese, and olives. The options are pretty varied. We found a great place for breakfast in Aristotelous square, MoNo Unique Fresh. It’s a self-service bakery where you can also have fresh sandwiches and eggs in a pleasant, airy space. They have great coffee too, all-in-all a perfect place to start your day.
Another option is to go to the Upper Town and try the Turkish inspired-sweets and the coffee flavored with cardamom.
Don’t miss out on all the incredible fresh fruit in the markets and small shops. They also have a passion for dried fruit and nuts of all kinds. A healthy snack to take with you everywhere.
We came across Nuts Factory, a shop filled with nuts, dried fruit, and chocolates. When I say dried fruit, I mean anything from mango and papaya to coconut cubes, strawberries, or dehydrated kiwi slices. Anyway, it’s a good place to buy some snacks or even a nicely wrapped gift for someone at home. I also bought some great sugar-free granola for breakfast at home. There are a few shops in Thessaloniki but the most accessible is the one on Nikis Avenue, right by the sea.
Street Food in Thessaloniki
Being hungry in Thessaloniki is an easy-to-fix problem. There are tons of great street food options almost anywhere in Thessaloniki.
Let’s talk about the classics first: Gyros and Souvlaki. The best place for some excellent wrapped souvlaki is in Aristotelous Square, right under the arcades, Souvlakia. You’ll smell the place as you walk by.
Another good option is Mpoukia in the Ladadika area, a busy shop making souvlaki, gyros, and all-things-grilled.
The pedestrian street leading from the sea towards the Rotunda (Dimitriou Gounari street) is filled with some of the best Thessaloniki street food options. Anything from creps, ice-cream, falafel, or slices of very thin pizza will tempt you along the way. This is also a good area for a little bit of shopping.
Anyway, I came across a great place just around the corner from our accommodation, Thess Bao. As you might imagine, it’s not exactly typical Thessaloniki street food but we loved the Asian flavors of the Bao Burgers and their Taste Makers.
The Meze Culture
‘Meze‘ is an institution all-over Greece. They come in small plates and are meant to be shared so you can taste all the different flavors. The drinks will flow very naturally alongside them as well.
There’s nothing better than to go out with friends or family and order a bunch of meze to share while talking and catching up.
The variety of the meze is incredible and you can easily have a full meal with them. Let’s see a few examples:
- A few olives or an olive spread and some breadsticks
- Tzatziki – a delicious strained yogurt dip with cucumbers and garlic
- Taramosalata – a fish roe dip with olive oil, lemon juice, and onion
- Skordalia – a potatoes mash with a lot of garlic and some olive oil
- Melitzanosalata – a grilled eggplant dip with onions and olive oil
- Fava – is a split pea mash
- Tirokafteri – a spicy feta dip
- Grilled peppers
- Dolmadakia – vine leaves stuffed with rice and seasonings
- Fried courgettes are better than french fries and go perfectly with tzatziki
- Courgettes balls – grated courgettes flavored with dill and fried
- Saganaki cheese – fried cheese served with lemon juice or marmalade
The list can go on indefinitely, but I’m sure you found something you’d be interested in by now. You can find a meze section in any Greek restaurant in Thessaloniki.
Try the taverns in Modiano Market for lunch or a restaurant focused on meze for dinner, Ful Tou Meze. Find the full menu here.
Seafood, of course
Thessaloniki benefits from its location in the Thermaic Gulf with a wide range of fresh seafood. Starting with delicious appetizers like marinated anchovies or sardines, smoked mackerel, fried or grilled calamari and octopus, and fresh mussels, the city is a foodie’s paradise if you’re into seafood.
Don’t shy away from the delicious stuffed squid or fresh fish either.
I have two restaurant recommendations for this section:
- Bazagiazi is a fish tavern conveniently located in the New Modiano market
- 7 Thalasses is an excellent seafood restaurant, a bit on the expensive side
Meat Dishes in Thessaloniki
If you make it to the main dishes, the possibilities and also endless here as well. Most of the typical Greek dishes are based on minced meat and who could say no to a hearty slice of moussaka with a proper bechamel on top?
Other must-try dishes:
- Greek meatballs
- Soutzoukakia (meatballs flavored with cumin and garlic)
- Pastitsio (a dish similar to lasagna)
- Papoutsakia or ‘little shoes’, my absolute favorite, baked eggplant stuffed with minced meat and topped with bechamel
- Lamb chops
- Slow-cooked lamb kleftiko
They go very well with potatoes, orzo pasta or grilled vegetables.
I have three completely different places to try for this section:
- Edessaïkó is a family business, an unpretentious place with incredible Greek food and very low prices. You’ll find it on Agiou Dimitriou street, close to Atatürk Museum. It will be easy to spot at lunchtime because of the line outside, but most are take away orders.
- The Rouga is a good restaurant on a very picturesque street, close to the Bezesteni market.
- Mamaloúka is a very pleasant place, with excellent service and updated Greek food. It’s a modern restaurant that relies on authentic Greek taste.
What about dessert?
I don’t remember ever ordering dessert at the end of a meal in Greece. I just can’t get that far. However, the Greek custom is to offer a small complimentary dessert. It can be a piece of baklava, some fruit, or a scoop of ice-cream, but it’s always a pleasant surprise.
If you’re looking for a dessert though, Thessaloniki is the city with the most pastry-shops I’ve ever seen. They are practically everywhere, large or small, very tempting temples of dessert.
Last, but not least, we have to talk about drinks.
Greeks start the meal with either Ouzo – an anise-flavored liquor, Raki or Tsipouro. The spirits go very well with the meze.
Later or during the meal you can switch to wine. The most well-known Greek wine is Retsina but I must say it’s not my thing. They do, however, make wines in many regions of Greece and there are some good ones among them. I particularly like the wines from Lemnos island, the vines benefit from the volcanic soil there.
One more thing, Thessaloniki has an interesting beer scene. I don’t really like lager beer but I go like some hoppy craft beers and I found some amazing ones in Thessaloniki. There are a couple of beer pubs in Ladadika but you’ll find the real treasures in some small shops. My latest discovery is Kykao brewery that makes some great IPA’s.
Another good beer that you should look for, less hoppy though, is a Pale Ale from Samothraki island, Fonias.
A couple more tips
Greeks eat relatively late so if you’re looking for a nice restaurant around 7 PM and they’re all empty, don’t feel discouraged.
Tourists usually eat in and around the Ladadika area during their stay in Thessaloniki. Though it’s a nice setting and atmosphere, it can also be a tourist trap. Extend your area and try the food in the markets area, or find places where the locals eat in the upper part of Thessaloniki.
As always, I have to say that a food tour like this one is the best way to start your adventure in Thessaloniki.
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This was my guide on Thessaloniki food, I hope you’ll find it helpful for your stay in Thessaloniki. In the meantime, tell me about your favorite Greek food in the comments below.